Kiss a cow to fulfill a vow

EVERETT – The serious fight to end world hunger and poverty assumed a humorous look Sunday.

Pastors David Parks and Mark Samuelson kneeled on the lawn of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Everett, puckered up and planted a few big smooches on Tilly, a 5-year-old miniature zebu cow from Cathcart.

For her part, the shy cow endured the attention, batting her eyes a few times and attempted a love nudge with her horns.

The kisses were the fulfillment of a pledge that the two religious leaders made to their flock for doubling a fundraising challenge.

“It wasn’t as bad as we thought,” said a white-robed Samuelson, feeding the pastor-ized cow a piece of carrot after the peck.

Tilly’s handler, Jeanne Whitney, explained that she thoroughly washed Tilly’s face earlier in the morning.

Our Savior’s 1,500-member congregation set out last fall to raise $5,000 for Heifer International.

It wound up raising $10,000 for the Arkansas-based nonprofit organization that provides livestock and training to struggling families around the globe.

Making donations to the charity has gained popularity during recent Christmases as an alternative to traditional gift-giving.

Legendary CBS News anchorman Walter Cronkite and former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton are a few of the notable figures who have endorsed Heifer International.

The group’s mission echoes the old self-sufficiency adage: “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day; teach him to fish, feed him for a lifetime.”

Animals from Heifer provide milk, eggs, wool and other resources that can help provide nutrition and income for the poor.

Heifer recipients are required to “pass on the gift” by giving the first offspring of their livestock to another family in need.

“They’re helping people to help themselves,” said Val Spraggins, a volunteer with Our Savior’s in Everett.

Candice Taylor, a church member who recently retired from Cascade Bank, spearheaded the effort, and got the pastors and congregation to buy in, she said.

Notices were placed in the church bulletin and mentions of the effort were repeated during sermons and Sunday school.

Worshippers were receptive to the call, and collected enough money to buy two of what Heifer International calls “Gift Arks,” filled with pairs of each animal that the organization offers, including cattle, oxen, water buffalo, sheep, pigs, llamas, goats, rabbits, chickens and camels.

The group has helped people from the Navajo Nation in the American Southwest, war widows in Uganda, peasant farmers in Ukraine and scores of others around the world.

The group distributes resources where it deems them most needed.

Pastor Parks said participating in a program that gives livestock to the poor “teaches kids that there is a tangible way to make a difference,” he said.

As piglets with curly tails, blue-eyed angora goats and children in their Sunday best mingled, lessons of compassion were solidified.

A little fun was mixed in, too.

“I think he likes me,” said Jaynie Murray, 4, backing away from Jose the donkey, as he licked her open hand.

Pastor Samuelson said links between global warming and draughts make tackling world hunger even more urgent.

“Unless the developed world takes the responsibility for the poor, there is going to be great suffering,” he said.

Indeed, the statistics are already alarming.

Every day 100,000 people – roughly the population of Everett – die from hunger-related diseases, according to the United Nations.

Another 842 million people suffer from chronic hunger, more people than live in the United States, Canada, Japan and Europe combined, according to the U.N.’s World Food Program.

Al Butler of Snohomish, who has attended Our Savior’s for the past 20 years, used his daughter’s horse trailer to shuttle in livestock to Sunday’s event.

Last Christmas, his family gave up regular presents, and instead donated enough money to Heifer International to buy a goat.

His church’s sizable donation will provide even more hope for the future.

“That’s a lot of animals for a lot of needy people,” he said.


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