Six Villages Now Have Safe Drinking Water
In an era of tight budgets and decreasing membership, Fall fairs are often important in helping to balance church budgets.
First Church of Christ, Congregational in Bedford, is one of those churches that relies on fair proceeds – approximately $12,000 each year – to help in day-to-day operations. So it was quite a bold decision to give all the proceeds away.
The original idea for donating the proceeds came from the pastor, The Rev. John Castricum, as he tried to brainstorm ways to generate more enthusiasm for and participation in the fair.
“I remembered a story of how a church dedicated the proceeds from a rummage sale to mission work, and it really energized the congregation,” he said. “I hoped we could do the same here."
In the months preceding the fair, water seemed to be on the members’ minds. They were in the process of putting together a Stewardship Campaign titled ‘Showers of Blessings.’ In addition, they entered an ice bucket challenge with a local Episcopal Church. A member of the church then asked the pastor if he had seen Matt Damon's ice bucket video
, where he used toilet water to emphasize the need for clean accessible drinking water in many parts of the world. All this came together, and Castricum proposed to the church council that they use some of the proceeds to build a water well.
There was a great deal of debate, and then an older "pillar of the church" suggested the church donate all
the fair proceeds to building wells.
“We were, and still are, running budget deficits, so people were clearly anxious about the move,” said Castricum. “However, we were committed to an overall vision of being a mission-oriented church that is primarily interested in transforming lives.
“We trusted that if we ‘give, we shall receive: a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.’ (Luke 6:38). With the risk of faith, there shall be rewards that come.”
The members also believed that people are more willing to give to organizations that make a difference in the world, so they had high hopes for this project’s success. There was good discussion, and finally a unanimous vote to go ahead, despite their fears.
The initial reaction to the move was a mix of excitement and anxiety. Yet once the plan was announced, they collected many more donations and support for the fair than they would usually receive.
|One of Rev. John’s favorite pictures:
Local children at a well installed in Pomerini through the efforts of
the Africa Exchange project.
Volunteers created a display that people could see as they walked into the fair area that explained the need for clean water and the planned mission donation. The excitement of the volunteers touched the fairgoers and resulted in demonstrations of additional generosity. Many purchased items and told fair volunteers to keep the change. As a result, over $18,000 was raised, approximately $6,000 more than usual.
“The well water mission project really energized the congregation and raised our profile in the community,” said Castricum.
Their next step was to find the appropriate organization to be the recipients of their large monetary gift. After seeking guidance from the Massachusetts Conference, Wendy Vander Hart, the Associate Conference Minister for the area, suggested they partner with The Plymouth Church in Framingham
, a sister church who had built many water wells over the past several years. (See separate blog article
“We have had a relationship with the small, mountain village of Pomerini in Tanzania for over a decade,” said The Reverend Gregory R. Morisse, Pastor and Teacher of the Plymouth Church. “Our relationship first led us to identify the importance of clean, fresh water. Since we began supporting fresh water wells in that region, infant mortality due to dysentery is now almost nonexistent. Before, women and girls had to journey to and from a polluted river, up to 6 hours a day! With fresh water nearer to their homes we now have crowded schools with young girls able to attend instruction.”
The church representatives met, discussed the project and mission work, and decided to partner. First Church is looking forward to sending members to Tanzania to see the wells in action and to build a relationship with the people receiving the wells.
“It is absolutely wonderful what First Church of Christ, Congregational in Bedford achieved last fall with their fair,” said Morisse. “Not only did they raise a ton of money, they modeled incredible faith and courage. What must it take for a congregation to give away 100% of the proceeds for charity? Jesus taught us that ‘those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.’ (Lk 9:24) I don't know any other congregation who has lived into that quite so profoundly!”
“As much as mission is about giving out money and resources, it is also about making a personal connection with someone totally different from you,” said Castricum. “You come to realize that you receive more from the experience than you give.” (Read Rev. Castricum's blog article
for more details about the connections.)
“We see that our primary work is to grow the bonds of Christian love,” said Morisse. “Before and through all our work, we are friends in Christ. As Paul says, ‘If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is celebrated, all rejoice together.’” (1 Corin. 12:26)
You can contact Rev. John Castricum at the church office at 781-275-7951 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Rev. Gregory Morisse can be reached at the Plymouth church office at 508-875-1364 or by email at http://www.plymouthchurchframingham.org/contact/.
Editor’s Note: In addition to Plymouth’s success in water well development, they have been working in the village of Pomerini and neighboring communities to build schools, expand classrooms, fund additional teachers, and purchase educational supplies. Most recently, because they have witnessed the need for improved medical care, they are now working on ways to help the community expand their medical dispensary to become a health center. You can read more about the Plymouth Church in Framingham Africa Exchange Project here: http://www.africaexchangeproject.org/