There is a hymn that begins: “It only takes a spark to get a fire going.”
Lately, I’ve been thinking of that hymn when I speak to people who want to start a new CROP Hunger Walk in their community. These people, who we always say make our day and week and month, are the joy of every field staff. They have the passion to help those who are hungry and hurting, both in their neighborhoods and in far-off places, and the willingness to step out in faith and start something new.
This spring, I received a call from one such spark – Barbara Wright, who along with her husband, Rev. David Wright, was interested in starting a CROP Hunger Walk in their new home community of Bristol, Maine.
The Wrights are veteran CROP Hunger Walkers – often just the ones to start a walk when they relocate. They had previously walked in Southwick, Massachusetts, when they served there, and also participated in Burlington, Vermont, when they served a church there – both strong New England Walk communities. Now retired, they found themselves fortunate enough to relocate to the beautiful Pemaquid Peninsula of Maine, much to their surprise. The only thing missing was a CROP Hunger Walk!
When I met with the Wrights, I really liked their attitude. They didn’t know how many churches and other groups would participate, but they invited fifteen in all. The response, as often is the case, was slow, but Barbara refused to get discouraged, saying, “We expect to have at least one or two youth teams and that is enough for a walk! “ She also said they would probably be able to raise a couple of thousand dollars the first year.
More often than not, this one hesitation of CROP Hunger Walk starters sometimes means they end before the walk even gets going—when they think that all the churches in the community must participate or it will not work. Every time that sentence is uttered, I want to say, no, it doesn’t take all of the faith communities to get a walk started. It only takes a spark. It only takes one. “It only takes a spark to get a fire going, and soon all those around can warm up in its glowing.”
If you have one church, make sure that you recruit as many members and churchgoers as you can. Have them recruit friends and family. Make sure you get everyone to sign up online, and reach out for donations beyond the borders of your community.
On the day of the Walk, make it fun! Put out lots of signs. Make a lot of noise! Take a lot of photos. Publicize it widely.
Then, set a date for the following year, and invite the other churches to participate early, sharing with them photos of your Walk and stories about how much fun it was, and how good it felt to raise the issue of hunger and do something about it. How could they resist?
How did the Pemaquid Peninsula CROP Hunger Walk do? This was Barbara’s report, following the May 18th Walk:
“Well, you could ‘knock me over with a feather. ` Our preliminary total from our CROP Hunger Walk is now over $5,000! And I think that doesn't count the $169.69 that our Interim Minister collected in a bottle (next to a bottle of water) from the congregation during her children's message. Plus whatever has not been sent in yet. I thought we'd be lucky to raise $2,000. We had 42 walkers! Over half were from our church. The weather was cloudy and cool with a few sprinkles. I got my husband David to gather everyone in a circle before starting. We rang the church bell and he spoke the words of the first verse of ‘O God, You Send Us Out to Walk.’ Then everyone said which church they were from and we were on our way!” In the end five churches participated in the Walk.
So go ahead, be the spark to start a CROP Hunger Walk in your community. Watch that warm glow spread to everyone who participates in this movement to end hunger and poverty, here at home and around the world.
Amy Porter is Associate Director for the CWS New England region.