12:30 P.M. EST April 16, 2010 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)
The Rev. Mike Slaughter (left) receives a check for Imagine No Malaria from Ed Kowalski, senior vice president of marketing and sales for the United Methodist Publishing House. A UMNS photo by Barbara Dunlap-Berg.
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People aren’t looking for religious meetings, the Rev. Mike Slaughter says. “They’re looking for religious meaning.”
Members of his church—Ginghamsburg United Methodist in Tipp City, Ohio—find that meaning in reaching out and changing the world.
At an Abingdon Press launch party here this week, Ed Kowalski, senior vice president of the United Methodist Publishing House, presented Slaughter with a check for $50,000. That figure represents 5 percent of Cokesbury sales for the Change the World celebration April 7-10, and the check goes straight to the Imagine No Malaria campaign.
Imagine No Malaria is a new effort of The United Methodist Church to raise $75 million to eliminate malaria deaths in Africa by 2015. The ministry will be launched officially to the denomination on World Malaria Day, April 25, during a special event at the Texas State Capitol in Austin.
‘It opened my heart’
Calling Isaiah 61 “the mission statement of Jesus,” Slaughter said, “If it ain’t good news for the poor, it ain’t the gospel.
“The way of the cross is about giving lives for the least, the lost and the oppressed.”
The scope of Ginghamsburg’s mission is as close as Dayton, Ohio, and as far as Darfur, Sudan, where fighting between rebels and state-backed militias have forced 2.5 million people from their homes.
The only way to see true transformation is to “reclaim the message of Jesus Christ,” Slaughter said.
A few years ago, he introduced “Christmas Is Not Your Birthday” to his congregation. He invited them to “give the same amount you spend for yourself and your family to the people of Sudan.”
The matched-gift experience proved transformational. “It was a real awakening for me,” one member admitted. Other comments were equally telling:
- “I had no idea what was going on.”
- “I couldn’t believe kids walked eight miles a day just to have clean water.”
- “It made me see the people of Sudan as actual people.”
- “It opened my heart.”
‘Working together to save lives’
News of the $50,000 donation seemed a perfect kickoff to Change the World, a Rethink Church event April 24-25. On that weekend, Christians around the world will join hands in service locally and globally.
In “Change the World: Recovering the Message and Mission of Jesus,” the Rev. Mike Slaughter challenges Christians to step beyond the church walls and be Christ to their community.
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The purposes are to recognize World Malaria Day through Change the World and to help United Methodists discover the transformation that occurs when they follow Jesus’ example, serving those in need, engaging in community and calling the world to more faithful life.
The Texas event, featuring a live performance by Jars of Clay, is free to the public. The event will be available via live streaming video on www.umc.org and www.ImagineNoMalaria.org.
As of April 15, more than 800 churches in 13 countries had signed up to participate in Change the World, including malaria-related events such as fundraisers or sleep outs—where individuals sleep under imitation bed nets to raise awareness about malaria.
Both a cause and a result of extreme poverty, malaria annually claims more than a million lives and is responsible for the death of one child every 30 seconds. Economically, malaria’s impact in Africa is an estimated $12 billion per year.
“Even our smallest churches can have incredible impact when they leave their four walls to serve the needs of their neighbors, alongside their neighbors,” Slaughter said.
“That’s what (changing the world is) all about: working together to save lives.”
*Dunlap-Berg is internal content editor for United Methodist Communications.
News media contact: Barbara Dunlap-Berg, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5489 or email@example.com.