Back in February I introduced the Imagine No Malaria Campaign.  Here’s what I wrote

We kicked off our Imagine No Malaria campaign at church today, with the goal of saving 2500 lives in the next three years.  Through education, bed nets, medicine, draining stagnant water and communication the United Methodist Church along with the United Nations, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are hoping to eradicate deaths from Malaria by 2015.  This is such an exciting project to be a part of.  To join Jesus in the work of healing fever.  To save the lives of children.

I am so happy to report that the rate of Malaria deaths has been cut in half.  Rev. Larry Hollon, general secretary of United Methodist Communications:

“It’s humbling to know that United Methodists have had a key role in reducing malaria’s impact by half – from a death every 30 seconds to a death every 60 seconds. More must be done, but our church is committed to this life-saving mission.” [source]

When the campaign kicked off at Park Avenue, I shared a little about the campaign with the children in Children’s Church.  They wanted to support the project and loved the idea of being able to save a life with just $10.  So for the next several months, their weekly offering was directed to Imagine No Malaria.  By April they gave $150 and continued to give towards the campaign through last month.  Fairly impressive considering that many of them are 4 years old. When I shared the campaign with the Wednesday Night Youth Group, “Truth and Dares” I got a different response.  Four of the students in the group have parents from Africa.  Two of them had traveled back to Nigeria and Uganda and had experience taking Anti-Malarial medicine.  Two other students in the group had spent time in India on a family trip and also knew about Malaria.

As we started to talk about ways we could help, a Nigerian American girl said, “My mom makes really good African food, why don’t we have her cook and we have people come and give us money to eat.”

A Ghanaian American boy said, “My mom can cook too.” Over the next two months the Middle School-ers and the volunteer servant-leaders researched Malaria, the INM campaign, African Culture, and Scripture about the sick and healing.  They made posters, wrote speeches and rehearsed a skit.They recruited chefs (mostly moms and aunites, but some men as well) to cook.  Our line-up of cooks expanded to include cuisine from:

  • Nigeria
  • Uganda
  • Ghana
  • South Africa
  • Kenya
  • Somalia

Then two Caribbean women heard about our project and wanted to help, we got more food from the Virgin Islands and Antigua.  And two anglo American parents brought Indian Samosas (which was awesome because there is a huge Indian sub-continental presence in Africa), salad and drinks .

We had an amazing night.  The students raised $850 that evening.  85 lives saved.  Combined with the offering from their younger counterparts the children of Park Avenue saved 100 lives between February and April!  That was a wonderful outcome, but there were a few unexpected outcomes that I was delighted and blessed by.

Leadership Development:  The Middle School students not only saved lives but learned about hosting events, teaching and fundraising.

Celebration of Cultural Identity:  One young woman told me that she had never cooked African food with her mother before that night.  She had never worn an African dress before that evening.  That night on facebook, she posted a picture of her mother and herself in their African dresses with a caption that read, “My mommy and I are African Queens.”  It was beautiful to see her find pride in her heritage and culture.  Later that week she posted another picture from the evening and wrote about needing to understand your roots in order to be strong.

More than Sunday Participation:  I don’t know how it happened, but over the past two years, the largest group of new children in children’s ministry has been Ethiopian children adopted into American homes.  Many of these families live outside of the church’s neighborhood, but were excited about coming to an African event.  We had many families come who previously had only come to church for a Sunday morning service.  It was fun to get to know them outside of that context.

Meeting Outside Groups:  The week of the event, I received a voice-mail from the President of the Senegalese Association of Minnesota.  “I saw this event on the web and I was wondering if I could advertise it to our members on our facebook page and website.”

The night was awesome in so many ways, and I hope that we do something similar soon.

My colleague Matt made this video about our efforts towards Imagine No Malaria: