Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sponsors Needed for Village Wells

Village Well Project 2007
Deep Water Wells for Community Wellness
Malawi, Africa

CitiHope International, a non-government humanitarian aid organization, and WorldHope Corps, a new non-profit in New Jersey, seeks sponsors and co-sponsors for 20 village wells in a remote area of northern Malawi in need of fresh water.

Here's why:

One out of 5 kids die before age 5, mostly due to preventable, waterborne diseases.

Clean water is a big challenge in remote places in Malawi. Kids die before age 5 largely due to diseases they get from unsanitary water conditions (dysentery, cholera, malaria, etc). This can be prevented by potable water from a deep well.

One borehole of at least 50 meters in depth will provide fresh water for 2,000 villagers. The total cost for drilling the borehole, plus the mechanical apparatus, the necessary repair and maintenance fund, sanitation instructions and training, and a simple irrigation system for a community garden is $10,000. (That translates into just $5 per villager for access to fresh water that will save lives!)

The first two village well projects were sponsored and implemented in July and August 2007 (see previous blog posts) The next four wells are needed in the cluster of villages known as Kamphenda. They will be installed as community development projects as soon as funding is in hand.

Kamphenda is a remote trading center for 200 villages, located near Rumphi and the Game Reserve in northern Malawi. A dilapidated and poorly furnished primary school and a few grocery kiosks are what qualify this place as a business hub. Kamphenda is accessible only by a 4x4 vehicle or tractor able to sludge through the bumpy and muddy roads.

Each of the 200 villages surrounding Kamphenda is comprised of 35 to 40 households. There are about 6 people in each household which commutes to about 240 people in a village for a total population of 48,000 people.

Twenty Village Chiefs shared their need for clean water

Currently, there are only eight working wells in the area. Eight village wells among 200 villages cannot possibly provide clean water for 48,000 people. The existing wells are located far and wide apart so that most villagers must walk up to 10 kilometers to the nearest water point. Because of this long distance, most families opt to drawing water from small streams which are muddy and contaminated.

A contaminated water hole is the only
source of water in many villages

“This is the kind of well we need,”
said the Village Chief of Kamphenda

If interested in sponsoring a Village Well Community Development Project, please contact Michael J. Christensen, Ph.D., Project Director, 973-714-0023

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Rosh Hashanah

The email reminder I received today in my Inbox I joyfully pass on to you:

The High Holy Day season is upon us once again and on behalf of Drew
Hillel, I would like to share just a few words about this critical time
with you. As the sun sets on the land this Wednesday, Jews around the
world will celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, 5768.

Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the Days of Awe: a time for
introspection, when we reflect upon the past year. What mistakes did I
make? Did I do wrong by my neighbor? During this time, we are expected
to seek reconciliation and forgiveness for our transgressions – directly
with the people against whom we may have transgressed!

The great Rabbi A.J. Heschel once said, “…Every one of us individually will be called
upon to give account of the life we lived. Our destiny will be
determined by what we do or fail to do”. Hence, we also ask: in what
ways did I help others and how can I do even more this coming year? The
shofar, a ram’s horn “trumpet”, is sounded as an alarm, to awaken our
souls and remind us of our responsibilities.

These Days of Awe end with Yom Kippur (Sept. 21-22), the Day of Atonement, when we search our souls, when we fast, when we remember our loved ones who have departed
us, when we pray for renewal. Thus, throughout this period we say to
each other, "L'shanah tovah tikatev(i) v'taihatem(i)” (f), "May you be
inscribed and sealed for a good year."

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Prophetic Leadership Needed at Ocean Grove

I wrote a letter today to Drew faculty and friends who have a vested interest in what happens at the historic Methodist Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association in Ocean Grove, NJ.:

To Drew faculty and friends:

In light of this morning's Matriculation Service on the theme of forgiveness and grace in the prophetic tradition of Hosea, I thought you might appreciate an update on the civil unions controversy in Ocean Grove--where Drew offers an annual summer DMIN course (for the last 10 years) and where I serve on the Board of Trustees.

As a vocal member with a minority opinion, I joined several others in Ocean Grove calling for hospitality, inclusion and embrace of residents of the Grove who would like to use common space for civil union ceremonies, at least in the Ocean Pavilion. Our counsel was not heeded and every attempt to introduce compromise into this heated debate was rejected.

Local protests erupted over Labor Day in Ocean Grove in response to recent actions taken by the Board of Trustees to disallow civil unions in its facilities and sue the State of New Jersey over compliance.

Here's how the NY Times reported recent developments:

Dr. James Forbes of Riverside Church preached on Sunday in the Great Auditorium, as he usually does on Labor Day weekend. In his sermon, he addressed the issue of gay unions in the Grove, challenged the Camp Meetings' position as discriminatory. According to Dr. Robert Harvey, a retired American Baptist minister who was there, "Forbes boxed the ears off the Camp Meeting Association's stand on Gay marriage and got a big ovation when he did it. He left the pulpit and leaned down in the face of trustees and talked about the God that loves all of his children..."

It takes a prophetic leader like James Forbes to look directly into the eyes of the religiuos leaders and trustees on the platform to remind them that "God loves everyone, including lesbians and gays" and get a standing ovation from most of the crowd in the Auditorium (over 2,000). This is the kind of leadership needed in Ocean Grove "for such a time as this."

At Monday's annual Labor Day town meeting, attended by over 200 residents, the newly organized group called "Ocean Grove United" staged a protest over the issue and interrupted trustees as they spoke, challenging the Camp Meeting's strong position and recent legal action--filing suit in Federal Court.

The basic issue is whether the Ocean Pavilion on the board walk is "public accommodation" space and thus should remain open to the community for civil union ceremonies and other legal events. Or should the Camp Meeting be allowed to discriminate against couples who wish to have their relationships recognized in a civil ceremony in the Pavilion because of the Camp Meeting Trustee's "deeply held religious beliefs" about heterosexual marriage and homosexual immorality.

In today's Star Ledger (the State's largest daily newspaper), Tom Moran, the lead editorial writer, suggests: "New Jersey should stop subsidizing bigotry in Ocean Grove."

The perception that Methodists ban civil unions has caused an uproar in Ocean Grove, and the issue is not going away.

Here's the official press release from the legal team defending the Camp Meeting that sparked the protest from Ocean Grovers United:


N.J. AG agrees to temporarily halt investigation of Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association

State will suspend investigation while judge decides on motions filed by ADF and state attorneys

OCEAN GROVE, N.J. - At a hearing Tuesday, the New Jersey attorney general agreed to suspend its investigation of the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association until a federal judge decides on two motions in the association’s lawsuit against the state. ADF attorneys represent OGCMA, which has been under investigation for declining a request to allow a “civil union” ceremony on its private property.

“Religious groups have the First Amendment right to decide what takes place on their private property without government interference. The government cannot force a private Christian organization to use its property in a way that would violate its own religious beliefs,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Brian Raum. “Since the attorney general has voluntarily agreed to temporarily halt the state’s investigation, the Camp Meeting Association’s rights will be respected, and nothing will happen until the judge decides on the two motions before him.”

The judge in the case, Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association v. Vespa-Papaleo, is currently considering a motion for preliminary injunction filed by ADF attorneys and a motion to dismiss filed by the state of New Jersey. If the court grants the motion for preliminary injunction, the state’s investigation would be halted for the entire duration of the lawsuit, which was filed on Aug. 11 (

ADF is a legal alliance defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Summer of Love 40th Anniversary

San Francisco, Labor Day, 2007

We were there!
michael, Rachel and Megan

San Francisco, Labor Day, 1967