Monday, September 29, 2008


Knowing the tremendous shortages of food during the later years of World War II, severa denominations and organizations in the United States began efforts to supply wheat for relief. Brethren Service Committee executive M.R. Zigler stimulated interest and organized consultations involved the Brethren and other groups.

As the 1947 wheat harvest approached, a corporation was set up by Mennonite, Catholic, and Brethren individuals. Before any legal body became operative, joint funding by the Evangelical and Reformed Church and Brethren Service Commission started activities, following patterns previously used to ship donated grain via the netherlands Purchasing Commission.

In July 1947, Church World Service agreed to sponsor this type of activity, choosing the name Christian Rural Overseas Program (CROP). John D. Metzler, Sr., moved from Brethren Service Commission to Church World Service employment as the first director. A temporary office was opened in Chicago on the campus of Bethany Biblical Seminary.

CROP was to be self-supporting in administrative costs, to solicit by community campaigns rather than parish appeals, and to encourage designation of gifts to agencies for shipment and distribution. Early in the operations, Lutheran World Relief and National Catholic Rural Life Conference joined Church World Service in the sponsorship of CROP.

As the primary needs of recipients changed from food for survival to commodities necessary to restore a more normal life, shipments grew more varied. Instead of flour, wheat was sent. CROP commodities were a significant part of the flood of materials which stimulated recipient churches to organize to reach the needy.

As world needs have shifted over the years due to natural catastrophies, wars and rebellions, struggles toward modernization and self-sufficiency, there has been continued need for help. CROP has responded with different supplies including tools, well-drilling equipment, windmills, seed, and food used to pay workers for labor on local development projects.

In 1952 CROP headquarters were moved to Elkhart, Indiana. Today CROP works to make people aware of the extent and nature of world hunger. It appeals to the American people for funds and asks them to become personally involved, to make a commitment to changing those things and systems that cause hunger. No longer the Christian Rural Overseas program, CROP, the community hunger appeal, has become a nationwide campaign. It meets immediate needs while helping people help themselves build for a better future, working with and through relief and development agencies in over seventy countries around the world.

Source: The Brethren Encyclopedia
excerpted from article written by John D. Metzler, Sr.