Fighting Malaria through Change the World

Fighting malaria through Change the World
MwanzeFeza looks after her daughter MongaVasiy, who is sick with malaria,
at the United Methodist Church's Shungu Health Center
in Kamina, Democratic Republic of the Congo in April 2010.
A UMNS file photo by Mike DuBose.

By Barbara Dunlap-Berg*

May 10, 2013 | NASHVILLE, TENN. (UMNS)

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, more than 400 children die every day, almost half of them from malaria, according to the World Health Organization.

On Change the World Day, members of Lokole English United Methodist Church, Kinshasha, DRC, will offer community-wide training to combat malaria. The church is part of the West Congo Annual Conference.

Pierre Omadjela, conference director of communications, said everyone “should know how to make clean their environment and not be the source of producing mosquitoes. If I clean my house and compound and my neighbor does not, the mosquitoes will come from him and transfer sickness to my family.

“It is good to fight malaria, not only by medicines or mosquito nets but also by sensitizing the population on the ways to fight malaria.”

According to the latest WHO estimates, there were about 219 million cases of malaria in 2010 and an estimated 660,000 deaths. Africa is the most affected continent: about 90 percent of all malaria deaths occur there.

“Programs like The United Methodist Church’s Imagine No Malaria initiative and its partner organizations are making a difference, producing life-saving results,” said the Rev. Larry Hollon, top executive of United Methodist Communications. “Malaria’s impact has been cut in half in just a few short years, but the battle is still far from over.”

U.S. congregations joining effort

Malaria hasn’t been a threat to people in the United States since the early 1900s when many workers building the Panama Canal suffered from the mosquito-borne illness.

Because The United Methodist Church is committed to raising $75 million to empower the people of Africa to wipe out malaria, Imagine No Malaria seems a natural cause for congregations planning their Change the World outreach. While the official weekend for Change the World is May 18-19, some congregations got an early start.

‘Skeeter run’

At Hillsboro United Methodist Church in Kansas, people of all ages hit the ground running April 13 when they gathered for a 5K/one mile “Skeeter run.”

Participants ranged in age from 2 to 82, said Debbie Ratzloff, missions chair.

“We had a kickoff in January and invited the Imagine No Malaria field coordinator for the Kansas West Annual (regional) Conference to share with the congregation about this ministry and her trip to Zimbabwe to distribute mosquito nets,” Ratzloff said. For the Skeeter Run, members canvassed the community with fliers about the run and delivered information packets and wristbands to the houses along the route.

“We invited our local community as well as challenged members of our congregation and other area United Methodist churches to form a team and participate in the Skeeter Run,” Ratzloff said.

The Skeeter Run raised $1,987 through registration fees, T-shirt sales and donations. So far, the 240-member congregation has raised more than $3,450 total for Imagine No Malaria.

This wasn’t Hillsboro’s first Imagine No Malaria activity. Last year, the children’s Sunday school sponsored a “LemonAID” stand, raising $250. And in December, the Wednesday night Kid’s Club sold “Goodies by the Pound,” earning $262.

Hillsboro is a partner with the Fern Valley United Methodist church in Zimbabwe. “One of our … prayer partners at Fern Valley has malaria,” Ratzloff said, “so we have firsthand knowledge of someone living with the disease.”

The congregation has already scheduled its next Skeeter Run for April 5, 2014.

‘Sleepunder,’ movie night

“We had a very successful Imagine No Malaria event, inspired by our missions team and led by our youth groups, with our children’s Sunday school joining in,” reported the Rev. Debra Wacker of Columbia Falls (Mont.) United Methodist Church.

“On Friday, April 19,” she continued, “our junior and senior high youth groups had an Imagine No Malaria ‘sleepunder’ and an intergenerational movie night showing the Imagine No Malaria documentary.”

 Kimberly Peacock
Kimberly Peacock looks out from beneath a decorative
mosquito net during a “sleepunder” at Columbia Falls (Mont.)
United Methodist Church that raised money
for the denomination’s Imagine No Malaria Campaign.
Photo by Kami Heinz.


