Casa del Pueblo leads support for Imagine No Malaria

Pastor Luky Cotto helps children with prizes at Casa del Pueblo’s community fair, which raised $1000 for Imagine No Malaria.

By Suzy Keenan*

Members of Casa del Pueblo, a United Methodist Latino ministry at Lehman UMC in Hatboro, PA, joined the movement to support the work of Imagine No Malaria on Saturday, June 1, when they hosted a community fair.

When Pastor Luky Cotto brought the idea to her church, the leadership loved the idea of helping mothers in Africa. They also liked the idea of leading the way for Latino churches and ministries in supporting the denomination’s effort to end malaria.

According to Rev. Cotto, at the initial planning meeting, one of her members, Luzbenia, from Honduras,  said, “Pastor, when I was little I had malaria myself and I almost died. I really want us to help!”

One after another – many from Central America – said that they know a family member or someone who had malaria.

“Initially we had plans to raise funds for summer camp,” Rev. Cotto said, “but switched to fundraising for malaria.”  Two members, Lety Conde and Viridiana Perez, took on the project, and every week a team met to plan the fair.

To publicize the event, they made 500 flyers, which members shared across the community – in stores, supermarkets, via the Internet, and Facebook.  They placed advertisements online, and placed a banner in front of the church, which was donated by Pastor Efrain Cotto,Jr.

Members geared up for the event, donating food.  With funds donated by Casa del Pueblo members Bill and Viria Waltz,Jose and Carmen Rivera from La Fortaleza Physical Therapy in Philadelphia, and by Lehman UMC member, Beverly Laws,  they were able to rent a fair trailer with a moon bounce from the American Baptist Church, which hosts evangelistic fairs.

The day of the fair was sunny and hot.   “Everything was great – except the weather – it was really hot! ” said Rev. Cotto.  “We had a really good group for about 2 hours, and collected more than $1,400.”  Children loved the moon bounce and the game tables and the delicious food.  Everyone loved the snow cones and cold sodas in the 90 (plus) degree weather.

In Casa del Pueblo’s planning meetings, Rev. Cotto suggested if they collected more than $1000, then they would put the extra toward summer camp, and so $400 will also go toward Latino Week of camp at Gretna Glen Camp and Retreat Center.

A few people from the community attended the fair who are not members.  Casa del Pueblo is following up with them to invite them to come for worship.  “Seeing our flyers, a lady from the community asked to help, and she helped with the ice cream, and is now attending one of our faith communities,” Rev. Cotto explained.  “We meet in different homes around the church, like a Bible study.  We meet, we laugh, we study, we pray.  People like it not being in the church building.”

Speaking about the overall effort, Rev. Cotto said, “It’s not just about the funds, but the sense of working together and helping those far away that we do not know.  It’s preparation for bigger things that we will do.”   Encouraged by the ministry’s enthusiasm for the event, Rev. Cotto said Casa del Pueblo plans to have a big event every year for missions.

*Suzy Keenan is coordinator of Communications for the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of The United Methodist Church.