United Methodists in Alabama-West Florida had cause to celebrate at their annual gathering this year: An outpouring of grass-roots support has put them at almost 60 percent of a $1 million goal for Imagine No Malaria.
Earlier this year, Bishop Paul L. Leeland had announced an initiative to save 100,000 lives through Imagine No Malaria, The United Methodist Church’s campaign to help eradicate deaths in Africa from the mosquito-borne disease.
At the annual gathering in June in Montgomery, Ala., members set a record for the opening worship missional offering, contributing $322,600. The Alabama-West Florida Conference estimates that it will have saved 57,000 lives so far through its support of the campaign.
Bishop Leeland noted the impact of raising $10 to save a life in an Easter message to members.
“This $10 aids education, health clinics, and nets to eliminate malaria,” he said. “It is not difficult to find members of our congregations that can still remember when malaria was a serious threat in the United States in the 1940s and 1950s. We eliminated malaria here and we can do something mighty in our world by eliminating malaria elsewhere.”
For the campaign, each local church was provided a goal based on membership, and larger district goals were also set. The eight districts formed teams to lead a variety of efforts.
The Montgomery-Prattville District challenged its members to consider a Lenten fast in which they would give up something routine (a meal, coffee, etc.) that would cost around $10. The district also held Shoot for Malaria events for children and youth at area churches, and the young people collected pledges based on the number of free-throw baskets shot.
The Baypines District held a golf tournament in which one participant shot a hole in one. He gave the reward back to the Imagine No Malaria offering.
Local churches came up with hundreds of ways to reach their members. Children got involved by setting up lemonade stands and donating their piggybanks. A man sold his late wife's artwork and gave the proceeds to Imagine No Malaria. One church set up a crib in the sanctuary with netting over it, and gave each member a card with netting material tied to it. Other churches held cookouts and pancake suppers.
During the middle of the initiative, extreme flooding hit the Baypines and Pensacola districts, and the conference shifted its focus to respond to those in need. As a result, Alabama-West Florida has extended its timeline for reaching the goal of saving 100,000 lives to the end of the year.
To follow progress as it continues, visit www.awfumc.org/INMProgress.
*Phillips is director of communations for the Alabama-West Florida Conference.