THE BLOG

Forging Peace, Growing Peace

01/14/2014 01:16 pm ET | Updated Mar 16, 2014

Once I knew what the tools were made out of, I couldn't stop staring at them even though the fight or flight part of me was triggered, repelled and rapt. They were only garden tools, after all.

One was a small hand rake and the other, a garden mattock which is at both once a fork and a hoe. Or a pick and an adze. A hand tool that's Bronze Age in origins, the mattock is used to dig and chop and is especially effective in hard, rocky soils where planting is backbreaking work. If a mattock was stored somewhere in our garage, I wouldn't give it a second thought until I needed it for springtime planting. But this one, the one in the photograph, belies simple basic functionality. This mattock was hand-forged from a rifle barrel by a blacksmith who donated their craftsmanship to RAWtools.org. It's a significantly serious implement ready for real work. It's not there to be pretty or to become a wall flower. The money raised by that mattock will go directly to RAWtools.org, the organization who is responsible for changing it from a weapon into a garden tool. RAWtools takes guns like AK-47s and .357 revolvers and in true Isiah 2:4 fashion, beats and transforms them, "... swords into plowshares... spears into pruning hooks."

Isiah 2:4

He will judge between the nations
and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.

RAWtools.org is an authentic and promising non-profit affiliated with the Beth-El Mennonite Church in Colorado Springs. Founder and executive director, Mike Martin, leads with peaceful resolve. The raw in its name is 'war' spelled backwards. Its mission is "to repurpose weapons into hand tools to be used in the creation of something new, preventing the weapon's use for violence and creating a cycle of peace."

This organization has repurposing events open to the public across the country and Canada. The Children's Defense Fund held a collaborative event at its 2013 Children's Sabbath in Washington, DC at the National Cathedral. Mike Martin is a blacksmith as well and he works in partnership with other local blacksmiths and non-profits, sometimes faith-based and sometimes not.

Ironically, guns are in short supply when it comes to RAWtools. Sources are scarce compared to the existing demand to beat them into "plowshares." Acquiring guns is one of the biggest challenges Mike faces. It's about trust and relationships. He either connects with lawful private gun owners who no longer want their lawfully owned guns and/or he collaborates with local police departments to secure confiscated (and subsequently disabled) guns in order to blacksmith them into fully fashioned, truly awe-inspiring garden tools. And then he follows the tool's journey to tell its story, from where it's being used to who is using it. That garden mattock on eBay may very well find its way into a community, home or school garden, a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) or a small family farm.

Who will be growing food with a tool like this? How many seeds, sprouts, stalks and acres of fresh, healthy fruits, vegetables, herbs or spices, will it be used to plant, grow, harvest? Who will be cooking this food and getting to eat it? How will this tool's story and more like it, unfold and continue on, from a violent one into a peaceful and bountiful one? You hold the answers. Grow peace.

In honor of Martin Luther King Day, join RAWtools.org and Jacqui Lewis, the Senior Minister at Middle Collegiate Church in New York City on January 19th during its 11:15am worship to see Isiah 2:4 in action and join us throughout the afternoon from 1pm-4pm to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy of non-violence in an intergenerational human rights teach-in and the forging of peace.