During Annual Conference 2013, North Alabama United Methodists committed to work together to help save 100,000 lives through raising $1 million for Imagine No Malaria, a comprehensive model to fight the disease focusing on prevention, education, communication and treatment. It is an extraordinary ministry of the people of The United Methodist Church to join with others to end preventable deaths by malaria in Africa.
Every 60 seconds, malaria claims a life in Africa. It kills an estimated 655,000 people each year, most of them children under 5 and pregnant women. Transmitted through the bite of a female anopheles mosquito, malaria is a parasite that initially causes fever, vomiting and joint pain. Left untreated, its symptoms progress to convulsions, organ failure and death. Yet malaria is 100% preventable, treatable and beatable!
In October, several North Alabama Conference churches made pledges to help lead the Conference toward its goal. These pledges include:
“We thank these generous churches and the Mountain Lakes District for stepping up to lead the way for the North Alabama Conference,” said Charlie Carlton, who is serving as campaign coordinator. “Their generosity is an inspiration.”
The pastors of these leadership churches shared some of the motivation their congregations feel for Imagine No Malaria.
Rev. Mike Holly, senior pastor of Bluff Park UMC explains that congregation connected with the idea of helping to save lives. He explains, “Bluff Park UMC is committed to helping to save 2,500 lives through Imagine No Malaria. We will raise $25,000 over the next three years as part of that commitment.”
Rev. Ricky L. Smith, pastor of Fort Payne First UMC says it was an international mission team from that congregation that helped others connect to the threat of malaria and the hope that it can be eradicated. “Fort Payne First had a group of 18 youth and adults to travel to Talaube, Honduras this past June on a dental/medical mission trip. The trip was a life changing experience. Malaria was the chief health threat to us while in Honduras. We went to great lengths to protect ourselves as we ministered to others. We were blessed. We did not contract the disease.”
He adds, “Yet, others all around the world are not so lucky. Many get sick. Many die. If the United States could eradicate malaria in the 1950's, we can be part of a team that helps eradicate malaria in other countries as well. We encourage others to do what you can to make the vision of ‘Imagine No Malaria’ a reality.”
Rev. Barry Hallman, senior pastor of Lester Memorial UMC, shares how a spirit of generosity is important to the congregation. “When I was approached about Lester Memorial making a lead commitment for the “Imagine No Malaria” campaign, my first reaction was, ‘We are about to enter a capital campaign to raise three and a half million dollars, how can we do that?’ But the more I thought about it the more I felt led to talk with our missions team. Our missions team leader readily agreed that we could commit $10,000 to this endeavor. I believe that when God’s people are generous, they are being most like God.”
Hallman adds, “To think about the number of lives that will be given a future they might not otherwise have had is a sobering thought. If we can make a small difference is saving lives, how can we not give? We are grateful to be able to lead in this worthy project.”
“Vestavia Hills has always mission and outreach at the heart of our ministry,” said Rev. Bill Brunson, senior pastor. “As we seek to be followers of Christ, we want to join with Christ in changing the world through the eradication of malaria. Ten dollars can save a life – Ten dollars can change the world.”
Carlton explained that seven District Workshops introducing the Imagine No Malaria campaign to raise $1 million across North Alabama have been held. “Participants have enthusiastically responded for our connectional church to be involved in this great mission and ministry project,” he said. “We are off to a great start and we encourage every church to participate."
The leadership pledges listed above are large dollar amounts. However, the spirit of commitment to help save lives found through these pledges is possible for any congregation of any size.
“We will culminate our campaign on June 1, 2014, when churches bring their offering and pledges to be celebrated at the opening of Annual Conference,” said Carlton. “We hope every church participates. Every $10 represents a life saved from malaria. How many lives will your church save?”