Singing for Clean Water

He seems relatively amused when people quote lines from the most famous song he’s ever recorded, but this day he was pretty serious. So as I walked the streets of Gualey with Richie Furay, I kept this thought to myself: There’s something happening here; what it is ain’t exactly clear.

Furay was moved by both the poverty of the people and the fact that they were getting clean water from their local church.

“I had to wipe tears from my eyes when I walked through that community,” he said later. “People are living like that, and we’re quibbling over the price of gasoline for our cars.”

Furay, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997 as a founding member of both Buffalo Springfield and Poco, has been a Calvary Chapel pastor for more than 20 years in Broomfield, Colorado. He has a new book out this year, Pickin’ Up the Pieces, and a new CD, Heartbeat of Love, which features Neil Young, Jim Messina, and other former bandmates who went on to start groups such as Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young; Loggins and Messina; and the Eagles.

Furay doesn’t talk much about his days in the rock world, although when pressed he will provide some details about the weekend he spent in jail with Eric Clapton. Most of what Furay has to say about those days is in the book For What It’s Worth: The Story of Buffalo Springfield.

But he has started to tour more. A recent concert he gave was a benefit for Healing Waters International. A month later he traveled to the Dominican Republic to see the fruits of that concert firsthand.

“I couldn’t wait to get home and tell my church about what I saw,” he said. “I know that Jesus said, ‘The poor you will have with you always,’ but what we saw there was off the charts. This is life and death.”

Another statement from Jesus also seemed more poignant after what Furay saw. “Jesus said, ‘Whoever drinks of me will never thirst again,’” he said. “Healing Waters is built on the essential thing of life—both physically and spiritually.”

So maybe what is happening here is exactly clear. Clear as water.

Dean Nelson directs the journalism program at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Science & Spirit magazine, and the Utne Reader. His new book, The Power of Serving Others, written with Gary Morsch, was released this summer by Berrett-Koehler of San Francisco.


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