Children's Lantern Exchange Lights The Trail To Peace

November 07, 1990|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER - With dusk descending and voices singing "Let There Be Peace on Earth," children from two area churches, launched a trail of lights across the Community Pond.

The lights, encased in lanterns made by children in the Soviet Union, flickered with youthful messages of peace.

Alexander A. Blazhnov, 10, of Moscow, wrote one of those messages. He scrolled "No Star Wars" across his lamp and asked children here to correspond with him.

As part of the International Peace Lantern Exchange Project, Alexander and about 35 other Soviet children had received lanterns, made at a Bible school here. By September, nearly 50 Soviet youths had created their own lamps in exchange.

The first steps toward Sunday's launch began last summer at the Marketplace Bible School sponsored by the Church of the Brethren and St. Paul's United Church of Christ.

Students, ranging in age from 5 to 12 years, opted to join in the exchange project, founded about three years ago, by James C. and Peggy L.

Baumgaertner of LaCrosse, Wisc.

Each child decorated four panels, which eventually would be formed into a lantern.

On one panel, the child attached his photo and listed biographical data.

On the other three, the children drew pictures.

"We told the kids the ID panel with a picture was a must," said Gary S.

Honeman, chairman of the Brethren Church's Peace Committee. "After that, they had a free hand."

Jill Brewer, 10, said she drew pictures of the U.S. flag, her church and her family. Jeremy Tippett, 9, said he drew his favorite sports -- baseball, football and biking -- on his panels.

Once the project was complete, the panels were mailed to Moscow. Before long, nearly 50 exchange lanterns had arrived and were placed on display in the sanctuaries at both churches.

"The kids felt a lot of pride working on the project," said Susie Scott, who taught at the Bible school. "It's wonderful the Russian children replied so quickly."

Once the panels reached their destination, adults helped the children fold the panels around bamboo skewers, forming a lantern shade. The shade was mounted on a Styrofoam base, and completed with a votive candle.

Lisa and Whit Trovillion, members of St. Paul's, translated the lanterns' Russian messages into English for the children. She said she was impressed with the "creative and beautiful quality" of the young writers and with their attempts to incorporate English into their messages.

"Even the youngest ones tried to write a little English," she said. "The letters show that the Soviets are very aware of threats of war and enthusiastic about peace."

Lisa Trovillion, a Russian language major in college, said she translated a letter from a 66-year-old man, who also made a lantern.

"A man who lived through the Stalin years and World War II wrote that all he wanted to do was to preserve the world and keep peace intact," she said.

She added that many of the Soviet children want to establish a pen pal relationship. She said she and her husband have offered to address letters from Carroll children, in the Cyrillic alphabet.

Honeman said he wanted to do more than display the lanterns with their "messages of hope." He organized a peace service and invited both congregations to the launching at the pond.

"We modified a program typically done of the Aug. 6 anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima," he said. "The tradition, symbolizing one light in an ocean of darkness, began in Japan after the blast."

As parents lit the lanterns for their children, Jed Spencer, 11, offered the prayer he wrote for the occasion.

"May the lanterns carry the light of hope from one distant shore to another," he said. "May they light the way toward continued good with our fellow men."

Honeman said the project is still unfolding and that he hopes it will lead to many international relationships.

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