Arkansas reaches $1 million in pledged support to fight malaria

Imagine_No_MalariaBy Amy Forbus
Editor

In early April, just weeks before World Malaria Day, the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church reached the $1 million mark in gifts and pledges supporting the denomination’s multi-pronged initiative to combat malaria in sub-Saharan Africa. The denomination is very near its goal of raising $75 million for the cause.

It was an April gift from First UMC Piggot that put the Arkansas Conference over the top. The congregation took advantage of the free Imagine No Malaria offering boxes (available at imaginenomalaria.org/resources) and organized a Lenten coin collection drive to benefit the cause.

“We hope our ‘change’ will help to meet the goal of stamping out malaria in our lifetime,” wrote DeNese Newbill in a note that accompanied the church’s check for $205. “Thank you Arkansas Conference for being a good global neighbor.”

Spurred on by a generous $333,333 matching grant from the United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas (UMFA), United Methodists across the state found creative ways to raise funds—running 5Ks and marathons, baking cookies and selling crafts, hosting sporting events, special programs and much more. Age and specific talent didn’t matter; everyone found some way to contribute.

“We set out to make this as much of a grassroots project as possible,” said the Rev. David Freeman, chair of the Arkansas Conference’s Imagine No Malaria task force. “We wanted this work to be done by churches, Sunday school classes, small groups and youth groups. The people of Arkansas got on board. Beyond the matching gift from UMFA, almost every dollar was raised by people in the churches—not a committee or campaign team.”

“It’s not hard to wrap your mind around a mosquito bite,” said task force member Mary Lewis Dassinger. “But a bite that can send a family into deeper poverty because the loss of wages, and into deeper suffering over the loss of a parent or child, is harder to imagine. That malaria infects, sickens and kills millions is even harder to comprehend.”

Knowing that God would work through the Arkansas Conference’s and the United Methodist Church’s faithful actions spurred Dassinger’s family to give to Imagine No Malaria, she said. It provided a way to put their faith into action and to help change the world.

Households connected with Piggott UMC brought their Imagine No Malaria coin boxes to church March 29 as part of a special Lenten offering. The congregation collected more than $200, which pushed the Arkansas Conference over the top of its $1 million minimum goal for helping to end deaths from this treatable, preventable disease. At the same time, the church took a separate collection to benefit those close to home: The baskets seen on either side of the altar hold collected “Busy Items”—coloring books, crayons, puzzles, books and toys—for children who receive care at Piggott Community Hospital. PHOTO COURTESY ANDY NEWBILL

Households connected with Piggott UMC brought their Imagine No Malaria coin boxes to church March 29 as part of a special Lenten offering. The congregation collected more than $200, which pushed the Arkansas Conference over the top of its $1 million minimum goal for helping to end deaths from this treatable, preventable disease.
At the same time, the church took a separate collection to benefit those close to home: The baskets seen on either side of the altar hold collected “Busy Items”—coloring books, crayons, puzzles, books and toys—for children who receive care at Piggott Community Hospital.
PHOTO COURTESY ANDY NEWBILL

“As I traveled the state speaking to various groups about Imagine No Malaria, I often said that I was 100 percent convinced that God was working in and through our church to further God’s work in the world,” said the Rev. Martha Taylor, who for six months served as the full-time Arkansas field coordinator for Imagine No Malaria. “The saving of millions of lives, the education and communication strides and the empowering of the people of Africa so that they can continue the work far into the future—it all brings to life Jesus’ words in Matthew 21: ‘I tell you the truth, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more.’”

Freeman highlighted the large impact of so many small gifts.

“We’ve reached this milestone because people got behind the belief that they had the power to make a real difference,” he said.

Taylor finds hope in how sharing personal stories made a difference. She believes the same type of momentum is poised to happen with the latest Conference-wide focus, the 200,000 Reasons initiative to end childhood hunger in our state.

“All you have to do is look at the faces of the people whose lives have been transformed to know God is using the UMC in a powerful way,” she said.