With only 10 weeks to go until June 9, the churches and people of Holston Conference are getting more creative in how they raise money for the denominational goal of eradicating malaria.
The Rev. Stephen Yeaney, for example, will probably be bald after Easter Sunday.
“I like to do strange challenges,” explained the pastor of Oakland United Methodist Church in Greenback, Tenn.
To inspire his congregation to give $2,000 to the “Imagine No Malaria” campaign by Easter, Yeaney at first proposed that he would jump from a silo into the nearby marina. However, when a parishioner suggested that the preacher should shave his head instead, church members liked that idea so much that the deal was sealed.
Yeaney is keeping the suspense high by not announcing the total collected so far. “They just have to keep giving and giving,” he said. “They have to give by faith.”
On Easter Sunday, March 31, the Oakland treasurer will count the total, with each $10 given representing a life saved from malaria in Africa. If the congregation gives $2,000 or more, Yeaney will not only get a radical haircut. Two hundred or more lives will also be saved through the United Methodist Church’s multi-faceted mission to eliminate malaria by the end of 2015.
Holston Conference’s goal is to raise $1 million toward that end by June 9-12, when leaders of Holston’s 897 churches will meet for Annual Conference at Lake Junaluska, N.C.
As of March 20, Holston had accomplished more than a third of the goal, with $370,740 collected to save 37,074 lives, according to LeRae Collins, Holston’s campaign coordinator. So far, 45 percent of Holston churches have contributed to the conference-wide emphasis.
SCARVES & PIZZA
While Yeaney might be giving his hair for a good cause, others are giving their talents. Before Christmas, Mary Hawkins knitted scarves to help fight the deadly mosquito-borne disease. She sold about 50 brightly colored creations, raising $700 to save 70 lives.
“To save a life with just 10 dollars: It’s so simple, so minimal, that everybody ought to be able to do something,” says the Knoxville District administrative assistant and member at Kodak UMC in Kodak, Tenn. “You can’t do nothing.”
At Chilhowie UMC in Chilhowie, Va., 14-year-old Avery Smith created a pizza-baking kit to raise money for Imagine No Malaria.
“He started by giving a speech to the congregation with a timer that went off every 60 seconds,” said Smith’s pastor, the Rev. Sarah Slack. The timer indicated that every 60 seconds, another person dies from malaria.
Smith then found recipes for four different kinds of pizzas (including a “Chilhowie Special” dessert pizza with apple butter made by the United Methodist Men). With the help of his mother, pastor, and fellow youth-group member Lauren Rhea, Smith then rolled out dough and assembled the topping ingredients.
He sold enough take-and-bake pizza kits to save the lives of 48 brothers and sisters in Africa.
Meanwhile, some pastors decided to get physical for the anti-malaria campaign. The Rev. Wil Cantrell, pastor at Lebanon Memorial UMC in Lebanon, Va., is training to run the Knoxville Marathon on April 7. His goal is to run 26.2 miles in under four hours. Church members have been challenged to pledge a dollar amount for every minute their pastor comes in under the four-hour mark.
In the Maryville District, the Rev. Charles Maynard will be walking and the Rev. Randy Pasqua will be biking for a campaign they call “The Next Mile.” The pastors will travel across the district during the week of April 21 -- which has been dubbed “INM Activity Week,” said Collins. “World Malaria Day” also falls on April 25.
Maynard, Maryville District superintendent, and Pasqua, executive director of Holston Conference Camp and Retreat Ministries, will visit churches during their week-long trek, raising money and awareness for the malaria-smiting mission.
At Kendricks Creek UMC in Kingsport, Tenn., the Rev. Susan Lankford looked for a way to “put a face” on the life-saving initiative. She chose the youngest member of the church – two-year-old Evie Crow – and brought her before the church.
“This is our precious child,” Lankford told the congregation. “If I told you that Evie might die, but $10 would save her life, who would not pull it out of their pockets?”
To date, Kendricks Creek – a congregation with 90 in average worship attendance – is among the top givers in the Kingsport District, raising $1,256 for the "Evie Fund," Lankford said.
POOL NOODLES & PENNIES
Several churches have created special events to help fight the disease that kills so many children overseas.
Church Street UMC in Knoxville, Tenn., planned a special lunch with children’s art, music, and drama – and an opportunity to take a “swat” at a giant mosquito. The mosquito was the Rev. Darryll Rasnake in costume. The children (and their parents) donated $450 just for the fun of pelting the pastor with foam “pool noodles.”
Also in Knoxville, students at the University of Tennessee Wesley Foundation waged a “penny war” to raise $1,000 for Imagine No Malaria.
“Students formed teams of three and decorated mason jars with their team names,” said the Rev. Tim Kobler, Wesley Foundation director. “Money was collected on Wednesday and Sunday nights for a month. Pennies counted as one point in favor of the team. Any other coins or paper money counted as points against the team.”
Students encouraged others to donate pennies to their team and other forms of currency to the other teams, Kobler said. “We had six teams, and almost all of the Wesley Foundation students participated through making donations.”
Finally, the Hispanic congregations led by the Rev. Daniel Castillo found a way to save lives through a Saturday flea market in Alcoa, Tenn. Castillo is pastor at San Juan UMC, which meets at St. John UMC in Maryville, and Casa del Alfarero (Potter’s House) UMC, located in Philadelphia, Tenn.
“We gave away popcorn, snacks, beverages, did some face-painting and made balloon figures,” Castillo said. “Everything was free. We just asked for donations, and although donations were small, we raised $207 to save 20 lives.”
The San Juan congregation has set a goal to save 100 lives by Easter, Castillo said. Some families have set up collection jars at home where relatives can gather their spare change. Castillo’s own children have collected firewood and cans to help their church meet its goal.
“Our goal to save 100 lives is big for our people, since some have just enough for their own families,” he said. “But they put this goal before them, and something tells me we will succeed.”
Videos, handouts, photos and other resources for sharing Imagine No Malaria in your church
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newsletter.