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“Cover the ‘Net” on World Malaria Day


United Methodists raise 80 percent of funding goal


United Methodist Communications
Office of Public Information
810 12th Ave. South
Nashville, TN 37203

April 10, 2014

United Methodists raise 80 percent of funding goal
Imagine No Malaria counts $60 million in donations and uncountable blessings

Nashville, Tenn.: Imagine No Malaria announced today that United Methodists are 80 percent of the way toward reaching their goal of raising $75 million by 2015. In the past year alone, the people of The United Methodist Church have made contributions and pledges of more than $28 million, boosting the total raised to more than $60 million.

In the coming weeks, five annual (regional) conferences will launch fundraising efforts, joining 19 other active conferences. The Holston, Illinois Great Rivers, Minnesota and Western Pennsylvania conferences have all exceeded their goals.

“For the past several years we have said ‘please’ consider making a pledge and a commitment to saving lives through Imagine No Malaria,” said Bishop Thomas Bickerton, who chairs the United Methodist Global Health Initiative. “Today, as we climb closer to our $75 million dollar goal, it is my joy to say ‘thank you’ for helping to make this effort, and our denomination, a relevant and significant participant on the world scene of global health.”

The death toll has been cut in half.

Since 2006, United Methodists have focused on the challenge of saving lives at risk from malaria – a preventable disease that still kills a child every 60 seconds. In the past eight years, the church has helped cut the death toll in half.

Next month in Sierra Leone, The United Methodist Church will take part in a national distribution of 3.49 million nets. The new nets will replace nets provided through the church and its partners in 2010. The invitation to participate in the second nationwide distribution and the complementary maternal and child health initiatives is an affirmation that the Sierra Leone government recognizes The United Methodist Church as a key partner and stakeholder in an impressive network of innovators, implementers and donors.

Donations to Imagine No Malaria have aided United Methodist health facilities in Africa to improve their capacity to treat malaria, both directly and indirectly.

United Methodist partnerships with other malaria organizations and the establishment of United Methodist health boards have made it possible to secure additional funding from outside sources. For example, the Health Board in the Democratic Republic of Congo has received funding for two grant proposals from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS Tuberculosis and Malaria. In Zimbabwe, a two-year grant will fund an innovative pilot project to test the use of mosquito repellent creams as a prevention tool. Incorporating social media is a key communications goal in the pilot.

Campaign has helped rev-up members and revitalize churches.

Donations have been raised one dollar at a time, one member at a time, one church at a time – ranging from children donating pennies to major individual gifts of $500,000 in Iowa and $1,125,000 in California-Nevada – through lemonade stands, basketball competitions, gigantic mosquitoes, Christmas tree collections and dozens of other creative ideas (even skydiving). Imagine No Malaria provides resources to help local churches with fundraising ideas.

“This campaign has moved beyond financial goals,” said the Rev. Larry Hollon, chief executive of United Methodist Communications. “United Methodists have embraced the opportunity to be involved in the world beyond our own backyards and mobilized congregations to make a difference on a global scale.”


Media Contact:
Diane Degnan
615-742-5406 (office)

About The United Methodist Church
The United Methodist Church has more than 12 million members globally and is in mission in more than 135 countries. It is the second largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., with about 33,000 churches. Our mission is making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Our tagline “Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors.” embraces who we are and how we seek to put our faith in action. Learn more at

About Imagine No Malaria
Imagine No Malaria is an extraordinary ministry of the people of The United Methodist Church, putting faith into action to end preventable deaths from malaria in Africa, especially the death of a child or a mother. With a comprehensive approach to fighting this killer disease, Imagine No Malaria empowers the people of Africa to improve health infrastructure and achieve a sustainable victory over malaria.

Donor gives $1.1 million to Imagine No Malaria


By Larry R. Hygh Jr.*

barbaraferguson_2014rLOS ALTOS, Calif. (UMNS) — Not everyone can give $1.1 million, but everyone can think of a way to “give just a tiny bit more,” says Barbara Ferguson, whose donation is the largest ever given from an individual donor to Imagine No Malaria.

“I think it’s important that we all give back in some small way to make this world a better place for folks to live,” says Ferguson, a laywoman from Los Altos United Methodist Church in California’s Bay Area.

Her donation to The United Methodist Church’s campaign to help eradicate preventable deaths by malaria by 2015, came after she heard a presentation by Bishop Warner H. Brown Jr., leader of the California-Nevada Annual (regional) Conference, about his trip to Angola.

