Young Adults Model Passionate Dedication
Helping prevent malaria in approximately 23,000 lives – the majority of whom are children -- is an audacious goal that the Teen Net Team of First UMC, Jacksonville tackled, beginning in 2010 and culminating in a final fundraising concert in August of this year. Their ministry, motivation and winning strategy can inspire others of all ages to take a passion and run with it.
Do something. That’s what a group of young adults in Jacksonville did when they learned of the critical problem of malaria in Africa, and The Teen Net Team website hosted by the impactful international charity: Nothing But Nets campaign. Patrick Foster, a graduate of Jacksonville High School and member of First UMC, Jacksonville was inspired to “do something” while on an UM Army mission trip in 2010. Having learned about incurable diseases in biology class, Patrick resonated with the Nothing but Nets campaign to help impact the mosquito-borne illness that was the leading cause of death among children in Africa. He shared his idea to “do something” with several school and youth group friends including Abby and Lindy Lykins, Janzen Terry, Stephen McMahan, Kelly Cook and they were on board immediately. The young adults set a goal of $50,000 and have hosted countless fundraisers over the last three years to get to their ambitious target, most recently a concert and special speaker at First UMC, Jacksonville.
“Our final fundraiser was a benefit concert with a love offering to benefit Nothing But Nets,” says Patrick. “We only needed $4,000 to help us reach our goal of $50,000, and thanks to the generous support of our church family we were able to surpass that goal and contribute over $54,000 to this cause.”
This ongoing fundraising effort generated local media coverage and national recognition along the way. These young adults will now be able to fund the purchase of over 5,000 nets to help prevent malaria. In addition to powerfully impacting an international issue, Patrick wanted to bust the myth that teens are typically self-absorbed. “I wanted to inspire teens and people in general to find something they are passionate about, set a goal and achieve it.”
Reverend Tom Stephenson is thrilled with this ministry success story. “This is an outstanding example of what can happen when disciples put their minds to a task, focus on the goal and keep after it,” he says. “There were no huge donations, just lots of little ones. Our youth showed tenacity, persistence and power! And since no one told them it couldn't be done, they did it. This is evidence that with the presence of the Holy Spirit, God's people are capable of amazing things. I am so proud of our youth and our church for this wonderful witness to the power of God's love. It's great to be the hands and feet of Jesus!”
This achievement also touched the heart of District Superintendent Sandra Smith. “I am so proud of these young people,” she says. “They set an ambitious goal of $50,000 and just kept working until they not only achieved their goal, but exceeded it! I’m also proud of the members of Jacksonville 1st, who supported the Teen Net Team. They obviously take seriously the vows they make when their children are baptized. They are raising their young people up to work for justice and mercy.”
Adds Patrick, “Although we have met this goal, we would like to remind people to continue to give and support Nothing But Nets or Imagine No Malaria in their fight against malaria. We would also hope that we have inspired others young and old to find a cause they are passionate about and set a goal and achieve that goal.”
To finish off the evening of the final fundraiser, Patrick was glad to see Rev. Tom Stephenson issue a challenge to the church by simply asking the question “What’s next?”