As of today, donations have topped over $750,000. Amazing.
Just over a week ago, a young girl died as a result of a 14 car pileup on a freeway just outside Seattle. The fact that nine year old Rachel Beckwith’s life was cut short painfully early goes without saying, yet finding the right words to describe the breadth of her life’s impact is almost an impossible feat.
Before moving to Hawaii, I used to attend a church just outside Seattle called Eastlake Community Church. About a year ago they put on a fundraiser for a nonprofit called Charity Water. Eastlake was partnering with Charity Water to provide clean drinking water to people in third world countries. The fundraiser was a huge success and had a big impact on the congregation and community, as well as on those who received the aid.
Rachel and her family attended Eastlake Church. Rachel learned about Charity Water through that event, and decided that instead of getting presents for her 9th birthday, she wanted to start her own Charity Water fund—an impressively selfless act for one so young. She raised $220 for her birthday, just short of her original goal of $300. Sadly, one month later she passed away in the traffic accident.
As a tribute to Rachel, her family reopened the Charity Water fund that she had started for her birthday just one month before. What has transpired in the week since then has been astounding. By today, over three quarters of a million dollars has been donated to her fund, making this the single biggest fundraising event in Charity Water’s history. Nearly 40,000 people in third world countries will have access to clean drinking water because of Rachel’s initial gesture of love.
It’s likely that many of you, if not all, have already heard Rachel’s story. My intention in writing about this story isn’t simply to rehash a bittersweet news piece that has a happy ending. There is so much more to Rachel’s story and her life than any of us could possibly know. The last thing I want to do is marginalize her family’s loss by writing some pithy blog about the events of this past month. However, I think it’s worthwhile to take a step back and look at these events to see what I can learn, and what we at TFP can take away from Rachel’s story.
There are several basic elements that are woven throughout this entire event. These key threads are a powerful reminder to me as I consider where we’ll be heading in a month’s time.
We know that this world is rife with trouble. Yet, there are times when we have to wash the dirt of our eyes in order to see anew and be reminded again that there is much in this world that needs changing. Even at her young age, Rachel’s eyes were opened to this reality through her church. She became aware of a need, and so she did what she could to help.
It began with Rachel humbling her spirit and giving up that one event that every child looks forward to throughout the year. She sacrificed her birthday and those wonderful gifts that come along with it. This initial sacrifice has been followed by sacrificial giving on a massive scale.
No great journey comes without its fair share of uncertainty. Rachel’s story is full of uncertainty; from her decision to start her own birthday fund, to her parent’s decision to reopen the fund, and even now as her family tries to regain some level of equilibrium in the midst of their loss.
It is abundantly evident that God’s hand was at work in Rachel’s life. Even though her initial gift may have been considered small to some, the massive scale of giving that has followed is testament to God’s involvement.
As I consider what kind of sacrifices I’ll be making in order to make this first trip to Kenya with TFP, I’ve been increasingly preoccupied with the ‘here and now’ sacrifices—those things that I’m giving up now or within the next few months. These things inevitably center on money, jobs, and activities. But hearing Rachel’s story reminded me that achieving goals on a grand scale doesn’t simply require an initial ‘investment,’ it often requires of us that we bear the burden of continued sacrifice. For Rachel’s family that will involve carrying forward with the loss of someone whom they loved dearly. As for me and TFP, well, that remains to be seen.