The conference’s goal is to save 200,000 lives on the continent of Africa by raising $2 million by 2015. “It gives me great joy to announce that we are now more than halfway towards meeting that goal,” Brown said.

“Barbara is a marvelous example of living into our calling to be disciples of Jesus. She faithfully looks for ways she can make a difference in people’s lives,” Brown said. “Barbara is a humble person and seeks no attention for herself. Instead, she encourages all of us to be the disciple we were baptized to be.”

Brown said he is encouraged by the creative ways in which people in the conference are getting involved in Imagine No Malaria. “Even prior to Barbara’s commitment, we have saved more than 8,500 lives on the continent of Africa,” he said.

Humble beginnings

Ferguson and her late husband, Earl Ferguson, who passed away in 2003, both grew up in the farming community of Goldendale, Wash. She said they met at the age of 12, began dating when they were 14 and were married by age 23. Ferguson tells of Earl coming from humble beginnings with his family raising cattle at a ranch near the Columbia River, and he was 8 before the family had electricity in the home.

“He (Earl) always valued education and after high school attended Yakima Valley Community College, University of Washington, and the University of Michigan,” said Ferguson.  Earl Ferguson went on to have a successful career in the computer science industry and helped to develop two companies that were awarded four patents.  Eventually, one of the companies, Foundry Networks, went public.

Ferguson said that when the first start-up was sold, the couple had $1 million. “We stood in the kitchen and said we must give back.” She added, “We were richly blessed. We grew up in farm families where we didn’t’ have much money. After Earl’s first company sold, we knew we could act on God’s plan for us.”

The Rev. Mark Bollwinkel, senior pastor of Los Altos United Methodist Church, said, “Earl’s genius for mathematics and engineering led him to discover technologies that contributed to the creation of the Internet.” Bollwinkel said the Fergusons dedicated much of their wealth to serving others and the church.

“Following Earl’s unexpected death in 2003, Barbara and her family have continued to resource efforts to make the world a better place,” he said.  “They do so with humility and gratitude to God for the opportunity to give.”

Ferguson, a lifelong Methodist, has been a member of Los Altos United Methodist Church since 1985. She was one of the leaders of the church’s Stephen Ministry for 20 years and has worked as a volunteer in the finance office for 17 years.

“The individual person needs to think about what tiny bit more they can do to give back in whatever area they can support,” Ferguson said.

Next wave of giving

Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton, who leads the Western Pennsylvania Conference and the denomination’s Imagine No Malaria efforts, said, “I am overjoyed by the receipt of this gift. … I pray that it will be multiplied over and over.”

He added, “This gift represents the next wave of giving; the large gift connected to the grassroots giving strength of Imagine No Malaria is a winning formula.”

In February 2013, as a gateway to launch the conference’s Imagine No Malaria efforts, Brown challenged the churches of the California-Nevada Conference to raise $50,000 by the annual conference session in June to rebuild a health clinic in Bom Jesus, Angola.  The effort was called “Building a Bridge of Love to Angola” and churches surpassed the goal and raised $61,000.

The clinic, abandoned during the civil war when most people and church members fled the area, is the focal point for the medical and health care ministry of The United Methodist Church in Angola. Repairs to the clinic will include, but are not limited to, roof and ceiling repairs, window and door security improvements, painting and utility repairs. Medical clinic equipment and supplies will then be provided and the clinic placed into medical service. The California-Nevada Conference in partnership with the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries will aid in the rebuilding process.

Just a few years ago, statistics showed a child died every 30 seconds of malaria. The United Methodist Church has worked with global partners such as the United Nations Foundation, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the World Health Organization and others, and the death rate has dropped to one every 60 seconds.

So far, The United Methodist Church as a whole has raised more than $60 million in pledges and gifts to fight the disease. The denomination’s goal is to raise at least $75 million for the effort by 2015.

For almost 200 years, The United Methodist Church has operated hospitals and clinics throughout Africa. These facilities are a vital and trusted part of the health-care delivery system on the continent. The Imagine No Malaria approach is focused on four key areas: prevention, education, communication and treatment.

Learn more about Imagine No Malaria.

*Hygh is director of communications for the denomination’s California-Nevada Annual Conference.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or

Imagine No Malaria via Basketball

With Global Fund, church fights malaria


By Heather Hahn*

Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton

United Methodist Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton addresses the Global Fund’s Fourth Replenishment conference in Washington, affirming the denomination’s commitment to fulfill its $28 million pledge to the fund, which fights AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. A UMNS photo by the Rev. Larry Hollon.

