Thursday, August 25, 2005

Faith Works 8-27-05
Jeff Gill

A Short Walk To a Better Place

If you were walking to get a drink of fresh, clean water, something would be wrong.
Even in the heart of the ice storm around year’s turn eight months back, we never quite lost our water supply. But the warnings began towards the end of the emergency: can we keep the tanks filled? How fast are they draining? Could we run out of water?
And in fact there were some in outlying areas who rely on electricity to pump their own water from the earth, who were forced to melting snow on fires for basic needs.
In much of the developing world, getting a drink of clean, pure water means a walk. Not infrequently, it means what we would call a lengthy walk. Maybe two or three kilometers to the wellhead, even ten kilometers at least to get new water jugs to carry supplies back to your home and family.
Church World Service (CWS), a joint effort of Christian relief agencies in the United States, works to provide development assistance and increase awareness of need in what used to be called "the Third World," and before that the "rural overseas" where wells and markets and basic infrastructure was lacking or absent. They started a program after the Marshall Plan got started for "the Second World," or Europe, mainly, called the "Christian Rural Overseas Project," or CROP.
The tie between fundraising and education is summed up by their motto, "We walk because they walk," and a ten kilometer fundraising walk draws visibility in the community and awareness among the participants, along with giving church groups a chance to work together for a good cause.
Local servant leaders like Dick Burgie and Tom Mackey have been with this program in Licking County for many years, and a diverse committee puts each new CROP Walk together. Each church that wishes to participate is encouraged to send a "recruiter" to a training event at St. Paul’s Lutheran on N. Fifth St. in Newark, starting at 9 am on Saturday, Sept. 10.
The Licking County CROP Walk is on Sunday, October 16, beginning at the parking lots of OSU-N and following the bike path to the YMCA and back. They will have a registration celebration at 1 pm and the "celebrity walker," principal Jessie Truit of Newark High School, will lead the start at 1:30 pm.
If you have more questions, you can call Dick Burgie at 344-1620 or call St. Paul’s at 345-6115. The recruiter training is a very helpful first step where the pledge forms are explained and the best ways to recruit walkers young and old are shared. As the first organization to hold "pledge walks" nationwide, the CROP Walk of CWS has seen many imitators, but the point of why we walk to fight world hunger and disease can’t be copied.
This year is also a special anniversary for those interested in global relief efforts. Ten years ago this week, CWS was one of what is now 126 national ecumenical religious relief agencies to form ACT, or Action by Churches Together. They began in response to the horrible crisis in Rwanda of that year, which we were reminded of by the recent movie "Hotel Rwanda." This joint effort was so successful that the coalition built simply grew and gathered steam, and was a key element in the swift and efficient response to the Tsunami disaster last year in southeast Asia.
Global co-operation through ACT, national co-ordination through CWS (which works with global Catholic Relief Services in ACT), and our own proud tradition of ecumencial service in Licking County. There’s a message in all of this about how people of faith are called to embody the unity they profess.
And I’ll just let you reflect on that message while we all mark our calendars for Oct. 16, and another great CROP Walk!

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio who has been on CROP Walk committees in three states; if you have a walking story from years past or your church’s effort this fall, send it to

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