Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Project H2O, Secular Franciscans and Lent

h2o project

Reese, my dog, and I have been walking by the rivers again. Yesterday we were at Kid’s Crossing, the snow was so high that there was no parking by Headwaters Park. We walked over to the St. Joseph River. The river was covered with ice and snow. However, under the steel bridge that connected the park with the Civil War Memorial the river opened up to a sparkling rapid. Everything was covered in wet, heavy, deep white snow. The trees, the bridge, the houses all looked like they had just popped out of a scene from Dr. Zhivago.

Today we went to Headwaters Park. The temperature had jumped to 42 degrees. All of the snow had melted and the St. Mary’s River was swollen. The river was so high that flocks of ducks and Canada Geese were swimming in the park, not in the river, in the park. However what got our attention was the ice flows on the river. Because the river was flowing so quickly the sheets of ice were hitting branches of trees (the river was up to the forks of the trees) like knife blades. The sound was like glass being cut. Reese just sat and watched this unusual scene.

What has been clear these past few days, with the snow, the rain and the rivers is the abundance of water we are blessed with in Fort Wayne. The last Holy Family Fraternity meeting of the Secular Franciscans addressed the scarcity of available and safe water for much of the world. We were introduced to Project H2O. There is a Project H2O International organization that addresses the need for safe water. Our group has chosen to support the Franciscan Youth organization in their Project H2O ministry.

The project recognizes that in many countries either there is not enough water to meet the needs of the citizens or the water is not sanitary. Pollution, sewage and parasites make this most essential ingredient for life a threat to health. We learned how in some communities 30% of the adult population is blind due to parasites in the water supply.

Now we were not hearing about this in the abstract. We are Franciscans and we are about to enter the season of Lent. This is the 40 days before Easter. It is a time of reflection, fasting, penance and alms giving. We are to “faith” together. So our fraternity decided to support the Franciscan Youth group by supporting their Project H2O.The project meets many of our Lenten activities. It requires that we reflect, it requires that we act. It requires that we give up something so others may gain something.

So here is how it works. For two weeks we only drink tap water. All the money we save on coffee, tea, pop, alcohol, bottled water is saved. At the end of two weeks we give that money to the Franciscan Youth group. They in turn give it to Project H2O who use the money to build wells in villages. For as little as $2500.00 a well can be drilled that will support a village. That means children can go to school, mothers can go to work and money can be spent on food, clothes, education instead of on medical bills.

The goals of Project H2O are simple and clear:
• To bring fresh, clean drinking water to famine stricken nations in the love of Christ.
• To train and educate the local villagers on hygiene, keeping their hands, buckets, and cups clean to insure their water stays clean.
• To share the love of Christ and bring forth the Gospel.

Francis and Clare would have approved. They modeled gospel-living and the gospel states: "I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink."
Matthew 25:35

So tonight I will have a little Merlot, a cup of coffee maybe a diet soda. Then tomorrow I will begin two weeks of only drinking tap water. If I am wise or at least mildly empathetic I will understand that when others have no access to clean water my drinking clean water from the tap is not a sacrifice. In a world in which deforestation is accelerating at an alarming rate, in which rain forests are being cut down on multiple continents, in which rivers are drying up the problem we are addressing will be here for a long, long time. The question is will we allow ourselves to recognize the suffering and if so, will we do something about it?

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