2014 Lititz CROP Walk is 44th for retired pastor

By on October 22, 2014
Earl Ziegler in the study of this Brethren Village home. The painting he holds is of his childhood farmstead in Lebanon County. (photo by Dick Wanner)

Earl Ziegler in the study of this Brethren Village home. The painting he holds is of his childhood farmstead in Lebanon County. (photo by Dick Wanner)

A group of 10 people left the parking lot of the Lititz Church of the Brethren early Sunday afternoon, took a three-mile trek and returned to the church having raised $3,205 for the 2014 CROP Hunger Walk. Earl Ziegler, a retired Brethren pastor, was one of the walkers, and at 85 years old, was as enthusiastic and peppy as he was for his first CROP walk. That first one was in 1970, and he hasn’t missed a CROP walk since, which makes it 44 consecutive walks.

CROP (Christian Rural Overseas Program) is the largest fund-raising event for the Church World Service, an ecumenical group of some 37 different denominations. CWS operates a number of programs that deal with hunger, health and poverty both in the U.S. and around the world.

Ziegler’s commitment to his fellow human beings began early in life as he grew up on the family dairy farm in Richland, Lebanon County. His father at the time had the largest dairy herd in the county &tstr; 42 cows. The elder Ziegler was an early adopter of milking machines, and farmed with both horses and tractors. Ziegler remembers clearly, as a boy of 14, plowing behind a team of horses.

And he has an earlier memory, from when he was 12 years old, of a man from Harrisburg visiting the farm, staying for dinner, and asking Ziegler’s father if he would raise heifers for Heifer International, another organization devoted to dealing with hunger and poverty throughout the world. The answer was yes, and when Ziegler graduated from Newmanstown High School (now Elco), and went on to Elizabethtown College, he took with him the stewardship lessons he’d learned at home.

He worked as a pastor and Brethren church administrator until his retirement 10 years ago. He began his CROP walk string when he served as pastor of the Mechanic Grove Church of the Brethren in Lancaster County’s southern end. A 70-year-old church member, Clayton Kreider, urged him to go along on the 1970 walk.

This year’s walk was especially meaningful to Ziegler because of the 276 Nigerian girls kidnapped in April by the group called Boko Haram &tstr; which translates to “education is sinful.” Ziegler said some 95 percent of the girls are Brethren, and he has met many of their parents and grandparents as they came to the U.S. for visits. Some of the girls escaped, but 219 are either missing or still held captive. Every year when he walks, he thinks of the world’s hungry, but the Nigerian children were especially on his mind this year.

Dick Wanner is a staff writer and photographer for the Lititz Record Express. He welcomes your questions and comments at rwanner.eph@lnpnews.com.

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