By Fred Koenig
Christmas in a time of giving, and this year many Missouri Conference churches chose to make the Imagine No Malaria campaign the primary recipient of their gifts. Missouri Conference churches have now raised $489,162 for Imagine No Malaria.
The following story tells a few examples of what some churches did for the cause during Advent and Christmas.
New McKendree recognized at their October church council meeting that for the first time in recent history they would have their apportionments paid in full well before the year end. That meant that their Thanksgiving and Christmas offerings could be designated for other purposes. Their Thanksgiving offering was designated for “Feed My Starving Children”, part of our commitment to the country of Haiti as well as a partnership with LaCroix UMC. $15,000 was raised for that effort. The Christmas offering was designated for INM.
In previous years the Christmas offerings had run at or near $2,000 as the push for year-end apportionments was made.
“My hope was that we might come closer to $3,000 with an appeal that, honestly, is a little more intriguing than apportionments,” Israel said.
Christmas Eve at New McKendree was a blessing with attendance of 743, 90 more than 2012 and the highest number since 2005. The restart location at Lake Girardeau (formerly Gravel Hill UMC) had 72 in attendance. The offering for all the services totaled $9,668.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the generosity exhibited in the good people of Jackson,” Israel said.
Advance UMC puts up a giving tree during Advent, and usually gives people the option of choosing between two local giving projects or one overseas. This year it narrowed the choice to one: Imagine No Malaria. The church showed a video of Southeast District Superintendent Fred Leist explaining the campaign. Leist also visited during the Christmas Cantata and made an appeal in person. The offerings, combined with $110 raised in the summer by Vacation Bible School, totaled $2,416.01.
Tipton UMC set a goal of $500 for Imagine No Malaria. The idea was to ask each person to give an extra gift this year – a gift for a child in Africa through a donation to Imagine No Malaria. The program began with a bake sale at the community Christmas parade where $160 was raised. The bulletin board at the church had an Imagine No Malaria theme with pictures of African huts. Their plan was to put a star in the sky over the huts for each $10 raised.
“When people came to church the Sunday before Christmas they saw a sky filled with 83 stars representing $830,” said Richard Parker, pastor. The total collected at the church was $880.
Ozark Chapel in Laurie, the church made 4” x 4” cards showing a young child’s face on the front with the words, “Today You Saved a Child’s Life” across the top and the words “Thank You” at the bottom with a place for the pastor’s signature. The back read “A gift has been made to the United Methodist Church ‘Imagine No Malaria’ campaign in your name. Because of this gift, a chemically treated mosquito net will be given to a child in Africa. A trained health worker will take your net to a village and work with a family. They will help the family hang the net and monitor for its proper use.”
That first Sunday, more than 40 cards were purchased as presents for family and friends.
First UMC Jefferson City let the congregation know that all offerings collected at the four Christmas Eve services would be split equally between Imagine No Malaria and the benevolence fund of Common Ground (the community center they host in partnership with other area churches). There were a couple videos about Imagine No Malaria shown during worship, it was on the cover of the newsletter, and Rev. Daniel Hilty wrote about it in his weekly email communication to the congregation.
On Christmas Eve, the church collected a total of $16,000, meaning INM and Common Ground received $8,000 each. When the church combined the INM portion with a previous offering that had been designated for mission work in Africa, the total INM donation made was $21,000.
Trinity UMC in Bloomfield were offered several suggestions on ways to have a more compassionate Christmas. One of the suggestions was to participate in the Imagine No Malaria offering taken on Christmas Eve. This special offering and the fight against malaria was mentioned each Sunday leading up to Christmas Eve; one of the adult Sunday School classes even spent a whole class talking about the Imagine No Malaria campaign. On Christmas Eve, people brought their offerings for INM forward as they came to receive Communion and they gave a total of $2,867.
“I was hoping we could save as many lives as our average attendance. We more than doubled that,” said Rev. Alice Fowler.
Ionia UMC in the Heartland South District had an unusual addition to their sanctuary this Advent season. It wasn’t a baby in a manger; it was two babies in a crib, surrounded by mosquitoes.
The babies (dolls) in the crib were protected by a mosquito net. With every $10 donated on Christmas Eve, a “Skeeter” was removed from the church and put in the “Dead Skeeter Basket.” The money goes to the Imagine No Malaria fund. Ionia UMC donated its entire Christmas Eve offering to Imagine No Malaria. The pipe-cleaner mosquitoes were primarily made by Sunday school classes. The crib, dolls and net were brought in by the congregation.
“We were all hopeful this would go over big, because we know this is such a good cause,” said Rev. Donna Nichols.
The Christmas Eve offering 'netted' $790 for "dead skeeters." The children of the church will probably be 'hatching' a second batch of skeeters for a special Palm Sunday or Easter offering.
La Croix UMC had a record attendance of 3,061 on Christmas Eve, with the offering going entirely for causes outside their walls. The total given was $343,687 – nearly $95,000 more than Christmas Eve 2012. In addition to $25,000 for Imagine No Malaria, the church gave about $125,000 to the Mozambique Initiative for safe water wells. The rest is going toward the 725,000 meals La Croix packed with Feed My Starving Children and shipping additional meals to Haiti and Swaziland, Africa.
First UMC Sikeston had another blow-out Christmas, with 2,420 people in worship. There were 22 professions of faith. Of the $50,000 raised, $7,000 was sent to the church’s covenant partner in Mozambique, and $14,000 was committed to Imagine No Malaria.
Grace UMC has $4,000 in hand for Imagine No Malaria from the Christmas season, and they plan to combine it with giving during Easter to reach a goal of $10,000.
For more on the Missouri Conference Imagine No Malaria campaign, go to imaginnomalariamo.org.