“There’s gold in them hearts,” one might say, tweaking the old expression of a prospector’s greed to evoke gratitude instead. That certainly applies to members of the Eastern PA Conference when it comes to supporting The United Methodist Church’s $75 million Imagine No Malaria global fundraising campaign.
As members were reminded recently, the conference was there to help 10 years ago when 5-year-old Katherine Cammale and her family, of Hopewell UMC in Downington, first began raising funds to buy beds nets that could help protect African children from a lethal disease. Back then malaria was snuffing out the life of a young child every 30 seconds. Now it’s every 60 seconds.
And now, with $69 million in collected gifts and pledges, we’re just $6 million away from our goal. The view gets much better and the journey easier this close to the finish line.
We raised an unexpected $40,000 at the adjourned session of Annual Conference Nov. 14, just after a powerful praise service at Bethany UMC in Macungie. Everything was grand there that day–the music, the sprawling facility and stage, the hospitality, and yes, the generosity.
We responded to two challenges–one from Lynda Cammale and one from Hopewell’s senior pastor, the Rev. Steve Morton. Church leaders hurried to the tables down front with checks and pledges in hand to respond to those challenges. Something must have gotten into them, into their hearts… something luminous and precious… like gold.
“A crazy thing happened,” the Rev. Cyndi Skripak of Yardley UMC later wrote to Amy Botti, the Bishop’s Executive Assistant. “I told my church the story of the matching challenge at the Adjourned Session and about our $100 pledge. Then I made a $100 challenge to them. So far, I’ve gotten $300 worth of pledges to match my $100! I’ll see what comes in, and then send it all in!”
Yes, there’s gold–not in them hills, but in them hearts.
The Rev. Don Keller, pastor of Scottsville UMC, brought a check for Imagine No Malaria to the conference office this week to “fulfill the pledge given Saturday by our church’s Christian Pre-School.” But first he wanted to share the story behind the gift.
East District Superintendent Tracy Bass had brought Imagine No Malaria collection boxes to the district clergy meeting in October, and Don picked up a handful. “When I got home, these boxes reminded me of the ‘Trick-or-treat for UNICEF’ boxes from my childhood,” he said. “So I picked up a few more, handed them out to the families in our pre-school with a little information about the campaign and a request to take the boxes trick-or-treating and get some loose change from their neighbors to help fight this disease.
“Frankly, I was expecting them to bring back about $15 to $20,” he said. “I would have been thrilled with $30.” Then came his smile. “Imagine my surprise when their effort totaled $108.50.”
Don’s story wasn’t over. Because once you dig and find pure gold, you tend to find a lot more. “At the Conference Session our lay member and I were confident we could bring home some of that enthusiasm and inspire the congregation to match the pre-school’s effort,” he continued. “So we submitted a pledge in the name of the Scottsville Christian Pre-School for $200.”
When Don told the congregation about what the pre-school’s 3 and 4 year-olds had done and what his fellow conference members had raised, he also made a plea for contributions “hoping to bring the children’s gift up to the $200 we had pledged.”
When he handed us a check for the total amount collected it read $751.50. Pure gold.
“We are seeing this loaves and fishes experience as not only an important mission outreach lesson,” he told us, “but also as a way for us to say to the children of our pre-school, ‘We love you. We support you. We are proud of you.’”
Indeed, that has been one lesson of this Imagine No Malaria effort from the very beginning, reminiscent of Isaiah 11:6. In a global campaign waged by adults primarily to save the lives of children, it’s worth celebrating whenever children, with the purest of hearts, can lead the way.