Five ELCA pastors from upstate New York agreed on a friendly competition in which the winner may not necessarily have bragging rights.
The competition involved parishioners casting $1-votes on which pastor they would like to see “walk the plank,” falling into a large pool of cool water with a group of teenagers cheering them on.
It’s probably not the most glamorous of callings. The “winning” pastor, however, was more than happy to take the plunge.
“It was an enjoyable experience, but I am amazed at how many (parishioners) were excited to see me get wet,” says Adam Miller-Stubbendick, winner of “Pastor on the Plank.” When not walking the plank, Adam is pastor of Bethel Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Jamestown, N.Y.
Admitting that it was great fun, Adam says the competition supports an important ministry.
It’s a fundraising adventure led by teenage ELCA members to support the ELCA’s 100 Wells Challenge.
The goal of the challenge is to raise $250,000 to support the water projects of ELCA World Hunger, particularly in parts of the world where it is needed most.
Nearly one out of seven people in our world today does not have access to clean water. The goal of $250,000 could provide for 100 wells, each well bringing clean water to as many as 500 families.
Financial gifts to support the challenge will be collected at the 2012 ELCA Youth Gathering in New Orleans, July 18-22. More than 30,000 young people are expected to attend.
According to Adam, more than $730 was raised through Pastor on the Plank to support the challenge, and youth from five congregations will take their offerings to the ELCA Youth Gathering.
Adam says he’s also glad to see that the competition was about more than raising money for youth to attend the Gathering. The challenge lifts up the efforts of ELCA members in providing access to clean water for many people around the world. One of the water projects supported by ELCA World Hunger is in the Central African Republic, where two ELCA missionaries are working to address water and malaria issues.
“I did an international internship once with Joe and Pastor Deborah Troester, ELCA missionaries in the Central African Republic. They are good ‘water people,’ doing some amazing things there,” says Adam.
Joe serves as a technical adviser for the Water Management Project (Projet d’Aménagement des Sources d’Eau), which provides safe drinking water and promotes good hygiene and sanitation among residents in Baboua.
Deborah is teaching at the theological school in Baboua. In an April 30 blog, Deborah writes, “The ELCA is already working in the Central African Republic to combat malaria. Two rural clinics and a village health program provide malaria education and treatment.”
Through the ELCA Malaria Campaign, members of this church are helping to provide mosquito nets, insecticides, medication, health care, education and more to help prevent deaths from this disease — for good. A goal of the campaign is to raise $15 million to support the anti-malaria efforts of Lutheran churches and organizations in 12 African countries.
A significant investment
Ian Eastman came up with the idea for Pastor on the Plank. He says attending the ELCA Youth Gathering “is a significant investment for a small rural conference, such as ours, and it requires a lot of work. I was concerned that we might be wearing people out.”
Ian, who is youth coordinator for the ELCA Upstate New York Synod’s Southwestern Conference, also did not want youth to perceive fundraising “as something that only benefitted them. It was important for the young people’s learning and development to collect funds for the 100 Wells Challenge and be attentive to the many people who don’t have access to clean water and suffer diseases caused by unclean water.”
The plunge took place at an April 15 pool party for youth. The other four pastors in the competition showed up to the party, too, and gave surprise bonus “plank walks,” says Ian.
“It was a memorable and fun afternoon. It meant a lot to the youth to see their pastors interested in their efforts and supportive of them,” he says.
“A young person who had been discouraged with church life pulled me aside and told me how touched he was that his pastor would help out this way to build a well. It encouraged his faith, and he felt a greater connection with his pastor, too,” says Ian.
Materials from ELCA World Hunger were also incorporated into the effort and in worship, says Ian.
Although “it was goofy,” says Ian, the idea was a “good thing on a lot of different levels.”