By Heather Hahn*
LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. (UMNS) — Pittsburgh Area Bishop Thomas E. Bickerton told the Council of Bishops today that the Imagine No Malaria campaign is nearing $60 million in its goal to eradicate the disease in Africa.
“It is all good news,” said Bickerton, who leads the Western Pennsylvania Annual (regional) Conference.
The United Methodist Church hopes to raise $75 million for the effort by 2015.
“We have the end of this campaign in our sights and we believe we have the roadmap to get us there,” said Bickerton, who leads the Western Pennsylvania Annual (regional) Conference.
Bickerton recognized the efforts throughout the connection.
“The vast majority of the money we have raised has come from the people of The United Methodist Church who sit in our pews every Sunday,” he said. “We are ready to eclipse the $60 million mark because of the grassroots efforts.”
The campaign is funding a number of strategies to fight the deadly disease that still kills someone every 60 seconds. They include insecticide-treated bed nets and help for United Methodist health boards across Africa that are working to prevent and treat the disease.
They also include funding for innovations such as a two-year grant is an innovative pilot in Zimbabwe to test the use and impact of repellant creams to prevent mosquito bites as a means of malaria prevention.
Since The United Methodist Church began the campaign the death toll from malaria has been cut in half.
“God really is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine,” Bickerton said. “Imagine No Malaria is proof of that!”
Bickerton noted the Holston, Illinois Great Rivers, Minnesota and the Western Pennsylvania conferences have also exceeded their fundraising goals with more than $2 million each.
The seven conferences of the Western Jurisdiction have revised their initial fundraising goal of $2 million up to $9.7 million. It is the only U.S. jurisdiction in which all conferences are participating in the campaign.
“In the last six months, we have raised just under $8 million in new pledges, and we received $3.5 million in cash gifts,” Bickerton said.
In the last six months, 10 conferences also have come on board the campaign.
At this point, only 14 of the 59 U.S. conferences still have not made a formal commitment to be the campaign.
Bickerton addressed his remarks to those 14 conferences: “Won’t you please take us home?”
Sierra Leone Area Bishop John K. Yambasu said African conferences are also talking about contributing to the campaign. The goal is for every annual conference in Africa to contribute $5,000 for a total of $65,000.
“It is our children who are dying,” Yambasu said. “We are at risk of losing a generation.”
Bickerton said United Methodists from the Philippines have contributed to the campaign as well.
“I believe this church of ours could use a victory — something that crosses theological, geographical and economic boundaries,” Bickerton said. “I believe this can be that victory. This can be a unifying celebration for the whole denomination.”
*Hahn is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service. News media contact: Heather Hahn, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.