Celebrating clean water


Celebrating clean water

The youth of Holy Cross, who have raised money for the 100 Wells Challenge, live out their baptismal calling to live lives of joy and service.

Members at Holy Cross Evangelical Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Livonia, Mich., are concerned that there are people in the United States and around the world without access to clean water.

In fact, one in eight people do not have safe drinking water, and more than half of the diseases in the world are caused by dirty water and poor sanitation conditions, according to ELCA World Hunger.

But members of Holy Cross are not the only ones concerned. Teenage members across the ELCA are also concerned and have committed to do something about this world-wide problem through the "100 Wells Challenge."

The goal of the challenge is to raise $250,000 to support the water projects of ELCA World Hunger. This amount could provide for 100 traditional water wells, each well supplying clean water to as many as 500 families at a time. This amount could also provide 100,000 feet of irrigation, 125,000 water jugs and 1,660 hand water pumps.

Financial gifts to support the challenge will be collected at the 2012 ELCA Youth Gathering in New Orleans, July 18-22.

More than 30,000 young people are registered to attend the Gathering, including youth from Holy Cross who took the 100 Wells Challenge seriously. They helped raise $7,500 -- representing enough to build three wells.

"Not only will we be packing our personal belongings, but we'll also be packing three wells," says Ben Morris, associate pastor for youth, culture and mission at Holy Cross.

"This kind of challenge fired up our kids," says Ben. Not only will their efforts in raising funds help make a difference in the lives of families in the United States and overseas, "but it is also about being the hands and feet of Christ."

Support for the challenge started as early as Advent, says Ben. "We challenged our members to spend less on Christmas gifts, like perhaps not buying a sweater for an uncle, who may not wear that sweater after all, to supporting the 100 Wells Challenge. And the outpouring was crazy! One family decided to give no presents and instead gave toward the challenge."

Holy Cross also hosted a New Year's Eve party to raise funds for the challenge. "It was a great party, and we've likely started a new tradition at our church," says Ben.

Confirmation students at Woodlake Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Richfield, Minn., built a "well" of their own. They encouraged the congregation to cut off the top of plastic water bottles and fill the bottle with change. That effort helped students raise $2,500 for the 100 Wells Challenge.

And teenage members of Grace Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Villa Park, Ill., are also engaging in fundraising activities to support the challenge, "because this is who they are. These youth are so passionate about social justice. They are conscious about hunger issues and poverty, and it comes naturally to them," says Chienyu Jade Yi, pastor of Grace.

"God has blessed us with so much, and we continue to serve God, our neighbors together," says Yi. "The ELCA is a justice-oriented church."

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