Teams raise money for Nothing But Nets while competing in the South Carolina United Methodist State Basketball Tournament. A UMNS photo by Matt Brodie.
By United Methodist News Service*
March 27, 2007
Against the backdrop of college basketball's March Madness, United Methodists have rallied around the Nothing But Nets anti-malaria campaign by sponsoring church and conference basketball tournaments, challenges and other fundraisers.
The people of The United Methodist Church are partnering in Nothing But Nets with the United Nations Foundation, the National Basketball Association's NBA Cares initiative, Sports Illustrated and other organizations to prevent malaria by delivering insecticide-treated bed nets to Africa. A donation of $10 covers the cost of one bed net, which protects families from malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
In Indiana, Bishop Mike Coyner issued a "March Madness for Missions" challenge to support Nothing But Nets and the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund. He asked every United Methodist family to purchase at least one bed net and each congregation to donate at least $1 per member to the Global AIDS Fund.
"Indiana is a state which loves basketball," said Coyner, "and so it seemed appropriate to challenge United Methodists in Indiana to use this time of March Madness to have a March Madness for Missions …."
His challenge followed an announcement earlier this year from St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, which pledged $50,000 to Nothing But Nets and $50,000 to the Global AIDS Fund.
Across the church
In South Carolina, 800 young people competed in the annual South Carolina United Methodist State Basketball Tournament March 9-11, raising more than $1,100 for Nothing But Nets. "We heard about the project and adopted it as our own," said tournament director Bob Fowler. The event included a worship service led by Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor.
India Hook United Methodist Church in Rock Hill, S.C., raised $380 with a basketball event that included a free-throw competition and a game called NET - "like HORSE, only shorter," said the Rev. Joseph James. And South Carolina's Conference Council on Youth Ministries is selling T-shirts designed by youth in the conference.
In Nebraska, an all-night Nothing But Nets basketball tournament is set for March 30-31 at Elkhorn Hills United Methodist Church. In addition to giving a trophy to the team that wins the most games, the church will give a trophy to the team that saves the most lives.
Other churches and conferences are finding their own ways to challenge their membership.
The Western North Carolina Conference, for instance, is asking each family to buy a bed net for Nothing But Nets.
In the Texas Conference, Woodville United Methodist Church is dedicating its Lenten mission offering to the campaign, said the Rev. Tommy Williams, who introduced the idea at the church's Ash Wednesday service.
Raising money, awareness
Bishop Sally Dyck (center), wearing a "Buzzkill" T-shirt, participates in the Minnesota United Methodist Youth Rally. A UMNS photo by Russell Goodwin.
In Minnesota, Bishop Sally Dyck is urging youth to get involved in Nothing But Nets while wearing the campaign's "Buzzkill" T-shirt.
"Youth in Minnesota seem to be really excited about the ways in which they can do something about malaria through Nothing But Nets," Dyck said. "Admittedly it's a challenge to explain to them, as I did at a recent confirmation rally, that malaria is transmitted through mosquitoes - when they all know that the state bird of Minnesota is a mosquito!
"Yet they 'get' that usually the worst thing that can happen to you from a mosquito in Minnesota is a big itch, while a mosquito can mean death to a child in other parts of the world."
The Arkansas Conference recently wrapped up a partnership with FM radio station The Buzz 103.7 for the high school basketball game of the week. During halftime, local United Methodist youth ministers talked about the local church's positive impact on area youth and shared information about Nothing But Nets.
Also in Arkansas, Batesville First United Methodist Church hosted a potluck and silent auction, Benton First United Methodist Church hosted a praise concert, and Fairview United Methodist Church in Camden selected Nothing But Nets as its mission of the month for March.
At Trinity United Methodist Church in Little Rock, Nothing But Nets was part of the church's "March Madness" campaign in Sunday morning groups, the church newsletter and e-mails. The campaign focused on the "madness" of spending so much money on sporting events and parties while spending so little on caring for the less fortunate.
"We believe that this initiative is something that everyone can get involved in. It's easy, it's exciting and it's enriching."
- James Bentley, Trinity United Methodist Church, Little Rock, Ark."We believe that this initiative is something that everyone can get involved in. It's easy, it's exciting and it's enriching," said James Bentley, director of youth ministries at Trinity. "You know, here in Arkansas, we truly understand how irritating those mosquitoes can be, but we take for granted how we are protected. This is an opportunity for us to reach across the divide and make a significant difference."
'I saved a family today'
At Cabot (Ark.) United Methodist Church, youth director Denise Wilson and about 30 young people partnered with Cabot High School to create a one-day, three-on-three basketball tournament that raised more than $3,000. Funds were raised through team entries, concession sales, community sponsorships and T-shirt sales. The youth also took donations before and after church on two separate Sundays. Those who gave $10 or more received a lapel sticker stating, "I saved a family today. What did you do?"
Players register for Cabot (Ark.) United Methodist Church's basketball tournament as part of an anti-malaria campaign fundraiser. A UMNS photo by John Gordon.
The experience helped the youth become more mission-minded. "It was neat to see the youth get their minds around the fact that we were saving lives," Wilson said.
More campaigns are coming up. The Alabama-West Florida Conference is making Nothing But Nets a focus of its annual conference gathering in June, and Bishop Larry M. Goodpaster has challenged the people to raise enough money to buy 10,000 bed nets. "On Sunday evening, June 3, we will act together to save 10,000 lives! Get creative and involved," he wrote in a weekly letter to the conference.
In addition, United Methodists are being asked to skip a meal, send a net and save a life on April 25, Africa Malaria Day. Bishop Janice Riggle Huie, president of the denomination's Council of Bishops, is asking United Methodists and others to skip lunch that day and use their lunch money to buy a bed net. April 25 also has been designated Malaria Awareness Day in the United States by President Bush.
Go to www.UMC.org/nets to donate online to Nothing But Nets, order "Buzzkill" T-shirts and other promotional material, and download resources, including suggestions about how churches can get involved, graphics and worship materials. Information is also available at www.nothingbutnets.net.
*Compiled by Deborah White with reports from conference communicators Mark Barden, Eleanor Colvin, Meredyth Earnest, Dan Gangler, Victoria Rebeck, Martha Taylor, Allison Trussell and Kathryn Witte.
News media contact: Deborah White, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.