Imagine No Malaria Efforts Prove Contagious

Date Posted: 4/25/2011

Kim Granzow learned she could help to save 100 lives by giving just $28 a month for three years and decided she had no excuse not to do so.


Granzow of First United Methodist Church in Los Alamos, N.M., attended an Imagine No Malaria presentation after the denomination launched the initiative last April 25 on World Malaria Day.


 “What really grabbed me,” she said, “was the fact that The United Methodist Church is stepping out in faith to eradicate deaths from malaria.”


In 2008, the World Health Organization reports, there were 247 million cases of malaria and nearly a million deaths. In Africa, a child dies from malaria every 45 seconds; the disease accounts for 20 percent of all childhood deaths.


Malaria is not contagious, but enthusiasm for The United Methodist Church’s Imagine No Malaria initiative definitely is.


Just ask the Rev. Mary Kathryn Pearce, pastor of Prospect United Methodist Church, Dunlap, Ill. She joined the fight against malaria five years ago after reading a “Sports Illustrated” article about Nothing But Nets.


Pearce shared her newfound knowledge with her congregation that includes many from the corporate headquarters for Caterpillar Inc. in nearby Peoria, “folks who have the global perspective in their day-to-day world,” she said.


Linking her congregation with the denomination, she annually sets up a malaria-related display featuring $1,000 of her own money and challenges members to match it. Total giving is always at least $3,500. The church recently vowed to give $50,000 to Imagine No Malaria, which will raise its total contribution to more than $60,000.


“When you immerse people into needs – local, regional and global – and find avenues in which they can be immersed, lives are changed” inside and out, she said.


‘This Challenge . . . is Doable and Attainable’

Prospect Church is part of the Illinois Great Rivers Annual (regional) Conference, which has a goal of raising between $2.3 million and $3.5 million for Imagine No Malaria. Individual donations, special offerings and other efforts will help the conference meet the fund-raising challenge Bishop Gregory V. Palmer issued in 2010.


Graphic designer Natalie Rowe created a graphic for “SWAT Team” T-shirts that are being sold to raise funds and is being used on labels on coin-collection cans.


“What has captured the imagination of many,” said Paul E. Black, conference director of communications, “is that this challenge, while daunting, is doable and attainable.”


The Rev. Larry Hollon, general secretary of United Methodist Communications, is excited about the response to Imagine No Malaria. Conferences, he said, “are making the campaign a priority and enthusiastically raising funds to put an end to malaria deaths.”


To date, individuals and churches in 56 of 59 annual conferences in the U.S. have contributed to Imagine No Malaria. Other conferences continue to support Nothing But Nets specifically. The Sierra Leone conference designated one-half of its annual conference offering for the cause.

The Imagine No Malaria goal is to raise $75 million to eliminate deaths and suffering from malaria in Africa by 2015. “We're optimistic that we are on schedule to do this,” Hollon said. The total raised so far is $16 million.

In five years, the fight against malaria has expanded significantly from the Nothing But Nets effort to provide insecticide-treated bed nets to protect people as they sleep. Today, Imagine No Malaria makes people aware of the causes of malaria, builds or restores clinics and hospitals, and trains health workers in the community.


Shannon Trilli, director of malaria initiatives at the United Methodist Committee on Relief, says the four most effective ways to battle malaria are mosquito nets, environmental cleanup, salaries and training for health-care professionals, and medicine.


In 2010, through Imagine No Malaria, 460,000 mosquito nets were distributed in Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe. Trilli hopes to top that number in 2011. World Malaria Day this year saw distribution of 100,000 mosquito nets in Mozambique. Nets also went to Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe and, for the first time, Angola.


“Health is interconnected with poverty, education and economic opportunity,” Hollon said.  “We must address the full range of circumstances that contribute to poor health, disease and lack of care.”


Health boards, based in local churches in Africa, “are the drivers, the implementers,” Trilli said, generating local solutions and bringing the community into the center of the strategy. “They’re the heart of the program.”


From House Parties to Concerts to Clothes

“Malaria kills enough people to fill two jumbo jets every day,” Bishop John R. Schol told 6,000 youth at an event in the Baltimore-Washington Conference. The youth responded by contributing nearly $20,000. Conference representatives have distributed 25,000 bed nets during annual trips since 2007 to Zimbabwe. Schol is among the leaders of a three-year Imagine No Malaria campaign in the conference. In a just-completed art contest, children and youth illustrated what the world would be like if malaria no longer existed.


Across the connection, United Methodists and others are hosting dozens of house parties.

Imagine No Malaria staff says, “A house party is a great excuse to bring friends together for a fun time, while raising awareness and dollars for Imagine No Malaria.”


Some parties have themes, they say, but “most people are just inviting a few friends over for a nice dinner, and asking guests to impact one life ($10), 10 lives ($100) or even 100 lives ($28 per month for three years).”


Other examples illustrate how United Methodists of all ages are getting on board with Imagine No Malaria.


Fifteen King’s Kids at First United Methodist Church, Portales, N.M., raised $800 in four weeks and bought more than 80 bed nets.


Several small, rural churches in the East District of the North Texas Conference hosted a concert by the Connections band and raised more than $11,500 in one night. Text messages provided $420.


The Western Pennsylvania Conference has raised over $1 million in cash and pledges towards its $3 million goal. It is selling “INMWear,” T-shirts and hoodies in various colors with slogans such as “Don’t Bug Me.”


Christ United Methodist Church in Bethel Park, Pa., spent February raising funds for Imagine No Malaria and a United Methodist ministry in Zimbabwe. One concert raised about $10,500.

Lowville United Methodist Church in Wattburg, Pa., which has an average worship attendance of 35, raised $10,000 and then doubled its goal.


This is ‘what Mr. Wesley intended us to do’

Pittsburg Area Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton, who chairs the Global Health Initiative for the Council of Bishops, told a magazine writer: “Today there’s a 3-year-old who’s going to be bitten by a tiny bug, and, in 48 hours, she is going to die. She’s the reason I do what I do. To make the world a healthy place for every child has everything to do with what Mr. Wesley intended us to do.”

Global partnership is vital, Trilli said. “Every year, 800,000 people die from malaria. We really need United Methodists to continue to respond.”


Hollon remembers visiting an African mother holding a lifeless baby in a health clinic.

“The baby was only a few months old and was too sick to nurse, or move. He was in the latter stages of malaria, but the mother didn't know what was wrong and had (taken) too long to get to the clinic. I saw the baby draw his last breath. Today, when I think about how important it is to provide nets to mothers, and when I see energetic little children running and playing, I often remember that first baby I saw die from malaria.”


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


Join the dream to Imagine No Malaria

Keep up-to-date with Imagine No Malaria at, on Facebook and Twitter or by calling (866) 521-1179.


NBC special to focus on efforts against malaria

An NBC TV special, "A Killer in the Dark," will show efforts of United Methodists and others to eliminate suffering from malaria. Presented by the National Council of Churches and produced by United Methodist Communications, the program will be available for local NBC affiliates to air May 1 through mid-November. Church members can contact their local stations and ask them to schedule "A Killer in the Dark."


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Related: Pauley Perrette Joins UMC Imagine No Malaria Campaign