With The United Methodist Church nearing its fundraising goal in the fight against malaria, the denomination on Dec. 3 committed to fulfilling its $28 million pledge to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

The Global Fund draws together leaders from national governments around the globe and large private donors such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to combat the diseases of poverty.

If you’ve bought products with the (RED) label, then you have helped support the Global Fund. Your gifts to The United Methodist Church’s Imagine No Malaria campaign also are helping the effort.

“Our goal is to raise $75 million for this fight against malaria,” Pittsburgh Area Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton said at the Global Fund’s Fourth Replenishment conference. “Part of the proceeds from this campaign is going to strengthen our United Methodist hospitals and clinics in Africa. Another portion is going to the Global Fund.”

On Dec. 3, the bishop announced The United Methodist Church would contribute another $19.9 million dollars to the Global Fund over the next three years. This money would complete the $28 million pledge the denomination made to the Global Fund in 2010.

The United Methodist Church is the first faith-based group to work in partnership with the Global Fund. The denomination already has contributed $8.1 million to the effort, said Bickerton. He leads the Western Pennsylvania Annual (regional) Conference and chairs the denomination’s Global Health Initiative.

During its Dec. 2-3 gathering in Washington, the Global Fund received $12 billion in pledges from 25 countries, the European Commission and private donors. By far, the biggest donor is the U.S. government, which committed at least $4 billion to the cause. The U.S. government also pledged $1 for every $2 committed by others through September 2014, up to $5 billion.

While not on that scale, The United Methodist Church’s contribution is no mere bug zap in the fight against the mosquito-borne disease.

“Our pledge was equal to and even surpassed the pledges from smaller countries across the world,” Bickerton told United Methodist News Service.

Bickerton was one of three United Methodist leaders representing the denomination among the ambassadors and business leaders at the conference. The Rev. Larry Hollon, the top executive of United Methodist Communications (which includes United Methodist News Service), and Jim Winkler, the top executive of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, also attended.

“It is written into our agreement with Global Fund that United Methodist contributions will go to malaria programming only,” Hollon said. “And we are also allowed by Global Fund to name those countries where the money will be used.”

Need for collaboration

Bickerton’s announcement came just as The United Methodist Church has crossed $60 million in gifts and pledges in its effort to eradicate malaria in Africa. The United Methodist Church hopes to raise $75 million for the effort by 2015.

Imagine No Malaria is funding a number of strategies to fight a disease that still kills someone every 60 seconds. The strategies include providing insecticide-treated bed nets and help for United Methodist hospitals, clinics and health boards across Africa that work to prevent and treat the disease. Those ministries provide “health services without regard to race, religion, or political creed,” Bickerton told the Global Fund gathering.

United Methodist leaders see collaboration with the Global Fund as complementary to the Imagine No Malaria campaign and essential to wiping out the disease.

“Combatting pandemic diseases is beyond the capacity of a single nation, much less beyond the abilities of a single denomination or individual,” Hollon said.

“The Global Fund through its scope and scale saves 100,000 lives every day. United Methodists have joined this partnership by working with the Global Fund on the ground, identifying nations where we can work together.”

One example is United Methodist and Global Fund collaboration in Sierra Leone, Hollon said.

How the Global Fund uses money

The Geneva-based Global Fund is the world’s largest funding source for health programs that fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. In 2012, the Global Fund was responsible for 50 percent of the world funding for anti-malaria programs covering more than 50 countries.

“We fund programs in any eligible country that can demonstrate effectiveness in fighting malaria,” said Seth Faison, the director of communications for the Global Fund. “The main tools are insecticide-treated nets, which both protect those underneath and deter the spread of malaria by killing infected mosquitoes; indoor residual spraying; and ACTs (Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies), currently the most effective medicine against malaria.”

According to the Global Fund, only 5 percent of homes in Africa had insecticide-treated bed nets in 2000. Now more than 53 percent own them.

“This scale up is only possible through partnerships that have broad reach,” Hollon said. “No single organization could achieve this by itself; it required a global partnership with extensive reach.”
The Global Fund also has found that in strengthening health systems around the world to tackle one disease of poverty, it also strikes against the other two.

“Our response has to be comprehensive,” Faison said. “Good health begets good health.”
The United Methodist Church is the first organization to be both a grant recipient from and donor to the Global Fund, Bickerton said.

