A $68 million smile

Four-year-old Ibrahim Massaquoi wears a smile after 24-hour medical treatment for malaria in the Bo Government Hospital in Sierra Leone. Massaquoi was admitted with acute malaria and treated. The United Methodist Church through its Imagine No Malaria program is partnering with the Sierra Leone government in June 2014 to distribute 390,000 nets in the Bo District. umns photo/Phileaus Jusu

The United Methodist Church has successfully surpassed 90 percent of its $75 million goal for Imagine No Malaria, an initiative of the people of The United Methodist Church to eliminate malaria deaths.

The news was announced on November 16 by the three Pennsylvania bishops of the denomination. Bishop Jeremiah Park of the Harrisburg Episcopal Area announced that he, in partnership with his conference, has pledged $1 million, the gift that pushes the global campaign to the fundraising milestone.

To celebrate, Park presented a check for approximately 15 percent of the pledge to Bishop Thomas Bickerton who chairs The United Methodist Church’s Global Health Initiative and has led Imagine No Malaria since 2010. Bickerton also leads the Pittsburgh Episcopal Area where local United Methodists have raised more than $2.1 million for Imagine No Malaria. Bishop Peggy Johnson of the Philadelphia Episcopal Area, where local congregations have raised in excess of a quarter of a million dollars for Imagine No Malaria through a variety of fundraising activities, also was on hand for the major announcement.

The event was held at Camp Hill United Methodist Church, where children from the church’s preschool (CHUM Preschool) and The Children’s Center kicked off the event by singing a medley of “Jesus Loves the Little Children,” “Jesus Loves Me,” “This Little Light of Mine” and “He’s Got The Whole World in His Hands.” While the preschoolers sang, a multimedia presentation featured children on the continent of Africa whose opportunity to grow up healthy is threatened due to malaria, a reality that Imagine No Malaria and other global partners are working to change.

Bishop Tom Bickerton greets children before the service at Kamina Center Methodist church, Democratic Republic of Congo, where he preached and worshiped. umns photo/ Lynne Dobson

Bishop Tom Bickerton greets children before the service at Kamina Center Methodist church, Democratic Republic of Congo, where he preached and worshiped. umns photo/ Lynne Dobson

“We thank Bishop Park and United Methodists throughout Central Pennsylvania who have made this pledge. We also thank United Methodists throughout the world whose fundraising efforts have now raised $68 million in cash and pledges for Imagine No Malaria,” Bickerton said. “Today’s announcement is a celebration for all United Methodists, who serve as a testimony to what we can achieve when we unite for a shared vision of a world without malaria deaths.” At the 2015 sessions of the Detroit and West Michigan Annual Conferences it was announced that United Methodists in Michigan contributed over $1.6 million to Imagine No Malaria.

Bickerton also shared congratulatory remarks from Rear Admiral Tim Ziemer who heads the President’s Malaria Initiative in Washington, D.C., a leader in the global fight against malaria. Ziemer was unable to attend the event due to travel outside of the country.

“What a remarkable achievement! The United Methodist Church’s delivery on their commitment of $75 million in support of your Imagine No Malaria campaign is unprecedented and has set the bar very high for other faith-based partners,” Ziemer said. “Imagine the thousands of lives that have been saved and the families that have benefited from less malaria in their homes and communities. I recently visited Zimbabwe and saw firsthand the fantastic work that The United Methodist Church is doing.”

During the event, the Rev. Tom Willard, senior pastor at Camp Hill United Methodist Church, shared his personal story of contracting malaria following a mission trip two years ago to Sierra Leone. Johnson also shared her conference’s fundraising experiences, which have ranged from 5K races to bake sales, many engaging youth.

Since the campaign’s start in 2010, United Methodist youth have been vital to Imagine No Malaria’s fundraising efforts through innovative and generous means, including donating pennies from their piggy banks to hosting lemonade stands to requesting Imagine No Malaria donations for birthday gifts.

Others attending the event included Dr. Olusimbo Ige, director of the Global Health unit of the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church in New York City, and the Rev. Gary Henderson, executive director, Global Health Initiative, United Methodist Communications.

Health worker Juliana Koroma (r) prepares a malaria test for a young child at the Koribondo Community Health Center near Bo, Sierra Leone. umns photo/ Mike DuBose

Health worker Juliana Koroma (r) prepares a malaria test for a young child at the Koribondo Community Health Center near Bo, Sierra Leone. umns photo/ Mike DuBose

The multi-year campaign, which has now raised $68 million in cash and pledges, has engaged United Methodists across the world, from local churches holding fundraisers to major donor gifts. Giving continues as the initiative nears its goal.

Today, Imagine No Malaria launched a social media campaign to kick off the final phase of fundraising with the #Give10 Challenge. By donating $10 or more, the people of The United Methodist Church will work together to reach the last 10 percent of the goal. Contributions can be made at ImagineNoMalaria.org.

Imagine No Malaria is committed to ending death and suffering from malaria through prevention, communication, trained health workers and facilities, and grassroots education.

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