By Kelly Caviness - United Methodist News Service
Fourth-grader Gracie Douglas of West Ohio raised enough money at her school to buy 13 mosquito nets to protect families in Africa.
Laywoman Barbara Ferguson made a personal donation that pushed the California-Nevada Annual Conference halfway to its fundraising goal in The United Methodist Church’s Imagine No Malaria campaign.
Trailblazers come in all forms in the church’s campaign to eradicate deaths from malaria, and Douglas and Ferguson were among many whose contributions were celebrated when United Methodists held their annual U.S. gatherings this summer.
The United Methodist Church has raised more than $62 million toward its $75 million goal for the Imagine No Malaria initiative, with annual conferences providing much of the momentum. Fueled by the knowledge that $10 can save a life, the conferences are united in the goal to eliminate deaths in Africa from the deadly disease by 2015.
Annual conference reports submitted and posted on UMC.org provide an overview of work supporting Imagine No Malaria across the connection. (Conferences that would like to be added to this roundup can send information to firstname.lastname@example.org, with INM in the subject line.)
Prior to this year's annual conference, Bishop Paul L. Leeland announced an initiative to save 100,000 lives through Imagine No Malaria. The people of the Alabama-West Florida Conference responded by contributing more than $322,600 — setting a record at their annual gathering in June for the opening worship missional offering. Combined with other funds raised, this puts the conference more than 60 percent toward its $1 million goal.
The conference estimates that it will have saved 57,000 lives so far through its support of the campaign. Alabama-West Florida is tracking its progress at www.awfumc.org/INMProgress.
The California-Nevada Conference’s enthusiasm for Imagine No Malaria is illustrated by Ferguson’s generosity. The laywoman from Los Altos United Methodist Church pushed the conference halfway to its goal with a $1.1 million personal donation, the largest gift to date within the church.
The conference estimated that its support will have saved 132,921 lives toward the goal of eventually saving 200,000. The conference’s progress is being tracked with a meter at www.calnevimagine.org.
An opening offering of $40,000 pushed the Illinois Great Rivers Conference past its goal of $2.5 million.
The Rev. Larry Hollon, top executive of United Methodist Communications and leader in the denomination’s global health initiative, was present to receive a large-scale replica $2.5 million check from the conference, and he took the opportunity to speak to attendees about the impact their generosity makes in lives across the globe.
“(Because of your efforts), there are children, pregnant mothers and seniors who are alive this night because you cared,” Hollon said. “Lives have been saved and given health and hope for the future.”
The Iowa Conference celebrated topping its $2 million goal. During the annual conference gathering, the Rev. Katie Dawson, Iowa’s Imagine No Malaria field coordinator, announced a fundraising total of almost $10,000 over the goal.
She began her address to the conference by detailing the 2010 statistics of exposure to and death from malaria. At that time, 1 million people were dying each year.
"We decided that is unacceptable," Dawson said. "And so we decided to something about it."
The churchwide campaign was launched in 2010. Since then, with the work focused on malaria by many initiatives and organizations, the death toll in Africa has decreased from the loss of a child every 30 seconds to one every 60 seconds.