April 01, 2010

To Save a Life

A few weeks ago, I came across an idea to use at youth group.  (I don't remember, but I probably found the idea, along with weblinks, at RethinkingYouthMinistry.com.) The idea is to get youth to give up sodas, energy drinks, and other beverages for two weeks, and drink only water.  The website H2OProject.org will even provide you with resources, such as bracelets, information cards, and videos to help with this.  Then, the money that would have otherwise been spent on those sugary drinks is instead collected and donated to an organization that digs water wells for people around the world who have no access to clean water.

It sounded like a cute little activity, until I learned more.  I learned that several million children die each year because they do not have access to clean drinking water -- that's one child every 15 seconds.  It costs several thousand dollars to dig a well, but since one well can provide water for a whole village, it really doesn't cost that much to provide water for one person (when you divide the cost out.)  In fact, according to the folks at the H2O Project, just one dollar will provide a child with water for one year, and just $10 will provide water for a lifetime. 

That's when it hit me:  sometimes, it is unbelievable easy to save a life.  I rattled this around in my head a few times:  "For just $1 or $10, I can save a life.  Our youth group, as small as it is, could save quite a few lives."  Even now, it sounds like hyperbole, a gross overstatement, as if there is some catch to it all.  When I told the youth group kids to come to youth group because we were going to "save lives," I wondered if they believed me.  I'm still finding it hard to believe myself when I say that. 

I wonder how often we realize that the mission of the church could be stated so succinctly:  our mission is to save lives.  And I wonder how often, as we gather for worship, board meetings, committee meetings, and various "cute little activities," that we realize that we are, in fact, saving lives through our ministry. 

I once was told that if it wasn't for the support that my family and my wife provided to a particular young person, that he would have killed himself.  It was his best friend who told us that.  The disclosure of that information nearly blew me away.  I hadn't done anything special.  The church I was part of at the time really didn't do anything special, except provide an opportunity for me and a few others to minister to youth in the community.  And yet that ministry of caring, I found out, had saved a life.  Incredible.

I also know that some older members of the congregation, especially those who live alone, would feel that life wouldn't be worth living if it weren't for the church's ministry.  In fact, in so many ways, our ministry is about providing life -- new life -- to people who would otherwise be spiritually dead, if not physically dead.  It is, as our church's identity statement says, about bringing "wholeness to a fragmented world."

This week, I and several of the youth in the church are wearing blue bracelets as reminders to not purchase any beverages, but to drink only water.  I don't expect them to give up their energy drinks completely (not that this would be a bad thing; some of them are seriously addicted!), but if they are made a little more aware of the issues of clean water, and are able to give up some of their drinks in order to save lives, well, it will be worth it.  As it turns out, after I planned this activity, National Geographic's April issue arrived in my mailbox; the entire issue is devoted to fresh water.  I also discovered that my church's Global Ministries sponsors well-digging projects in several areas of the world.  I can't wait to send them a check in a few weeks.

As I prepare for Easter, the celebration of new life, it's exciting to be reminded that in ministry -- in the midst of planning worship and attending meetings and coordinating use of rooms and making phone calls -- that lives are being saved.

1 comment:

Ron Shifley said...

It's the lives saved that matter most. Sometimes it becomes the very focus for ministry. Better yet, for the Church it should be the driving force for ministry.