|Twenty-dollar gift grows to $500,000 for Nets|
The Rev. Elijah Stansell holds a makeshift offering plate as members of the Texas Annual Conference give money to Nothing But Nets. More than $500,000 in donations and pledges was committed for the United Methodist-sponsored malaria eradication campaign. A UMNS photo by Linda Baehr.
By Eleanor L. Colvin*
June 7, 2007 | HOUSTON (UMNS)
In a modern-day "loaves and fishes" story, a $20 gift to the Nothing But Nets campaign multiplied into $500,000 in gifts and pledges by members and churches of the Texas Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
The story began with a May 29 presentation to annual conference delegates about the United Methodist-supported fund-raising campaign to end mosquito-borne malaria in Africa by sending insecticide-treated nets for children to sleep under.
The Rev. Bert Bagley of Galveston promptly responded by approaching the microphone during the business session presided over by Bishop Janice Riggle Huie.
The Rev. Richard Laster auctions an autographed photo of Bishop Janice Riggle Huie throwing out the first pitch at a Houston Astros baseball game. A UMNS photo by Eleanor Colvin.
"Bishop Huie, I think we need to take some action now," said the senior pastor of Moody Memorial United Methodist Church, issuing a challenge to the other delegates.
"I have a $20 bill here in my hand," said Bagley as he placed it on the altar.
In a matter of minutes, delegates began to patiently negotiate the packed pews and crowded aisles to make their way down and drop in their own bills and checks. Underscored by the assembly's a cappella rendition of "Amazing Grace," the scene in The Woodlands United Methodist Church sanctuary was informal, impromptu and inspired.
By the time everyone had returned to their seats, the office supply box serving as an offering basket was overflowing with $8,400 in donations to Nothing But Nets.
"I think the spirit was moving among the clergy and laity of the Texas Annual Conference in a powerful way," Huie said later.
Only the beginning
The next day, as delegates gathered for the fourth day of the five-day meeting, the outpouring of generosity repeated itself following a report by a delegation that visited Cote d'Ivoire in March to establish a partner relationship between the two United Methodist conferences.
The Rev. K. Noel Dennison, who was part of the delegation, presented a $100,000 check for Nothing But Nets on behalf of Chapelwood United Methodist Church in Houston.
“I think the spirit was moving among the clergy and laity of the Texas Annual Conference in a powerful way.”
–Bishop Janice Riggle Huie
That was followed by pledges of $100,000 each from St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Houston, Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston and The Woodlands United Methodist Church in The Woodlands.
Representatives from First United Methodist Church of Longview pledged $25,000 and encouraged churches of all sizes to give what they could.
In less than five minutes, the generosity of the people of the Texas Annual Conference netted another 40,000 nets for the people of Cote d'Ivoire in West Africa.
"We saw what a vision of making a difference in lives of children in Cote d'Ivoire could mean," Huie said. "People are excited to be a part of changing lives and reshaping futures for Jesus Christ."
Huie said another large-church pastor approached her the next day after talking with his church's lay people and committed another $100,000.
Send a net, save a life
The $425,000 in pledges moved the annual conference beyond the $500,000 mark. Additional offerings during conference brought in another $129,000, including $13,000 from the auctions of an autographed photo of Huie throwing out the first pitch at a Houston Astros baseball game and the game ball autographed by Astros relief pitcher Brad Lidge.
Conference members come forward to place their offerings at the altar. A UMNS photo by Eleanor Colvin.
It costs $10 to send a net to Africa and provide community-health workers to show residents how to use them. Using the promotion "Send a net, save a life," Nothing But Nets has raised almost $6.5 million. Partners in the campaign are the people of The United Methodist Church, the United Nations Foundation, the National Basketball Association's NBA Cares, Sports Illustrated magazine and Major League Soccer's MLS W.O.R.K.S.
Bagley did not anticipate the ripple effect of his initial donation at annual conference. He said later he only was just thinking about the two families he could help with the $20 in his pocket. "I never thought 'It's just $20.' I was thinking (about) two lives," he said later.
"I had a $10 bill and a $20 bill in my pocket. I was thinking $10 is one; might as well do two. I didn't really think, didn't really ask the bishop. I just thought it would be a good thing to do to move the conference forward and to get buy-in. Leaders cast the vision, but it takes every one to buy-in."
*Colvin is the director of communications for the Texas Annual Conference.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
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