Ministry near and far, in Oklahoma and Africa, will receive support through the 2010 Annual Conference offering.
Churches are encouraged to receive a special collection, prior to the week of the conference, and send that gift with their delegates to the annual meeting.
The money gifts will help (1) Cookson Hills Center, a United Methodist mission site that serves the rural poor in eastern Oklahoma; and (2) "Imagine No Malaria," a denomination-wide effort that expands on the "Nothing But Nets" campaign initiated several years ago to eradicate the disease in Africa.
"The economy has been merciless on those who already live in poverty and need," reported missionary Meri Whitaker, director of Cookson Hills Center.
"We have continued to experience growth in every program that we have offered. The Church would look upon this as huge success, but when one is observing the mission field, larger numbers represent larger need," Rev. Whitaker wrote in the 2010 Pre-Conference Workbook.
Cookson Hills Center provides relief, education, health care, employment opportunities, and cottage-industry initiatives, primarily to Native Americans. A capital campaign is under way to fund a new main building on the property in the Cookson community, south of Tahlequah. The center is Advance project number 582161.
Whitaker stated, "Our daycare is full; the senior program is active and has a large attendance; the cottage industries are doing well. The health resource center is meeting the needs of many through immunizations, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and other programs. The Volunteers In Mission program operated at capacity (in 2009). Our Christmas Store numbers were up 20 percent."
In March, the center hosted a meeting of the National Advisory Committee for Church and Community Ministry, a policy-setting group. Its 17 members include directors of the General Board of Global Ministries and general church staff, among others.
"They have not been here before," Whitaker said. "They try to meet in mission locations so they go home with understanding about what is happening on the field."
She said the board was impressed by the size and scope of ministry at Cookson Hills Center and was inspired by the conversion stories that occur there.
The group also heard staff member Denise Rowell sing. As a result, the committee invited her to perform and share her story at the United Methodist Women’s Assembly, set for April 29-May 2 in St. Louis, Mo.
A child in Africa dies of malaria every 30 seconds, according to the denomination’s news agency. Battling the disease is the primary aspect of the Global Health Initiative, one of the Church’s four Focus Areas this quadrennium.
Bishop Thomas Bickerton leads the initiative for the denomination.
Malaria causes immeasurable suffering across the African continent. It is caused by a parasite called Plasmodium, transmitted through the bite of a mosquito. Without treatment, malaria’s flu-like symptoms—fever, chills, vomiting, headache—can lead to convulsions, organ failure, and death.
The Church has fought malaria through the ministry of hospitals, clinics, and mission centers we have operated across Africa for more than 160 years. "Imagine No Malaria" seeks to eliminate death and suffering from malaria in Africa by 2015.
The ministry will include:
Prevention: Distributing insecticide-treated bed nets, and working to drain standing water where mosquitoes breed.
Education: Teaching people how to effectively use bed nets and how best to protect themselves.
Communication: Using radio and cell phones to deliver lifesaving information about malaria.
Treatment: Training community-based health workers, and delivering medicines so hospitals and clinics can care for those in need.
"Imagine No Malaria" is in partnership with the United Nations Foundation, and it broadens the concept of the "Nothing But Nets" campaign.