Joe McFarren runs for clean water

This story that appeared in the Bluffton News-Banner is about a young man who is sacrificing my time, effort, energy for a group of people he does not know so they can have clean water. It is so inspiring. Please let me know what you think of it.


Joe McFarren running in 130 degree heat as a soldier in Iraq



Devotion to a cause can take many routes. One person may donate funds to show support. Another may volunteer time. Joe McFarren of Huntington, Indiana, plans to show his support for a critical Third World need in a dramatic, some would say staggering, way.


Starting June 24, McFarren, 30, will attempt to run from Bluffton to Holland, Michigan. A lifelong runner and athlete in cross-country and track in high school, McFarren will run the 200 mile route at an average of 60 miles the first three days and 20 miles the last. His purpose is for more than personal achievement and fun.


In 2010 McFarren attended the Christ in Youth Conference with members of the high school youth group at the First Church of Christ in Bluffton. McFarren is a sponsor with the church’s youth group.

At the conference McFarren and others heard a talk by Darren Wendell,  director of a Michigan-based Christian organization called Active Water.


“Volunteers with Active Water address the need for clean water in population-dense areas like Zambia, Africa,” said McFarren. “They reduce contaminated water and inadequate sanitation conditions by hiring local people to repair and build wells, thus empowering the people to help themselves.” According to the organization’s website (, people in Zambia walk up to six miles each day to obtain drinking water. Active Water assists people with a lack of clean water in the countries of Asia, as well.


As a senior human resources sergeant with the United States Army stationed at the Fort Wayne armory, McFarren has been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Upon seeing the images and hearing the stories of Zambia, McFarren recalled his experiences living in arid conditions. “While deployed overseas, I not only ran in 130 degree weather, but saw  people who were willing to trade much for clean water, especially to help their families.”


The water problem in Zambia is exacerbated by the fact that much of the water that is available is unhealthy. “Water-borne illnesses kill more people than any other illness,” said McFarren. Poor water quality can increase the risk of such diarrheal diseases as cholera, typhoid fever, dysentery, and other water-borne infections. Water scarcity can lead to diseases such as trachoma (an eye infection that can lead to blindness), plague, and typhus. The average American uses 100 gallons of water for drinking and sanitation; the average Zambian uses five.


 “(Their lack of clean water) weighed heavily on my heart and I wanted to make a difference,” said McFarren.


McFarren has trained for the 200-mile trek for several months, including the completion of a 30-mile race in December 2010. He will use military leave time to participate in the run. His wife, Heather, is an Army Medical processing sergeant at the Marion armory. She is also a runner and  participated with Joe in the Indy 500 Mini-Marathon in May. The couple has two daughters — Sydney, 5 and Sarah, 1. Besides Joe’s immediate family, his parents, Rhonda and Gary McFarren, will meet him at various points of his trek northward. Students attending the 2011 Christ in Youth conference will run the last mile of the run with Joe, who also plans to attend the conference. “These kids are just awesome,” he said. “Their motivation and desire to be true workers in God’s Kingdom are a huge boost to me.”


McFarren is accepting donations for his run, all of which will be contributed to Active Water and is tax deductible. For more information call 765.702.4744 or contact McFarren at his email:


The End


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