AC2014 to include ‘Night at the Naturals’

By Amy Forbus Editor Baseball game will serve as celebration for striking out malaria United Methodists of Arkansas have reached their minimum fundraising goal for Imagine No Malaria, the denomination’s effort to end malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa. And on Saturday, June 21, in conjunction with Annual Conference being held in Rogers, everyone’s invited to join in the celebration at UMC Night at the Naturals. The Northwest Arkansas Naturals, a Double-A Texas League baseball team affiliated with the Kansas City Royals, will play the Tulsa Drillers at Arvest Ballpark in Springdale. United Methodists are invited to cheer for the home team while reveling in a job well done. “I’m so proud of Arkansas for  not only reaching, but surpassing this goal,” said Bishop Gary Mueller. “Our support of Imagine No Malaria is making a difference. It’s fitting that we take time to celebrate this world-transforming effort.” Game details The first pitch (rumored to be thrown by a United Methodist leader) is set for 6:05 p.m. Saturday, June 21. The first 2,000 fans will receive a one-of-a-kind Naturals Rubber Ducky, which also bears the United Methodists of Arkansas logo. All United Methodists of Arkansas are invited to attend. The Arkansas Conference will offer reduced-price tickets with preferred seating, and there is no minimum quantity for the group rate. They will be available for pick-up at Annual Conference 2014 in Rogers. Beginning May 1, they will be sold on a first-come, first-serve basis, with the purchase form available for download at If you have questions, contact Cathy Hughes at 501-324-8020 or Those who cannot attend may listen online at, or on the radio at 92.1 FM The Ticket (KQSM Fayetteville), the Naturals’ flagship station. Select games are broadcast on News/Talk 1030 AM (KFAY Fayetteville). During this game and throughout the 2014 season, listeners will hear a message from United Methodists of Arkansas. Getting here, going further Thanks in part to a $333,333.33 matching grant from the United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas, churches and individuals from across the state have topped $1 million in donations to the Imagine No Malaria initiative. Fundraising projects have ranged from lemonade sales to 24-hour golf challenges. “Our goal sounded daunting when we first started out,” said the Rev. Martha Taylor, who spent a year serving as full-time Imagine No Malaria field coordinator for the Arkansas Conference. “But people are still raising funds, so now it’s going to be fun to watch us exceed it. God calls us to transform the world, and this is part of how we answer that call.” As enthusiasm for Imagine No Malaria grew throughout the United Methodist Church, deaths from malaria began to decline. Now, the toll has been cut by half, from an average of one death every 30 seconds to one every 60 seconds. But that’s still not enough improvement. “We may have reached our goal here in Arkansas, but the big goal remains: eliminating deaths from malaria by 2015,” Taylor said. “It really is within our grasp. The suffering malaria causes is unnecessary, but thanks to research, education and treatment, its days are numbered.” Imagine No Malaria provides training, education, treatment and prevention efforts in areas where malaria continues to disrupt daily life. The effort aligns with one of the Four Areas of Focus lifted up by the UMC at the 2008 General Conference, “combating the diseases of poverty by improving health globally.” Through Imagine No Malaria, the UMC partners with global leaders in the fight against malaria, including the United Nations Foundation; the World Health Organization; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.