Shane Britt, pastor of Emmanuel United Methodist Church in Abilene and James Murunga, pastor and speaker from Nairobi, Kenya, used a basketball free-throw contest this past spring to raise funds to fight malaria in Africa.
The Emmanuel Missions Committee invited church members to make pledges to Imagine No Malaria that were based on the pastors’ free-throw results. Imagine No Malaria is an effort of the United Methodist Church to end preventable deaths by malaria in Africa.
Kris Roney, member of the Emmanuel Missions Committee, said many United Methodist churches are using basketball as a platform to raise funds for the cause, but Emmanuel might be the only church whose fundraising efforts included a visiting pastor from Africa.
Murunga has a personal connection to the fight against malaria. In addition to seeing malaria take the lives of fellow Kenyans in his region, Murunga has seen the tragic effects of malaria in his own family. Murunga’s son died from malaria when he was one year old. Murunga has two surviving children, and one of them, his daughter, suffers from malaria.
Outdoors on a windy Sunday afternoon, Britt and Murunga took turns for a total of 200 free-throw attempts. Britt nailed 51 out of 100 attempts. Every other time Murunga’s turn came, he invited someone from the crowd to step up and take 10 shots. Over the course of the contest, Murunga borrowed five helpers from the congregation. Together, the six of them made 22 out of 100 attempts. Murunga himself made 11 out of 50 attempts, and his “team” matched the points by also making 11 out of 50 attempts. Murunga’s team included Brie Morton, Daryl Roney, Brian Cook, Rick Pearcey and Trevor Witt.
Britt also invited Witt, a former Abilene High School Cowboys varsity-basketball player, to a challenge. Britt offered Witt $10 for each completed basket out of 10 attempts. Witt stepped up to the line and made 8 out of 10 attempts for the cause.
“It was a neat concept, and it was cool to have Pastor Shane say he’d commit to $10 a free throw,” Witt said. “It was a mission to make some of those.”
Between pledges and donations, Emmanuel collected $3,900. Roney said the church plans to continue raising funds through bracelet sales and other means.