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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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'It's what we do'

Gift-giving in California goes beyond the ordinary and across the world

In sunny California the Christmas shopping season is about to begin. But members of Ascension Lutheran Church, Thousand Oaks, won’t necessarily be handing over their credit cards to Macy’s.

Forget about new clothes and the latest technological gadget. In this congregation it’s all about goats. Or water. For the past six years, members have encouraged one another to give alternative gifts. And each year they choose a particular project under their “Gifts of Hope” campaign.

Because of their 2006 generosity, clean water flows freely in a village in Kenya.

Amanda Berg (left) and Mary Wennes,
Amanda Berg (left) and Mary Wennes, members of Ascension Lutheran, Thousand Oaks, Calif., stand with Samuel (last name unknown), a water engineer, in Kenya, where clean water flows due to the generosity of the congregation’s annual “Gifts of Hope” campaign.
About this time last year the congregation took on the challenge of raising $70,000 to pay for a subsurface dam in Kilisa in the Makueni District. There, women and children had to walk as many as five miles—sometimes more than once a day—to find water for their families, crops and livestock. And when they got there, the water wasn’t always clean.

That dirty water—and the girls who missed school while fetching it—compelled the congregation to act, said Timothy C. Delkeskamp, a pastor of this 2,300-member congregation not far from California Lutheran University. Polluted water is the No. 1 killer of children in that part of the world, he added.


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