Sarah Wittenberg felt compelled to help when she heard her grandmother talk about a charity that provides access to clean water to people in developing countries and disaster areas. The eighth-grader took the idea to the youth director at St. John's Lutheran Church in Grove City. And on Sunday, after months of research and preparation, she'll kick off the congregation's Lenten campaign to encourage others to make donations to Water Missions International.
Sarah Wittenberg felt compelled to help when she heard her grandmother talk about a charity that provides access to clean water to people in developing countries and disaster areas.
The eighth-grader took the idea to the youth director at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Grove City. And on Sunday, after months of research and preparation, she’ll kick off the congregation’s Lenten campaign to encourage others to make donations to Water Missions International.
Other youths in the congregation helped Sarah, 14, label water bottles and donation envelopes. Pastors at the church are planning Lenten sermons around the theme of water in the Bible.
The project is one of many happening around central Ohio during Lent, the six-week period leading to Easter that started on Wednesday. The season tasks Christians with praying, fasting and giving to the poor. Also a time of sacrifice, many Christians choose to give up a food or habit in self-denial, while others are inspired to give through service.
“What Lent does for us is it causes us to step back, take a look at our life and what we can do better. And helping others is part of that,” said Bill Sparks, president of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
Sparks said Lent is “a close second” to the Christmas season when it comes to giving. Donations increase and some churches and groups hold drives for the society’s Downtown clothing-distribution center for the poor, he said.
Some examples of other projects happening this year:
• Vineyard Columbus on the Northeast Side will have a one-day “Serve Columbus” event on April 12. Teams will partner with Keep Columbus Beautiful to pick up litter in several neighborhoods and paint, landscape and clean up at schools, parks and shelters. The church also plans to pack 500 sack lunches to be distributed to the underprivileged.
• At St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Delaware, members make donations to a charity selected by the winner of a “Lent Madness” competition, with a bracket akin to the NCAA Tournament, said the Rev. Charles Wilson, rector. The bracket lists names from the denomination’s Calendar of Saints. Participants learn about saints and vote for them to narrow the field to the Saintly 16, Elate Eight and Faithful Four. The last one remaining earns the Golden Halo.
• At Meadow Park Church of God, with campuses on the Northwest Side and in Powell, members are collecting food for the poor in bins marked with the names of different pastors, said spokeswoman Cindy Heath. The pastor whose bin collects the most items by Palm Sunday will give a video testimony on Facebook. On April 8, the church hosts Lower Lights Ministries’ Garments of Praise fashion show to benefit the Rachel’s House program that helps women recently released from prison.
• St. John’s Evangelical Protestant Church has a Lenten “Giving Gratitude” project, said the Rev. Virginia Lohmann Bauman, senior pastor of the United Church of Christ congregation Downtown. Participants share something they are thankful for each day, either in person, with a note, in a church journal, on Facebook or on colored strips of paper that will be turned into an Easter Gratitude Tree. The practice “is designed to foster a greater sense of thankfulness, generosity, and peace in a world that has become a desert of ingratitude,” Bauman said.
Rachel Lustig, president of Catholic Social Services, said some churches sponsor Lenten drives similar to giving-tree programs during Advent, when people buy specific items for others in need. She said a wish list during Lent asks for supplies for the charity’s Pathways to Hope program that helps domestic-violence victims move from a shelter into homes.
“Lent is a period of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, where we really think about our relationship with God and how we might have stepped out of the perfect relationship,” Lustig said. “ How can we better strengthen our relationship with God? ... Part of the way we do that is helping out our neighbors in need.”
Sarah Wittenberg said the water project at St. John’s Lutheran hasn’t been hard and didn’t take long to put together. Plus, she said, she has had lots of support and help.
“I’ve enjoyed doing it, and I think it’s really going to help a lot of people,” she said.