But even with its Global Fund partnership, the bishop stressed that the church still has a key role to play in the anti-malaria fight.

“In the Imagine No Malaria campaign we like saying that, as a church, we go to places where the road ends,” he told UMNS.

“We are the ones providing the personal relationship that better ensures the effective distribution and use of bed nets and prevention drugs. We are the ones providing rural clinics, traditional birth attendants, and clean water wells. We are the ones who establish the relationships that translate into the trust necessary to convince people that bed net usage and treatment can save their lives.”

*Hahn is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service. Tim Tanton, executive director of content for United Methodist Communications and United Methodist News Service, also contributed to this report.

News media contact: Heather Hahn, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or

Bishops celebrate milestone in fight to end malaria

Bishop Thomas Bickerton

By Heather Hahn*

LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. (UMNS) — Pittsburgh Area Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton told the Council of Bishops today that the Imagine No Malaria campaign is nearing $60 million in its goal to eradicate the disease in Africa.

“It is all good news,” said Bickerton, who leads the Western Pennsylvania Annual (regional) Conference.

The United Methodist Church hopes to raise $75 million for the effort by 2015.

“We have the end of this campaign in our sights and we believe we have the roadmap to get us there,” said Bickerton, who leads the Western Pennsylvania Annual (regional) Conference.
Bickerton recognized the efforts throughout the connection.

“The vast majority of the money we have raised has come from the people of The United Methodist Church who sit in our pews every Sunday,” he said. “We are ready to eclipse the $60 million mark because of the grassroots efforts.”

The campaign is funding a number of strategies to fight the deadly disease that still kills someone every 60 seconds. They include insecticide-treated bed nets and help for United Methodist health boards across Africa that are working to prevent and treat the disease.

They also include funding for innovations such as to test the use and impact of repellant creams to prevent mosquito bites as a means of malaria prevention.

Since The United Methodist Church began the campaign the death toll from malaria has been cut in half.

“God really is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine,” Bickerton said. “Imagine No Malaria is proof of that!”

Bickerton noted the Holston, Illinois Great Rivers, Minnesota and the Western Pennsylvania conferences have also exceeded their fundraising goals with more than $2 million each.

The eight conferences of the Western Jurisdiction have revised their initial fundraising goal of $2 million up to $9.7 million. It is the only U.S. jurisdiction in which all conferences are participating in the campaign.

“In the last six months, we have raised just under $8 million in new pledges, and we received $3.5 million in cash gifts,” Bickerton said.

In the last six months, 10 conferences also have come on board the campaign.
At this point, only 14 of the 59 U.S. conferences still have not made a formal commitment to be the campaign.

Bickerton addressed his remarks to those 14 conferences: “Won’t you please take us home?”
Sierra Leone Area Bishop John K. Yambasu said African conferences are also talking about contributing to the campaign. The goal is for every annual conference in Africa to contribute $5,000 for a total of $65,000.

“It is our children who are dying,” Yambasu said. “We are at risk of losing a generation.”

Bickerton said United Methodists from the Philippines have contributed to the campaign as well.

“I believe this church of ours could use a victory — something that crosses theological, geographical and economic boundaries,” Bickerton said. “I believe this can be that victory. This can be a unifying celebration for the whole denomination.”

*Hahn is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service.

News media contact: Heather Hahn, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or

Grants Helps Prevent Malaria in South Sudan

Mandela Wani Michael (L) and Dr. M.Lynn Fogelman.

Imagine No Malaria
United Methodist Committee on Relief

November 8, 2013

Grants Helps Prevent Malaria in South Sudan
United Methodists fund education, training and medicine

Nashville, Tenn.: Thanks to two first-time grants, vulnerable people in malaria endemic South Sudan will get the training and medicine needed to prevent deaths from malaria. Imagine No Malaria recently awarded a grant for nearly $50,000 to the South Sudan District of UMC Health Board, as well as a $325,059 grant to the UMCOR Field Office in South Sudan. These two programs in South Sudan are working together in a successful effort to fight malaria. These grants open the door for the UMCOR Field office and health board to apply for larger external grants from other global entities.

“This grant means life to many people in the Lasu Payam district,” said Dr. M. Lynn Fogleman, Health Coordinator of the South Sudan United Methodist Church Health Board. “Teaching people how to prevent malaria and giving them the tools to do so will mean that the number of episodes of malaria will go down dramatically, and when that happens, the number of people dying from malaria will also reduce greatly.”

