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Brightly painted wooden mosquitoes helped publicize the Alaskan churches' Imagine No Malaria Lenten fundraising campaign. Photo courtesy of the Alaska United Methodist Conference.

Photo courtesy of the Alaska United Methodist Conference

Brightly-painted wooden mosquitoes helped publicize the Alaskan churches' Imagine No Malaria Lenten fundraising campaign.

Alaskan churches take up malaria challenge at Lent

By LeRae Collins and Julia Frisbie*
February 9, 2016

During Lent, many people choose to “give up” something: chocolate, social media, coffee, etc. Others choose to use the season as a time to “take up” something: exercising, donating time or money, starting a new spiritual practice, etc. For almost three years, United Methodist churches in Alaska have taken up the cause of Imagine No Malaria to offer hope and healing.

Alaskan United Methodist churches have responded in faith to the opportunity to save lives of children and pregnant women through Imagine No Malaria.

From day one, the goal of $150,000 set by the Alaska United Methodist Conference, which consists of 28 churches spread across 586,000 square miles, was one that was a sacrificial gift, translating to $100 per member per church. The goal was not only sacrificial but also ambitious as it was five times larger than the largest fundraiser the conference had done in the past. Through a collective effort of churches, the Conference has not only met its goal, but surpassed it and continues to raise funds to save lives through Imagine No Malaria. Alaska’s United Methodists have raised more than $85 per member to-date for the initiative.

Churches have each supported Imagine No Malaria in unique ways:

First United Methodist Church, Fairbanks: You may have heard of youth groups “flocking” to raise money for a cause. Usually flocking involves covering someone’s yard with plastic flamingos, but First United Methodist Church in Fairbanks, Alaska, took a different approach. Led by the children of the congregation, the church made a flock of giant, wooden mosquitoes and moved them from yard to yard to raise awareness and collect donations for Imagine No Malaria. Imagine coming home to giant mosquitoes in your yard! The creative “flocking” helped raise awareness throughout the community and got this church of about 120 people off to a great start towards its incredible $35,000 goal.

At the 2014 Alaska annual conference, Fairbanks generously donated their giant mosquitoes to be auctioned off in support of Imagine No Malaria. One mosquito was taken home to Kenai, Alaska where it featured prominently in the local parade. The Kenai United Methodist Church congregation has raised more than $100 per regular attendee so far.

St. John United Methodist Church: St. John United Methodist Church in Anchorage, Alaska, is a congregation with a mission. The church has been raising money for the fight against malaria for almost a decade. The church began in 2007 supporting Nothing But Nets, an early stage of the initiative that evolved into Imagine No Malaria, and has continued to support the fight against malaria through Imagine No Malaria. In fact, St. John United Methodist Church leads the Alaska United Methodist Conference in giving and surpassed its original goal by more than $20,000. The congregation has done everything they could think of to solicit donations, including cookouts, selling cards as alternative gifts during holidays, Christmas Eve offering, soliciting pledges and more.

“It is truly heartwarming to witness how our Alaska churches have responded to Imagine No Malaria. When the initial goal of $150,000 was set in 2012, it really felt like a lofty aspiration more than a realistic goal. But our churches, big and small, have all done their part so that we not only have met our goal a year ahead of schedule, but we have committed to a new ‘stretch goal’ of $200,000 ($50,000 more than our original) and seem to be on track to meet that, too! As a small missionary conference, we are truly grateful to God for the opportunity to take part in a mission endeavor that is much greater than us,” said Carlo Rapanut, superintendent of the Alaska United Methodist Conference.

This Lenten season consider giving hope and healing through Imagine No Malaria. Imagine No Malaria offers ready-made resources for your church including videos, worship planning guides, a giving calendar, videos, social media images and more. Find resources and more at www.imaginenomalaria.org/lent.

*LeRae Collins and Julia Frisbie work with the Imagine No Malaria initiative at United Methodist Communications. For more information, contact Imagine No Malaria at 1-866-521-1179.