Daughter in Peace Corps asks for 100 books, gets 3 tons

David Waters
Faith Matters (The Commercial Appeal)

His daughter, who teaches overseas, asked him to collect some children's books for her school.
No problem, Tom Walsh told her. He'd make a few calls, send out a few letters. He thought he could come up with at least a hundred.
He started by asking his fellow members at Prescott Memorial Baptist Church. His daughter Meredith grew up in that church and was especially active in the youth group. The group had activated something in her.
With the group, Meredith helped build homes with Habitat for Humanity. She helped deliver MIFA's Meals on Wheels. She provided child care at women's shelters.
In the summer of 1996, the youth group went to the Heifer Project's Global Village in Arkansas to experience for a day what it would be like to live in a Third World village.
Last year, Meredith graduated from college and joined the Peace Corps. She was sent to live and teach in a village in the Philippines.
Meredith lives in a bamboo hut. There is electricity except when there isn't. There is running water, and sometimes it runs into her hut. She eats rice every day, sleeps under a mosquito net and bathes with a bucket.
"My neighbors are so hospitable," she said.
"They bring me gifts like roasted peanuts, corn, papaya. The little girls across the path like to come over and keep me company, drawing, or reading my children's books."
Where Meredith lives, seven hours north of Manila, books are rare, expensive and easily damaged by humidity, flooding and termites. Most kids don't have books. When they see Meredith's books, they are a lot more interested in learning to read.
Not long ago, Meredith decided to start a remedial reading program at the school where she teaches. She's trying to turn an empty room into a library. She needed some books, maybe a hundred.
So, she asked her dad to send her some. Tom made a few calls, wrote a few letters. Then the project went out of control.
A Prescott member who teaches at Christian Brothers University mentioned the book drive to her students.
Then one of the CBU students mentioned the book drive to someone who works at Troll Associates in Memphis. The man at Troll called Tom.
"How many books do you want?" the man asked.
"How many you got?" Tom replied. Troll is a publisher of children's books.
A few days later, Tom heard from another company, which wishes to remain anonymous. The company offered to ship the books to port near Manila, no charge.
Then, Tom heard from a Memphis couple living in Manila. They offered to take the books to Meredith's village, no charge.
Monday, Tom and a few other church members loaded the donated books into trucks and drove them to the anonymous shipping company.
Sometime in the next few days, Meredith will get 178 boxes of books weighing nearly three tons.
"It's all so wild and crazy, so out of control, or, more precisely, out of our control," Tom said.
"It just takes your breath away how God works."

Contact columnist David Waters at 529-2399 or E-mail waters@gomemphis.com. Faith Matters runs on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

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