Skip Navigation

Challenge pits boys against girls to raise money for Imagine No Malaria


Sandra Brands, Upper New York Annual Conference
March 10th, 2015

The congregation at the Brockport United Methodist Church has taken to heart Upper New York Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb’s Africa 360 challenge.

Upon seeing the challenge in the August 2014 issue of the Advocate, the church quickly committed to raising the $1,000 that the Bishop asked all churches in the Upper New York Conferences to raise for the Imagine No Malaria initiative and the Africa University scholarships that together make up Africa 360. In October 2014, church members distributed tubes filled with M&Ms, asking that the tubes be returned filled with money.

To date, over half of the $1,000 promised has been raised, said Janet Steves, a member of the church who spearheads the campaign. “It was quite a surprise,” she said.

In February, the congregation kicked the campaign up a notch by issuing a challenge that pits girls and boys of all ages against one another to see who can collect the most cans and bottles to be returned for cash.

The congregation enthusiastically supports the campaign, Steves said, and that’s because it has deeply rooted connections with a couple of people in Africa.

For years the congregation has supported a young boy named Felix through Compassion International. Church members made the commitment to provide the necessary funds to the Rwandan boy so he could go to school and purchase the supplies needed.

Last year, Steves’ son, David, a student at Houghton College, traveled to Rwanda on a school-sponsored mission trip. There he had a chance to meet Felix and, upon his return, shared that experience with the congregation.

“Malaria is still a big problem in places like Africa because the people cannot afford things like mosquito nets and/or are unable to properly use them,” David said. “Brockport UMC wants to help give people like Felix a better chance at protecting themselves from malaria.

“When I was in Rwanda/Uganda I used mosquito nets and discussed their use quite a bit,” he said. “In some places in Africa, people do not know how to use mosquito nets properly. Even the group I was with had to be told how to use them, so it's not the simplest thing to use. Helping people out with mosquito nets is a good thing, but you need to do more than hand it to them. You need to make sure they know how to use it, and then make sure they are using it properly.”

Janet promotes the church’s campaign by sharing stories in its monthly newsletter about Imagine No Malaria and about how David and Felix are doing. “One hundred percent of the people in Africa are at risk from malaria,” she said. “It’s so easy to put a stop to it with these bed nets sprayed with insecticides.

“If not us, then who is going to do it?” she asks.

Brockport UMC Pastor Meg Morin agreed. “Something as simple as an inexpensive mosquito net can save the life of a baby,” she said. “It’s such an inexpensive involvement with so much life-saving capability.

“I don’t think there’s anything more poignant than the statistics on the implication of malaria for both children and adults,” she said. “It’s daunting to hear the death rates.”

“It was a short step for our church to engage in the Upper New York Conference’s Imagine No Malaria initiative,” said Pastor Morin, who was appointed in July 2014 to the Brockport UMC. “There is an enthusiastic competition in the congregation (in response to the boy-girl challenge).

“I have come to know a truth – this is a congregation of people for whom outreach and mission is critical,” she said. “They get it. They’re not internally focused – they are community, area, and globally sensitive to the mission of Jesus Christ to the world. These are people who want to make changes – who want to improve little pieces of the world that they may be able to reach.”

Pastor Morin said the congregation of the Brockport UMC wants to start a competition with other churches in the Conference to raise $1,000 for Imagine No Malaria. “It really is amazing to realize that no matter how small a congregation, you can make a difference in people’s lives.

“Mother Theresa said, ‘If you can’t feed thousands, feed just one,’” Pastor Morin said.