By Cindy Novak
Keith Kolstad recalls hearing a collective gasp throughout the sanctuary after announcing how much money Zion Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Marinette, Wis., had just raised for the ELCA Malaria Campaign. Keith is pastor of the congregation.
The congregation’s social ministry committee had set a goal of $2,000 for the month-long fundraiser, which took place in February 2011. But thanks to members’ generosity and one significant gift, Zion collected more than $17,000.
Organizers at the congregation helped raise money and awareness by hanging 2,000 mosquitoes (a circular cardboard with a picture of a mosquito) from the sanctuary ceiling, telling members they could help get “rid” of the pesky insects if they contributed. And it worked. By the end of the campaign, all of the dangling “mosquitoes” had disappeared. The mosquitoes came down as members made their pledges.
During the campaign, Keith shared the experiences he had while spending his three-month sabbatical in Tanzania: sleeping under a mosquito net, seeing a co-worker get sick from malaria, and even consoling another colleague who lost his 18-month-old daughter to the preventable disease.
“Having such close, personal experiences with the struggle of malaria, and telling those stories to the congregation, touched their hearts,” he says. “It was a learning experience for everyone.”
Support grows for campaign
Enthusiasm over the ELCA Malaria Campaign has been building in congregations like Zion. And voting members of the 2011 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, meeting in Orlando, Fla., Aug. 15-19, will formally vote this week on launching the four-year, $15 million campaign, under the auspices of the ELCA World Hunger Appeal.
After hearing a presentation on the ELCA Malaria Campaign last spring, Steven Ullestad, bishop of the ELCA Northeastern Iowa Synod, and his wife decided to give 10 times the amount they had originally planned on giving.
“It was so inspiring to hear about the campaign,” he recalls. “The church does many things to make a tremendous impact on the lives of others, and this is an opportunity to make a direct difference.”
For example, a contribution of just $10 provides mosquito netting — and a chance for a healthy future — for one person.
As a pilot synod, the Northeastern Iowa Synod already has raised more than $65,000 in cash and pledges, more than a quarter of the $250,000 it hopes to raise over the next three years.
Ullestad predicts the synod will exceed that goal, as congregations establish campaigns and hold fundraisers. Some have set goals of raising the cost of one mosquito net for every baptized or confirmed member, while others are encouraging members to give to the campaign in honor of an individual’s confirmation or baptism. In addition, some youth have raised money by selling corsages, made out of mosquito netting, for Mother’s Day.
Every 45 seconds a child dies from malaria, a preventable and treatable disease. Together with companion churches in Africa, ELCA members will work to contain deaths related to malaria by 2015.
Cindy Novak is a member of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Naperville, Ill. She lives in Lisle, Ill., with her husband, David, and her children, Sam and Emily.