A couple of years ago, 20 members of Cascade Covenant Church in North Bend, Washington, joined Team World Vision to run and raise money to bring clean water to children around the world.
Then last year, about 70 people from the church joined the Global 6K for Water: young and old, walking or running to serve in a simple, but powerful way.
“It is such an easy way to have people put their faith in action,” Senior Pastor Dan Boehlje says. “We’re just one tiny little church here in Washington, but you multiply that across the United States, across the globe and that makes a big difference.”
Nestled in the shadow of the Cascades east of Seattle, the 6K has given Cascade Covenant a broader and deeper view of changing the world through the local congregation and community.
“It’s just show up and walk or run,” Dan says. “And it really does create its own momentum as people get excited for it because of what it means.”
Last year, about 1,300 people walked or ran the 6K course near Gas Works Park in Seattle. Worldwide, about 27,000 people walked or ran to raise awareness and money to solve the world’s water crisis.
“I want to thank you for coming,” World Vision U.S. President Rich Stearns says. “I have met men and women who are 70 years old and have never taken a clean shower or a bath in their lives. I’ve seen little children who have never had a cup of clean water to drink in their lives. Those are the people you’re running for today. Just imagine living 70 years and never having access to clean water.”
On May 19 and 20, 2018, World Vision will again host the Global 6K for Water and Celebration Sunday with participants across the U.S. and around the world.
Why a 6K? Six kilometers, about 3.7 miles, is the average distance people — usually women and girls — walk to get water in the developing world. It’s not a leisurely stroll; it’s a difficult, frequently dangerous, and time-consuming journey. And the water is dirty.
Each participant wears a race bib with a picture of a child, representing one person who will get clean water. Every $50 registration fee goes toward providing clean water for one person.
Sharing the struggle for water with children
“It was always important to me to teach my kids to be grateful for what they had,” says Angela McCann, children’s pastor at Cascade Covenant. “And so as a mother, I just think this is such a great way to teach our kids to be thankful for something as simple as a clean glass of water that’s right out of the tap.”
Even for the children she pastors, the 6K is relevant and potentially life changing.
The kids get it, she says. They understand what it means to have to go get water. They understand the effort to walk 6 kilometers and that kids their age do that every day around the world. Often, more than once a day.
“When we accept Jesus in our hearts, yes, we can follow God and be in heaven,” Angela says. “But there’s more to it. He’s still bringing light and healing to this world and we’re participants in that. So for me, this is faith in action. This is an application of bringing that light of Christ into the dark places of this world.”
Last year, one of her fifth graders asked his mom to text a picture of him crossing the Global 6K for Water finish line to Angela.
“This is a fifth grader who is so excited that he got to be part of this,” Angela says. “I think of all the kids that were there from my congregation. What is this going to do for them when they’re in middle school? What is this going to do for them when they’re in college? How is this going to affect them and the people around them when they’re in high school and college? I just — that is what gives me chills.”
Impacting communities through sponsorship
“Our whole goal is to engage our church in our community, in our world,” says Lyndsey Watson, an associate pastor at Cascade Covenant who has been the driving force behind the 6K at Cascade.
The experience of the 6K and sponsorship helps drive a deeper and more meaningful connection.
“Through sponsorship, you get to really engage in the conversation,” Lyndsey says. “We sponsor a little boy named Emmanuel, and he is awesome, and he’s growing. I get to see videos of him. I get to write emails to him. I get to write letters. My kids get to engage with that. We get to send him gifts in the mail and then hear from him, and that’s what makes it special.”
Cascade’s denomination, the Evangelical Covenant Church, and World Vision partner to work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where the denomination has a long history of community development and relationship with the Congo Covenant Church. The children sponsored through World Vision at Cascade Covenant are from the same area of the Congo through a partnership called Covenant Kids Congo powered by World Vision.
“It’s not just that child; it’s that family, it’s that community we’re able to impact,” Lyndsey says. “I think people are able then to grasp a little bit more of what it means to actually come alongside these families in the Congo and see their lives transformed for the better.”
‘A tangible way to be the hands and feet of Jesus’
For Jaime Cole and her four children, ages 8 to 13, the Global 6K for Water was educational, allowing them to identify with children who walk for water.
“In our culture, it’s easy for us to forget how easy things are for us, like having water on a daily basis,” Jaime says. “And so doing the 6K was a good example, a physical reminder and example of what it would be like if we didn’t have that easy access and the ability to afford things like water on a regular, every day basis.”
And while they had fun and learned something new, Jaime says the family wanted a more permanent bond with the children who walk for water, so they sponsored a child in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“It’s a real tangible way to be the hands and feet of Jesus,” Jaime says. “We’re always looking for opportunities to do that with the family and to constantly remind ourselves that we have the ability with what we’ve been given to give back to others and to represent God’s love in that way.”
‘We’re all sponsored into God’s kingdom’
Duane and Julie Duim have been longtime partners of World Vision, traveling to Zambia to meet their sponsored child, which Duane says was a life-changing moment. Participating in the Global 6K for Water was natural for their family of six.
“It went well,” Julie says. “They loved it, rallied behind it. They loved running for a purpose too. We had a great time.”
But the Duim family wanted to do more, so they sponsored one of the children on their race bibs that day — their fifth sponsored child through World Vision.
“You commonly get asked, why you would do something like this,” Duane says. “For our family, it’s been important to ask the question, not so much why are you doing but why not? Why would you not want to come in and be able to love others the way Christ loves us?
“We know that we’re all sponsored into God’s kingdom, and he calls us to do the same with his children. And we’re fortunate to be blessed in order that we can turn around and be a blessing to others. And this is just one small way to be able to do that.”