In 2011, Pilgrim Congregational Church in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, celebrated its 50-year anniversary. Our small, high-steepled church with room for 120 congregants is situated on a picturesque hilltop in suburban Detroit. In recent years, its attendance has declined with an aging congregation and with new families choosing area mega-churches. But those remaining are committed Christians led by our Pastor John who preaches the Word, and guides us along a path of prayer, fellowship, and caring.
Benevolent outreach has been a signature of Pilgrim from the beginning, first serving several local relief agencies then expanding to other missions and missionaries around the world as our church grew. Our Board of Christian Service is charged with the responsibility for outreach and is funded by Pilgrim’s operating budget, however, the Board has long sponsored various off-budget projects throughout the year that allow the congregation to become more personally involved – collecting school supplies during VBS week for local family shelters, canned goods at Thanksgiving for a local food pantry, hats and gloves for the Salvation Army at Christmas, and a ‘spare change’ drive during Lent for world famine relief.
For many years, during Lent we collected change for World Vision’s Love Loaves project, but in 2009 World Vision discontinued this program. A search for a new Lenten Project was underway. One of our Board members, a leading area pediatric doctor, told us that a major cause for infant mortality worldwide was the lack of clean water, not only for baby but also for pregnant moms. With this report, the Board decided to focus on a Lenten project to address this water problem. Our criteria were simple: the organization must be Christian-led with a Biblical mission statement, it must have global reach, it must have an outstanding reputation among charitable organizations, and, practically, it must offer a convenient method for our collections (our project asks members to collect ‘spare change’ at home for seven weeks). Water for Life met these criteria and our congregation quickly embraced this project for Lent in 2010. Banks, pamphlets, CD’s, bulletin inserts were all provided. Our children passed out and collected the banks. The congregation was kept updated and encouraged through a ‘Minute for Missions’ during Sunday worship services. This collection has now been one of the features of our Lenten season for the last eight years – banks are passed out the first Sunday of Lent and collected the Sunday after Easter.
As we now prepare for our ninth fund drive, we are delighted that we have been able to donate over $6000 for new water wells and look forward to continuing to be a part of the water solution. We were a little surprised when, after seven years and as small as we are, we had funded one well ($4800), and now a second well is our goal.
It is difficult to grasp the long chain of events that must fall into place to bring a fresh cup of clean water to a child’s lips after a few coins have been put into a collection bank in a church thousands of miles away, but it’s a vision we can create with the help of the materials Water for Life has to offer and each year now our congregation anticipates another opportunity to do our part. Thank you.