The grant to the Health Board will aid educational efforts such as malaria prevention and comprehensive maternal and child health training within these communities, training of area traditional birth attendants, and refresher training for technical staff at the government health facilities. The United Methodist Health Board in South Sudan will jump-start community educational sessions with radio talk shows.

Another important benefit of the funding is that malaria preventative medications will be provided to pregnant women and critical drugs will be provided to the various health facilities within Lasu Payam. In addition, an estimated 30,000 long-lasting insecticide-treated mosquito nets will be distributed to people at risk of the deadly, but preventable, disease through the work of the UMCOR Field Office in South Sudan.

South Sudan is the world’s newest country. More than twenty-two years of Civil War have weakened the county’s infrastructure and left it especially vulnerable to the ravages of malaria. Establishing an UMCOR field office will help the newly created health board overcome new nation birth pains and address malaria issues more aggressively.

“South Sudan is still crawling, not even walking,” said Mandela Wani Michael, health board representative. “The challenges are enormous in all areas—health, education, water and many more.”

“These initiatives will help make the world a better place for human existence.”

In October, the health board grant kicked off with a mobilization of community leaders to get people organized for the educational component, while UMCOR orders nets for communities and medicine for clinics.

“I rejoice that improving the lives of so many can be done with minimal technology, at relatively low cost and is reproducible for future times.” Dr. Fogleman said.

Because of its location in Sub-Saharan Africa, noted for its hot days and heavy rains, South Sudan is a magnet for mosquitos. Malaria incidence throughout South Sudan increased by 20 percent in 2012.

The entire area of Lasu Payam, which is also comprised of a large camp of Congolese refugees, was chosen to receive the benefits from the grant so all the inhabitants could be helped. Nine prominent villages were selected so that all the people of the district can go to the nearest location for nets and education.

Dr. Fogleman said, “Now, with the education, the nets, and the medicines, young children must not suffer and die with malaria. The pregnant women can make it to their expected delivery time. And they will begin to survive and see their children grow up. They will begin to have hope.”

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is the not-for-profit global humanitarian aid organization of The United Methodist Church. UMCOR is working in more than 80 countries worldwide, including the United States. Our mission, grounded in the teachings of Jesus, is to alleviate human suffering—whether caused by war, conflict, or natural disaster, with open hearts and minds to all people.

About Imagine No Malaria
Imagine No Malaria is an extraordinary ministry of the people of The United Methodist Church, putting faith into action to end preventable deaths from malaria in Africa, especially the death of a child or a mother. With a comprehensive approach to fighting this killer disease, Imagine No Malaria empowers the people of Africa to improve health infrastructure and achieve a sustainable victory over malaria.

Contact: Diane Degnan
(615) 742-5406 (office)
(615) 483-1765 (cell)

No age limit for giving


By: Susan Passi-Klaus

INM_money_church_ColoradoEmily (not her real name), a Colorado fifth-grader, was looking forward to how she would spend her birthday money – that is, until she was inspired to do something that would prompt her entire church to give extravagantly.

Up until recently, Emily had about $300 in the bank. A hundred of those precious dollars was a gift from her grandparents on her 11th birthday. She had lots plans for that big bill—new clothes, music for her IPod and an international Barbie doll. Then something happened that changed her spending priorities – and saved thousands of lives.

It happened in late June, when 100 children and 40 adult and youth leaders gathered around Dr. Michael Dent at Trinity United Methodist Church in Denver as he kicked off Vacation Bible School by talking about loving our neighbors. He wanted the kids to learn five things: Good neighbors are friendly; good neighbors are bold; good neighbors are forgiving; good neighbors are welcoming. However, it was the fifth point, good neighbors are giving, that really caught Emily’s attention.

The VBS leaders decided to use a mission opportunity to let the youngsters know that malaria kills a child in Africa every minute. Teachers showed video clips and talked about how malaria is passed on by infected mosquitos. They explained that children with malaria get very high fevers and severe body aches and too often, they don’t recover. The children were surprised to learn that a simple $10 insecticide-treated mosquito net helps prevent malaria.

Little white churches sat on tables as centerpieces.  Each day, VBS participants, often carrying their nickels and dimes in plastic sandwich bags, would slip coins through the slots in the churches. Bible school helpers would ask, “How many nets do you think our VBS could buy together?” The children were excited that their pennies would help Imagine No Malaria buy nets and medicine.

