‘Net’ gain: Conference eclipses $400K for Africa 360
Africa 360 Field Coordinator Laurel O’Connor is unapologetically passionate about the work of Imagine No Malaria and Africa University.
“My job is to help our Conference dream God-sized dreams of a world where no child or mother dies of malaria, which is preventable, treatable, and beatable. God-sized dreams where new leaders have a chance to learn, grow, and change the world,” she said during Saturday’s plenary at the 2015 session of the Upper New York Annual Conference.
But she’s not alone. Passion for Africa 360 is abundant.
Walkers and bicyclists in support of Africa 360 raised more than $3,000. Three cups of coffee were auctioned off by Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb for a total of $800. A bishop signed over his honorarium to the Africa 360 initiative.
And the stories don’t stop there. The Africa 360 offering, received during Wednesday’s Opening Worship, netted more than $38,500, and 2,500 votes were cast at $1 each during spritely balloting for Upper New York’s mosquito net fashion show. The Conference Council on Youth Ministry (CCYM) designs that had been made at UP!Word raised $1,000 of that total.
Bishop Webb, making good on a promise he made prior to AC ’15, donned the winning mosquito net attire and paraded around the stage, raising an additional $3,660 by his “twirling and dancing,” O’Connor announced.
As of the Annual Conference session, Upper New York has catapulted over the $400,000 mark for Africa 360, the Conference’s holistic plan for health and education initiatives in Africa. The Conference has pledged to raise $1 million for Imagine No Malaria – an initiative to end malaria deaths in Africa by 2016 – and $1 million for Africa University scholarships.
You can find the Africa 360 video shown during AC ’15 on the Conference website.
In August 2014, Bishop Webb extended a challenge to all congregations in the Conference to raise $1 million for Africa 360 and bring those funds to the 2015 session.
This year, Bishop Webb extended a second Africa 360 challenge.
“Between tomorrow (Sunday, May 31) and next year’s beginning of Annual Conference, (I challenge) every congregation to raise $1,000 for the Africa 360 campaign and bring that offering to Annual Conference next year and present it at the opening worship,” he said. “Thanks be to God for what you have already done.”
Starting early can help churches of all sizes reach this goal. If a church undertakes the challenge starting June 1, it would need to raise $19.23 per week to hit the $1,000 goal before the 2016 Annual Conference session to be held June 2-4; a church beginning July 1 would need $20.83 per week.
O’Connor issued a challenge of her own: A district challenge.
“So who here has a cell phone and is not currently tweeting pictures of the bishop?” she asked, joking about the likelihood of Bishop Webb’s aforementioned twirling and dancing going viral via social media.
“This phone is a lifeline, a beckon of light and hope,” she said. “One text can save a life.”
Members were then encouraged to text “MALARIA” with a unique district code to 27722 to give $10 to the Imagine No Malaria initiative of Africa 360.
A District Day challenge was issued in the spring, won by the Mohawk District which raised $728. While each district rose to the call and raised more than the previous, the Mohawk District more than doubled the efforts of the Niagara Frontier District, whose event was the month before, which totaled $357.
But the Niagara Frontier District is working to take back the title as it is currently in the lead for the text-to-donate challenge, which remains open until Tuesday, June 9.
“The most money raised by an Annual Conference in one day is $2,000,” O’Connor said. “I want to pull a Mohawk District and I think we can double that.”