Bishop issues $1,000 challenge to UMCSC
By Jessica Brodie
FLORENCE—Hundreds packed the Florence Civic Center June 7 for a concert featuring The Digital Age and celebrating all that South Carolina United Methodists are doing to fight malaria across the globe.
“Thank you, South Carolina, for being faithful disciples and faithful partners in God’s awesome work all over the world,” Imagine No Malaria Field Coordinator the Rev. Jeri Katherine Sipes said earlier that afternoon, when she and the INM steering committee lifted up the work churches have done throughout the state for the campaign. “Together we the church are changing our world for the glory of God.”
Calling this a very generous, mission-minded conference, Sipes praised the fact that in spite of the October floods that devastated so many, the conference has still managed to raise more than hundreds of thousands of dollars for the campaign—in addition to the $500,000 it has donated for flood relief.
The Rev. Gary Henderson, executive director of the Global Health Initiative, said much the same.
“You understand the power and the unity of our connection and our shared humanity,” he said, noting the UMC has raised $68.5 million in gifts and pledges to date. “We are in the home stretch.”
The South Carolina Conference has pledged $1 million toward the INM campaign. The June 7 concert celebrated all the conference has raised so far, plus served as a conduit to collect additional pledges from churches and individuals.
The conference has two more years to raise the remaining funds and make its goal.
Bishop Jonathan Holston applauded the work done and pledged an additional $1,000 June 7 toward INM.
“I challenge you to meet my challenge of 1,000 tonight!” he said to wild applause. “We want to make this goal happen.”
Later that evening, The Digital Age lead singer said he was inspired by Bishop Holston’s challenge and South Carolina’s commitment to eradicating malaria. He agreed to make a personal donation of $1,000 to Imagine No Malaria and urged concertgoers to do the same.
“What is ours is His,” he told the crowd.
Also at the concert, Sipes praised the great strides the campaign has made to save lives since work began in 2010; back then, a child died every 30 seconds. Today, it’s every two minutes. More work needs to be done so that one day soon, no one will die from malaria.
“There are children who live in sub-Saharan Africa who live in fear of a tiny mosquito bite,” Sipes said. “We know mosquitos in South Carolina … and we wouldn’t want our children afraid of a mosquito. Think of those children in Africa as our very own children.”
Sipes said that in every bed net distributed and every assistance given, the UMC is spreading the name of Jesus who is truly at work and alive in the world.At the close of the concert, Holston praised the number of people who matched his donation challenge.
“We serve a God that says, ‘Ask and it shall be given, seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be opened,’” Holston said. “My friends, God is calling for greater—greater faith, greater love, greater appreciation of who God is and what we can do when we allow the feet within us to work.”
Before the concert, Sipes told the body it had given more than $400,000 for the INM campaign. After the concert, Holston announced Annual Conference had collected $663,804 for INM including cash, checks and pledges.
Pledge cards are available at inm.umcsc.org, and the conference can also provide resources to help with local fundraising efforts.