"What on earth are you doing?"--It is a question which I often ponder, particularly as the ride goes on and on and on. It is also a question which a number of parishioners from the diocese of Iowa ask as well. Why are we riding around the diocese and state of Iowa trying to raise money for people whom we are never likely to meet? The brief answer is that it is the Gospel imperative. "As you did to the least of these, you did to Me."
Every day, 4500 children die as a result of dirty water. In underdeveloped nations such as Swaziland and the Sudan, children and adults die from diseases such as cholera, e coli, dinge fever, and other disease which we no longer fear here in the developed world. Imagine your drinking water coming from a trough that has collected the rain. Worse, imagine your drinking water coming from a livestock runoff pond rather than a tap. These are the conditions faced by people day in and day out. Bishop Scarfe warned us that after a few days, when the body neared exhaustion, we would begin to see spiritual connections which were not obvious before we began the circuit. Better still, he claimed, we would begin to see Iowa as very few ever do. One of the connections I have noticed is how like the farmers we bike riders really are. The farmers have been jumping into their fields plowing the last few days. Some have been spreading fertilizer. This, of course, will lead up to the planting of the seed. Ultimately, assuming the conditions are favorable (rain and sun and soil), the seeds will produce a harvest. Each farmer whom I have passed on my bike believes that his efforts will yield a harvest sometime later this summer or early fall. Our effort is very much similar. We are calling attention to an easy solution. We have the technology (yes, it is Iowa produced) to provide clean water for an entire nation. Each unit that we purchase provides clean water for 50 families! Think about that for a second. Each $350 that St. Alban's has rasied will care for 50 families. More than 99% of the bacteria which kill those children (and sometimes adults) are killed by the chlorine produced by these chlorinators! Our church, as small as it is by worldly standards, may well bring clean water to a village the size of Durant.
Better still, think of the seeds we are spreading. At some point in the future, a clergy or lay person will likely enter that village. That evangelist will have the Gospel already planted in the life and hearts of that village and every village which receives a unit from us. Can you imagine the Gospel connection? Our Lord promises living water, water which assures us that we will never thirst again. Even a not-very-gifted evangelist can relate our efforts to provide clean water to those in need to Christ's offer of living water, our provision of clean water to the cleansing water of baptism, our love of stranger/neighbors to Christ's command to love our neighbors and the least among us. So, why am I, why are we at St. Alban's doing this? Because He first served us, because He commands us to care for the least and forgotten, and because we are stewards of all that He has provided us, even our technology and money.