At the end of one day, Emily asked her mom to take her to the bank. She withdrew $100 from her savings account – but not to spend on the pink sweatshirt she had budgeted for, or music from Train, her favorite band, or even an Irish Barbie. She took an entire third of her bank balance because she believed her money would be better used for giving than for spending.

“I think most people would choose to save someone’s life and donate to Imagine No Malaria instead of buy something,” she said.

Dr. Michael Dent

Dr. Michael Dent

When Dent, a fervent six-year supporter of United Methodist efforts to beat malaria, stood before his congregation on the following Sunday morning, he asked the same questions he asked the children earlier in the week. So what is a good neighbor? What kind of neighbor does our Creator desire us to be?

“What better way to be a good neighbor than to give a special present to preserve the lives of precious progeny of parents in places where a mosquito bite can be lethal,” Dent preached.

“Cheerful givers” is what he called the children who dug deep into their small pockets to make a difference in Africa.  Those little cardboard churches were stuffed with coins and dollar bills totaling over $600.

And without sharing her name, Pastor Dent told of the little girl who gave up a pink sweatshirt and a Barbie doll so people would not die of malaria – a little girl who did not want her name to be mentioned, not because she is shy or afraid, but because she takes the words of Jesus to heart.

“I don’t think you should give to get attention, and I don’t think it would make God happy to give for praise,” she said. “Jesus said in Matthew that we should give in secret and that God will know what we did.”

The very same week that young Emily deposited five $20 bills in different cardboard churches, another anonymous donor from Trinity wrote a $50,000 check to Imagine No Malaria.  When the congregation was challenged to make a matching gift, generous givers enabled Trinity UMC to add $100,000 to the Imagine No Malaria coffers. Next Spring’s goal is even bigger — $120,000 – which is one-tenth of the $1.2 million Rocky Mountain Conference’s commitment.

“This experience reminds me of the little boy in the Bible who gave his fish and loaves to Jesus who multiplied it to feed the 5,000,” Dent said. “Jesus is smiling at this spontaneous act of love. Thanks be to God for our children … they are models of generosity, fulfilling that scripture, ‘A child shall lead them’.”

TEDTalks: Sonia Shah – 3 reasons we still haven’t gotten rid of malaria


Annual conferences join to fight malaria


By Barbara Dunlap-Berg*

The Rev. Kathy Crozier poses with children at Bishop Judith Craig Children’s Village in Duahzon, Liberia. Crozier, who contracted malaria during a 2008 mission trip to Liberia, and her husband Jim helped raise more than $323,000 to help fight the disease. A UMNS photo courtesy of Kathy Crozier.

The Rev. Kathy Crozier poses with children at Bishop Judith Craig Children’s Village in Duahzon, Liberia. Crozier, who contracted malaria during a 2008 mission trip to Liberia, and her husband Jim helped raise more than $323,000 to help fight the disease. A UMNS photo courtesy of Kathy Crozier.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)—When the Rev. Kathy Crozier and her husband, Jim, traveled on a mission trip to Liberia in 2008, she expected the trip to change her life.

It did, in many ways.

Although she took an anti-malaria drug, Kathy became very ill. Six months after she returned home, doctors at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta diagnosed her with malaria.

The disease damaged Kathy’s gall bladder and continues to cause extended periods of memory dissociation. She likened her symptoms to the familiar experience of going into a room to get something and forgetting why you went there. For her, she said, “it happens for longer periods of time and more frequently.” Her rescue dog, Cooper, is now her service dog, alerting her when a seizure-like episode is about to occur.

Despite — or perhaps because of — her own experience, Kathy is one of the biggest boosters for Imagine No Malaria in the Illinois Great Rivers Annual (regional) Conference. In Prophetstown, Kathy, a deacon in full connection, and Jim, a part-time local pastor, serve the 165-member Loraine United Methodist Church.

They were among the leadership in the conference’s Spoon River District, which has raised more than $323,000 toward the conference’s goal.  At publication time, The United Methodist Church worldwide had raised more than $53 million in cash and pledges toward the $75-million goal.

“I would never have thought I’d be involved in this until after our trip to Africa,” Jim said. “I’d given money to (purchase insecticide-treated bed nets) and that sort of support, but meeting people for whom malaria is a part of their lives convicted me.”

