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ELCA World Hunger

Rainbarrels and raingardens

Now that the calendar says it’s officially spring, one of God’s most precious gifts should regularly start falling from the heavens – water.  The Bible is full of references to water, and it is through water that we are baptized.  Water is a wonderful gift, but can often be taken for granted, or even become destructive.  This year when the rain comes, I encourage you to manage the water that falls into your yard (or church property!) in an environmentally friendly manner. 

How does rainwater management relate to care of God’s creation?  During a rainstorm, the excess water that isn’t immediately absorbed into the ground runs off your property, carrying any chemicals you may use on your lawn.  It travels across your driveway/sidewalk/street/parking lot gathering chemicals along the way, and into the storm sewer system.   This water ends up in local streams, rivers and lakes – as well as the contaminants it has picked up on the way.   Not only is this contamination harmful to aquatic plants and animals, but also to people who eat the fish from the lake, or take a swim at the beach.  It can also result in higher costs to treat that water if the polluted water happens to be a source of drinking water.  Excess rainwater can also cause erosion and flooding. 

Installing a rain barrel (or two) at your house and/or congregation is both environmentally and financially advantageous.  The rain barrel collects the water from a downspout, and saves it for future use in watering plants, gardens, or grass.  If you are a gardener, or just like to water your grass, using water from your rain barrel will also save you money.  It is also better for your plants as the water hasn’t been chemically treated.

Anything that slows down the flow of water helps recharge the water table by increasing the amount of time the water has to soak into the ground, rather than becoming storm water runoff.  A rain barrel reserves the excess water to future use, but a rain garden is another way to slow down the flow of water.  A rain garden is an area where excess rainwater is diverted after a storm and allowed to pool.  This area is planted with native plants that like “wet feet” and will allow the water to gradually recede. Here in the Midwest, plants like Queen of the Prairie, Blue Flag Iris and Obedient plant will thrive in these seasonally wet conditions and attract wildlife to your yard. 

Instead of allowing God’s precious gift of water to rush through your yard and into the nearest stream, I encourage you to slow that water down and enjoy it.  During the heat of the summer, it is refreshing to take advantage of saved spring rains to revive your thirsty plants. 

Rain barrels can be purchased online, or at local retailers.  You can even build your own –there are many different sites online that provide instructions.  What plants are native where you live?  Check out information about native plants that thrive in your area, as well as nurseries that sell them, at  My neighborhood hosts a native plant business during the growing season (, but if you’re looking for mail order native plants suited to the Midwest, try Prairie Moon Nursery (  Welcome to spring!

Erin Cummisford

Examining World Hunger at Lake Wapogasset (Ox Lake)

This is the fourth in a series of posts highlighting hunger-related activities happening at ELCA Outdoor Ministry locations with the help of Education/Advocacy grants from ELCA World Hunger. The following is from Lake Wapo Lutheran Camp in Wisconsin.


The new opportunities that our ELCA World Hunger Education/Advocacy grant has provided have been extremely beneficial to Ox Lake’s program this summer.  We have been able to use these resources to further Ox’s commitment to being thoughtful of how we live in and care for our world and its resources.  One of our projects has been focused on water.

We purchased two rain barrels and constructed a rainwater collection system on one of our dining halls.  After the first rainstorm we were amazed to see how much water can be collected!  We installed the second barrel closer to the garden, and connected it to the first barrel with a 100-foot hose. Water drains from the first barrel into the second, which we use to water the garden. When the second barrel is full, the first barrel then fills. We use water from the first barrel in the kitchen.  Because of the rainy summer we’ve had at camp and because the system works really well, we’ve been able to water our garden entirely from our rainwater collection system.  We’ve also been able to challenge campers to think about the resource of water and how – and how much – they use it.  Activities designed to illustrate the difficulties many people face distributing and transporting water have further challenged our campers to think about access to clean water.

We also wanted to show the cycle of food, and to discuss the problem of waste and pollution.  We were able to purchase materials to build two different types of compost systems.  Each system shows kids the benefits of composting.  We built a barrel-compost for organic waste from meal preparation and table scraps.  It’s been neat showing kids how organic material breaks down over time.  We empty the broken down material back into the garden.  Explaining to kids that the nutrients from the broken down compost helps our garden grow brings them full circle.  We also constructed a fenced-in, pile-compost used primarily for lawn clippings, garden material, weeds and vegetation etc.  We’ve been able to ask kids about where their waste goes.  We’ve been able to challenge them to think about alternatives to discarding their waste (esp. organic material) in trash cans.

Overall, these additions to the Ox Lake Village Program have challenged campers and staff alike to see that how we live affects our neighbors that live next door and people across the world.  As we seek to love our neighbors as ourselves, we believe that it is essential to think about how we can be better stewards of all that God has given us, and these projects have helped us do that.

Tony Schaden and Sam Pertz