Malaria Field Coordinators Prep for Role

May 08, 2013

*By Barbara Dunlap-Berg

 NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) – In mid-April, 13 new and veteran Imagine No Malaria field coordinators and guests from 12 United Methodist annual (regional) conferences gathered in Nashville, Tenn., for a week of intensive training.
 
The Rev. Linda Caldwell, California-Nevada Conference Superintendent for Mission Collaboration, attended the training for the annual conference. "We are living in an historic time as United Methodists," she said. "When I hear stories about great moments in history, I often find myself wondering what I would have done had I been there," said Caldwell. She asked herself, "Would I have participated in the movement that changed lives and changed history? Would I step up in the name of Christ?"
 
Caldwell says we are living in a time of great opportunity, a historic moment, in which the California-Nevada Conference has been invited to work with global partners to save lives on the continent of Africa.
 
Sandra Weaver, Imagine No Malaria communications coordinator, told participants that the campaign message has changed from "eradicating or eliminating malaria deaths" to "reducing the number of preventable deaths" by 2015. Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected mosquitoes.
 
Weaver noted that since the effort began, deaths from malaria have been cut in half. According to the World Health Organization, in 2010, malaria caused an estimated 660,000 deaths, mostly among African children.
 
Working with conference leaders and Imagine No Malaria staff, field coordinators are "the key catalysts and resource people for grassroots fundraising in congregations," said Sheri Altland, INM campaign director.
 
The field coordinators' role, she said, "is to actively engage the whole conference – congregations and conference leaders – in the campaign to save lives by raising funds. We work directly with conferences to help them understand how to have an effective Imagine No Malaria campaign through awareness, education, advocacy and fundraising."
 
No two campaigns are alike because no two conferences are identical. Each field coordinator creates specific benchmarks and a plan of action for his or her conference campaign. Training conference- and district-level volunteers is high on the list of responsibilities, Altland said. The field coordinators facilitate a conference Imagine No Malaria steering committee with the bishop as a major player and collaborate with other groups to determine effective community-outreach options.
 
Imagine No Malaria switched from "central office" coordination to the field coordinator model in August 2012.Currently,field coordinators in six conferences are engaged in active campaigns. Seven new field coordinators will launch conference campaigns by June 1. Several other conferences have taken preliminary steps to get on board by yearend.
 
The ideal, Altland said, would be for all 59 U.S. annual conferences to have field coordinators. She encouraged conferences to contact Ashley Gish who directs and resources field services for Imagine No Malaria.
 
Tiny cost, huge impact
 
LeRae Collins, a laywoman from Fountain City United Methodist Church, Knoxville, Tenn., began her work as a Holston Conference field coordinator in August 2012.
 
"We are not simply saving lives through Imagine No Malaria," she said. "We are changing lives in our churches and communities through this ministry. Imagine No Malaria is a living example of how God can do extraordinary things and how together, as a connectional church, we are able to do extraordinary things through God.
 
"I am passionate about Imagine No Malaria because Christ has offered abundant life to me. For me, Imagine No Malaria is an opportunity for the people of The United Methodist Church to join together to do an extraordinary thing."
 
 "This was a chance for me to get refreshed after being in the field for six months," she said, " to share best practices,  hear new stories,  and get the latest statistics and info to take back and share.
 
"Some problems are so complex, and we feel hopeless in the face of them. But malaria is something we know how to prevent, treat and beat. The cost is tiny, and the impact is huge.
 
"In this effort," Dawson continued, "I have found a ministry that cares for the whole person, saves lives and does so by empowering our brothers and sisters in Africa and getting us out of our 'comfortable places' back at home."
 
'Empowering local leaders'
 
The Rev. Kerry Greenhill, an ordained deacon from the New England Conference, serves the Rocky Mountain Conference as field coordinator.
 
In her role since January, she said, "What excites me about the campaign is that this is a ministry of health and healing that is about both compassion and justice. Not only are we relieving suffering for thousands of families across Africa; we are also empowering local leaders through training, support and accountability to develop the infrastructure that will support future public health efforts in a sustainable way.
 
"Children in the United States don't have to worry that they might die from a mosquito bite, but children in Africa still do. I believe that just as Jesus made healing a central part of his ministry, we as the body of Christ today have a calling to offer healing, wholeness and abundant life in Jesus' name."
 
Along with getting up-to-speed on their responsibilities, participants also learned the latest about the United Methodist initiative to fight malaria and heard about three upcoming special events:
"When one of us has malaria," said participant Charissa B. Shawcross, a mission interpreter for the North Central Jurisdiction, "we all have malaria."
 
*Dunlap-Berg is internal content editor for United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.