Kathy said that if she had known how a relatively simple trip to Africa would, ultimately, threaten her survival and transform her daily life, she still would have gone. “I would have said, without hesitation, ‘Send me.’” And she would go again “in a heartbeat.”

The Croziers remain committed to Imagine No Malaria.

“We can do this,” Jim replied. “We need to do this. Our sisters and brothers — and our little sisters and little brothers — need what we can provide. Malaria is one of the things that we really can fix. And victory over this will put us in place to work on AIDS and TB.”

 ‘Push back the darkness’

A new Christian is baptized in Salala, Liberia, in 2010. “As the church grows, it reaches people in remote areas who are most vulnerable to malaria,” says the Rev. Roger Ross, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Springfield, Ill. A UMNS photo by Roger Ross.

A new Christian is baptized in Salala, Liberia, in 2010. “As the church grows, it reaches people in remote areas who are most vulnerable to malaria,” says the Rev. Roger Ross, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Springfield, Ill. A UMNS photo by Roger Ross.

Reducing the number of preventable deaths from malaria is high on the list of several United Methodist annual (regional) conferences, and two — Illinois Great Rivers and Minnesota — have already raised more than $2 million each for the Imagine No Malaria campaign.

Three hours south of the Croziers’ church is the 1,900-member Springfield First United Methodist Church. That congregation pledged $208,000 – the tithe from a building expansion. As of July 31, they had paid $120,000, with a balance of $88,000.

“Our conference has a strong relationship with the Liberia Annual Conference,” said the Rev. Roger S. Ross. “Hundreds of people, pastors and laypersons, have been to Liberia and witnessed firsthand the needless deaths that occur from this preventable and treatable disease.

“When you look into the eyes of a young mother who worries every night whether a mosquito bite will kill one of her children, you cannot go home and do nothing. Imagine No Malaria is one way to push back the darkness and bring life.”

As of May 31 this year, 720 of the conference’s 860 congregations had contributed to Imagine No Malaria – an 84 percent participation rate. Several superintendents provided leadership within their districts, resulting in 100-percent participation by their churches.

“I think what has motivated the Illinois Great Rivers Conference,” said Paul Black, director of communication ministries, “is that this is something that we CAN do. Malaria is preventable, it is treatable and it can be eradicated. Many of our older members remember when malaria was an issue in the United States.

“When Imagine No Malaria was able to report that the problem (deaths from malaria) had been cut in half — moving the clock hands from every 30 seconds to every minute,” he added, “that was significant in letting people know that we were making a difference. Our message then became, ‘We have malaria on the run; let’s finish the job!’”

A global thrust

Other conferences have stepped up their efforts.

A longtime leader in the campaign, the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference has raised more than $1.5 million, followed by the Southwest Texas and Texas conferences, surpassing a million dollars each.

Collecting more than $500,000 each are the Arkansas, Baltimore-Washington and North Texas annual conferences. And tumbling over the $250,000 mark are the Central Texas, Iowa, New Mexico, New York and Northwest Texas conferences.

Supporters of Imagine No Malaria take part in a 5k run/walk along the Peoria River during the 2012 Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference. A UMNS file photo by Natalie Rowe, Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference.

Supporters of Imagine No Malaria take part in a 5k run/walk along the Peoria River during the 2012 Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference. A UMNS file photo by Natalie Rowe, Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference.

Eighteen annual conferences, including two listed above, are aiming toward the $1 million goal: Arkansas, California-Nevada, Desert Southwest, Detroit, Greater New Jersey, Holston, Iowa, Kansas East, Kansas West, Missouri, Nebraska, New England, North Alabama, Northern Illinois, Rocky Mountain, West Michigan, West Ohio and Yellowstone.

Participation goes beyond the U.S. annual conferences, with United Methodists in Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Puerto Rico, Russia, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe West conferences joining the effort.

“Imagine No Malaria is connectionalism at its best,” Black said. “We join together to achieve something that, individually, our churches or annual conferences couldn’t achieve by ourselves. Further, we have invited those that are not a part of us to join in the effort, and they have responded.”

The Rev. Larry Hollon, United Methodist Communications’ top staff executive, wrote in a July 18 blog, “The fight against this disease is challenging, but what is at stake are human lives. We have seen many places around the world, the United States and Panama for example, where malaria once claimed lives with impunity but is now under control.

“This is not the time to let the challenges cause us to hesitate. It’s time to redouble our efforts to enjoin the fight.”

*Dunlap-Berg is internal content editor at United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.

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