HOUSTON, Texas (UMCom) - The people of The United Methodist Church have passed the halfway mark toward the denomination's $3-million fundraising goal for the Nothing But Nets malaria prevention campaign, Bishop Thomas Bickerton announced during a recent faith leaders' luncheon at St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Houston.

"The 'Send a net. Save a life' message has gained momentum across the United Methodist connection, with churches, youth groups and individuals employing creative approaches to raise more than $1.75 million dollars between November and August," said Bickerton. "It's been absolutely phenomenal to watch the groundswell of support and the outpouring of generosity."

The Nothing But Nets campaign received a challenge grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in January, matching funds raised through the campaign dollar for dollar up to $3 million. On Aug.20, a $615,000 check to Nothing But Nets representing funds raised through The United Methodist Church not only put the denomination over the halfway mark towards the fundraising goal, it also put Nothing But Nets over $3 million raised since January, thereby fulfilling the matching grant from the Gates Foundation more than a year early.

Bickerton was in Houston as part of a year-long multi-city tour to raise malaria awareness through a series of events aimed at engaging students, faith communities, business leaders, athletes and sports fans in the Nothing But Nets effort. The tour travels to Detroit in October and Minneapolis in November.

The Houston event was hosted by the Texas Annual Conference.