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

Monday, August 22, 2005

Notes From My Knapsack 8-28-05

Criminal Stupidity?

Summer’s end is a good time for one last foolish, reckless fling at good sense. Haven’t eaten two elephant ears in a row? Now or never…Ride the spinning deathtrap that always makes you nauseous, but might not this time…why not?
And those two words fraught with potential and peril: road trip.
Even if you don’t have kids in school, Labor Day weekend marks a watershed and closes a chapter, which makes some of us scribble hurriedly to enter a few more episodes in the Book o’ Life before the Great Pageturner moves on to a slower paced period.
All Nature shows the signs of weariness, though, with all this growth and life and energy. Leaves begin to crinkle around the edges, yellow starts to tint the greens from skyline to lawn’s edge, and the grass itself is browning and going dormant. Plants and tree limbs sag with the damp weight of overgrowth, and the tomato vine, neatly plucked of fruit by the ever-helpful deer (who actually ate pieces out of the Irish Spring bars of soap around the edge), are twining into incomprehensible snarls of foliage.
Flashlight beams are looking tan and amber (replace ‘em soon, before winter!), toys with batteries are winding down into slo-mo, and even the Little Guy’s flashing red light sandals only flicker on one foot, the other having frozen on and then faded to black after three days of steady shining. Broken handled toy shovels and cracked pails and jagged-edged pieces of once beloved plastic have quietly slid into the trashcan the night before pickup.
For media and politics, where fun in the water and play on the sidewalks rarely enters the equation – which may be what ails them, come to think on it – the month of August is famously or infamously a prime "silly season." Filling the front page, writing a compelling editorial, or getting voters to listen without handing out free fans are all big challenges, which can be met in a variety of goofy ways.
Regular readers of this column know that your scrivener is no fan of Bob Taft. I’ve been long underwhelmed, and since his turn of phrase "Medicaid monster" in a State of the State address, I’ve been actively disgusted by him. Medicaid as a budget item is certainly a problem, and a public servant needs to help us understand who these fellow citizens are, that we care for and heal at an ever growing percentage of the state budget. Literally demonizing them and the situation is demagoguery of the worst sort. ‘Nuff said on that.
So having established that I think our governor is deeply and sadly unfit for office, may I ask, in the spirit of summer hyperbole, what was he doing in court?
This may just further point out my own unfitness for public office, but why is an ethics violation a criminal matter? Really, is that what we want judges and the court system tied up with?
Again, I heartily agree with Sen. Jay Hottinger and his call for Taft’s resignation; but criminal charges? Who wrote that as a law, a legal matter, anyhow?
Ethics guidelines, reporting, and broad disclosure of the sort that was a gift from the heavens for news starved metro editors: Taft playing golf frequently in the toniest surroundings with developers and, um, coin dealers etc. Embarrass the man no end, make it easy for you and me to see the details, and let the political process work. In other words, vote da bums out.
But I didn’t see why Martha Stewart went to lockup and is still wearing an ankle bracelet, or why the Watergate clowns went to prison either (it just made martyrs out of some of them, which a few are still riding to this day), and I can’t understand why a judge had to spend time on this. Serious it was, as Yoda would say, but criminal it is not.
If we’re gonna make stupidity criminal, the jails will be a’buildin’ right through the next millenium, and they still won’t be big enough to hold all the convicts.
I want judges and the court system prosecuting crime and fraud and corruption (stay tuned, Taft may yet make it into court for perfectly sound reasons at the rate he’s going), and I want us to vote goofs out of office or party leaders to show some leadership when a good looking candidate turns out to be a crummy officeholder.
And that’s my overheated summertime rant for the day! Next, back to school follies and everyday foibles. See you in a week…

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; get your last overheated rant in to