Before the event, the Joy School, which is kindergarten through fifth grade, made mosquitoes and sold them to the congregation with information about Imagine No Malaria. The youth group gathered donations for the hours they would sleep under the nets they made. “We all talked about it in every corner of our church, put fliers up and showed the film,” Wacker said.

This was the first Imagine No Malaria project for the congregation of 170.

“We had invited all to bring friends in the hopes of informing as many as possible about the need and success of the Imagine No Malaria program as we all work together,” she added. “We believe in the project because it is important to reach out to our brothers and sister in need. We can help, so we do.

“We are excited for next year when we will continue working to defeat malaria. We will use the pictures (from this year) to promote next year’s activity.”

Penny drive

Sunday school children at First United Methodist Church, Bremen, Ga., know pennies add up to dollars.

That’s why they led a penny drive, ending with a special Mother’s Day offering to benefit Imagine No Malaria. Donations from other fundraisers also will go to Imagine No Malaria.

The events are open to the community, said Angela Awalt, missions chair. “The wider the net, the greater the impact we can have on ending preventable deaths.”

The 700-member congregation recognizes the importance of building a sustainable ministry.

“People in our church and community are passionate about helping the less fortunate and the disadvantaged,” Awalt said. “This ministry will give them that avenue of opportunity. I can see us sponsoring a fun run/walk or a breakfast next year.”

Mosquito nets

Registered nurse Linda Jenkins is no stranger to illness. The longtime member of Utica United Methodist Church in Sterling Heights, Mich., readily shares that information with her congregation, and children, youth and adults have stepped up to the challenge.

“The Christian educator has worked with the young children and the youth by educating them about malaria,” Jenkins said. The children and youth made “mosquitoes,” which they placed in nets hung in the fellowship hall. “This has provided everyone with a visual of what we are working on. The youth also decided to send their collections from the beginning of the year to help fight malaria and save children.”

The adults are doing their part to change the world by purchasing insecticide-treated bed nets for $10 each. “We plan on showing a short video to the congregation,” Jenkins said, “and collect money up through Mother’s Day.”

While this is Utica’s first Change the World project, Jenkins said the 500-member congregation “actively participates in a mission trip to Haiti, and participants bring back stories to encourage the church to care about children in many ways.”

‘Stomp Malaria’ 5K walk/run

The 165-member Connection Community Church in Middletown, Del., is gearing up for its second ‘Stomp Malaria’ 5K walk/run to Change the World. The May 18 event, explained lay leader Nancy Johnston, is open to the community. Proceeds will purchase bed nets.

“This is a great opportunity to make people aware of the malaria problem,” she said, “and a great opportunity for fellowship.

“We hope to do this every year.”

Free carwash, water giveaway

Youth in the Grapevine Circuit in the California-Nevada Annual (regional) Conference will kick off Change the World weekend with a free carwash and water giveaway. Participants will come from several United Methodist churches — First, Lodi; Salem, Lodi; Valley Springs; Jackson; Ione Community; Isleton Community; and Galt, which will host the event.

“Adults in our congregation are also welcome to participate,” said the Rev. Judy Robbins of Galt United Methodist Church. “This is a free carwash/water giveaway, but we are asking for donations for Imagine No Malaria. We hope that many members and non-members will come to get their cars washed and (to) make donations.”

While this is a one-time event, Robbins sees possibilities for future events that include raising money for Imagine No Malaria.

Prepare to Change the World

On May 18-19, United Methodists around the globe will unite in service with their local communities for the fourth annual Change the World weekend. People in more than 1,500 locations internationally observed Change the World in 2012.

United Methodist Communications has created several free planning resources including sermon series and ideas for service projects. To locate an event in your area, go to RethinkChurch.org. Join the Change the World conversation online on Facebook, or on Twitter and Instagram using #changetheworld and #rethinkchurch.

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

News media contact: Barbara Dunlap-Berg, Nashville, Tenn. (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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