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‘God-Sized Goal’: Pastor Aims High in Fight Against Malaria

 

Daniel Figueroa IV, Ledger Media Group
March 3rd, 2015

This article is originally from Ledger Media Group. Read the original article here.

Jeff Kantz has infested his church's sanctuary with mosquitoes — so to speak.

It's part of Imagine No Malaria, a global initiative from the People of the Methodist Church to eradicate malaria in Africa.

Florida's church leaders asked pastors to raise money and set a dollar amount goal for 2015. Statewide, church leaders said they hope to raise $2.5 million this year.

Some congregations set a goal of a few hundred dollars, some as much as $1,000.

The Rev. Kantz, pastor of First United Methodist Church of Lake Wales, decided to set a "God-sized" goal of $10,000.

Kantz has decorated the sanctuary with colorful mosquitoes made from pipe cleaners. It's one way he reminds the congregation that the goal to help end malaria in Africa is an urgent one.

"The mosquitoes we needed to make up our goal are all hanging on nets there in the sanctuary," Kantz said. "Every week, for every $10 we received the previous week, we take a mosquito off and the children swat it."

Though malaria was effectively eliminated in the United States in 1951, it still affects countries worldwide, particularly parts of Africa, southern Asia and South America.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, malaria hits the hardest in Africa where, on average, a child dies from the disease every 60 seconds.

"That's 60 an hour, 24 hours a day," Kantz said. "It's mind-boggling. As far as we (in the United States) know, this world doesn't have malaria. You can't imagine a world without malaria if you think it already exists."

Children younger than 5 years old are most likely to die from the disease. Some communities, Kantz said, don't name their children until they are 5 years old.

He can barely fathom the idea.

"It's like, this child isn't real until they reach 5," Kantz said. "No, that's not acceptable. We can't even imagine a world like that. But to them, that's just normal."

The Methodist church as a whole first became involved in the fight against malaria about 10 years ago with Nothing But Nets, an initiative to provide insecticide infused mosquito nets to families in Africa.

Malaria is most commonly spread at night by female mosquitoes.

Nets have proven to be one effective way to battle the disease.

Since then, the effort has become more comprehensive. Community health education, communication, prevention and treatment are now a part of Imagine No Malaria's efforts.

"This is a senseless disease," said the Rev. Valerie Hattery, pastor of the First United Church of Mulberry. "It doesn't have to be killing people as it is. As a world we need to come together when we see a need. Even though it's all the way around the world, when one at a time we get involved, things happen."

Mulberry's church set a goal of $1,000 and already has $700.

Kantz has inspired her, Hattery said.

"Anytime we read about what somebody else is doing and how a church that's comparable in size is able to do that, I think it does encourage you to up those goals," she said.

Hattery has seen the effects of malaria in person. She's visited Africa three times.

On one trip, she saw families bringing their children to live at orphanages because they would be safer there.

Hattery's trips to Africa also taught her that there are many other issues in Africa and beyond that require attention.

The Imagine No Malaria campaign, she said, is just the beginning.

"The end is in sight," Hattery said. "It brings hope. If we can do this with this disease, imagine what's next."