April 30, 2014

By Fred Koenig

Last year at Annual Conference Session, Tom Bannon of Palmyra UMC came to the microphone and announced that his church was so moved by the presentation of the Imagine No Malaria campaign that they would pledge to raise $10,000 in the coming year for the cause. This sparked a slow wave across the Conference that built to district pledges totaling $1 million. So how did Palmyra UMC, which averages about 130 in attendance, do on their $10,000 pledge?
    
“We raised $10,346.34,” Rev. Eric Anderson said on April 11. 
    
It started with the United Methodist Women of the church giving $1,000 right off the bat. Then in October the church’s Faith and Fitness group did a costume 5K run, around the theme of scaring away malaria. 
    
“I was at the end, carrying a placard that said, ‘The end is near,’” Anderson said. The run raised more than $2,300. Then a member of the church had some dental work redone. He sold the gold that was removed from his teeth, and donated the money to the cause. These things, plus weekly special offerings, had the church meeting their goal before Easter. But they didn’t have tunnel-vision through the year. “During this time, we also raised $5,000 for other causes, including local mission and One Great Hour of Sharing,” Anderson said. 

St. Joseph’s “Imagine No Malaria! As Easy as a Walk in the Park!” event was a great show of Christians, with eight denominations and independent churches taking part (Presbyterians, ELCA Lutherans, Episcopalians, Church of God, 7th Day, Catholics, United Methodists, Word of Life and Rea Union–21 congregations). “Each pastor present offered inspiring words of hope,” said Rev. Susan Ventura, pastor of Francis Street First UMC.
    
The city mayor declared the day “Imagine No Malaria Day,” a missionary to Zambia talked about living with malaria and the local alumni pep band provided music. A local bank received funds, the hospital promoted the cause on their calendar, the St. Joseph school system offered age-appropriate malaria learning tools to all the principals to use at their discretion, MIR House of Prayer and the Upper Room Bible Study group at Francis Street First UMC offered prayers for the event, and some people kept a prayer vigil going beginning last Sept. 
    
“The goal was to save lives and help end malaria through city-wide Christian approach which could be seen by folks outside the church as a sign of God’s work,” Ventura said. “What a great work God did through his power at work in us!” 
    
It started as “Imagine No Malaria! As Easy as a Walk in the Park!” to be held outdoors at Civic Center Park. Due to the surprising freezing weather forecast, it was publicized that the majority of the event would be held indoors in the sanctuary of the church across the street from the park and then finish with a symbolic walk in the park in the snow. More than $12,000 in contributions was raised. 

Weston UMC hosted a weekend of events for Imagine No Malaria the first weekend of April. With the leadership of Pat Norman, church members involved their community by reaching out to the local Rotary Club, and inviting their friends and neighbors to a Sunday afternoon concert to create awareness and raise money to save lives from malaria. A church in a small town of 1,641, they’ve already surpassed their goal of $3,000 and more is still coming in. 

Platte Woods UMC hosted an Imagine No Malaria 5K the first Saturday of April and had almost 100 people in attendance! The 5K was one of a series of events leading up to Easter, inviting their community to save lives through their generosity.

United Methodist Churches in Missouri have raised more than 1% of the national funds raised for Imagine No Malaria, and are still working to raise more. Rev. Steve Cox, superintendent of the Heartland North and Pony Express Districts, challenged people in his districts to be “One Percenters”, to pledge one percent of their district goal for Imagine No Malaria, and their districts are close to meeting that goal.