Review – How to Change The World One Penny At a Time

Written by Joel Horst Nofziger on March 1, 2022

Nelson, Dawn Ruth and Beverly Benner Miller, How to Change the World One Penny at a Time: The story of Claude Good and the Worm Project, Morgantown, Pa.: Masthof Press, 2021. 203 pp. Grayscale photos. $14.

Reflecting on an experience of divine leading, Claude Good remembered, “It now dawned on me that the word ‘speak’ is not confined to just ‘words.’ We can also ‘speak’ through our action” (135). How to Change The World One Penny at a Time is a conversational stroll through the life and impact of Claude Good as well as the Worm Project that he began. It is part biography, part travelogue, part ethnography—both of the Triqui people served by the Goods in Mexico, as well as the Mennonite community that sent them to serve—and part organizational history. 

‘How to Change the World One Penny at a Time: The Story of Claude Good and the Worm Project’ 
March 5, 2022, 2 – 3 pm, Rosenberger Meetinghouse Room, Mennonite Heritage Center 
Co-author Bev Benner Miller will talk about her collaboration with Dawn Ruth Nelson in writing the book and be available for autographing book copies. Ceci Good, Claude Good’s daughter, will share what it was like for her family to live as Mennonite missionaries among the Triqui people in a remote and mountainous area of Mexico. Other Board members of the Worm Project will be on hand to answer questions about their work to continue the ministry founded by Claude to provide deworming medicine to children suffering from parasitic worms.

Claude Good, along with his wife Alice and their children, served as medical missionaries in Mexico. While in Mexico, the Goods observed the long-term harm that parasite infections can have on children as they grow into adulthood. From that experience, Claude founded the Worm Project, which distributes low-cost antiparasitic drugs to low-income, at-risk communities across the world. It is these antiparasitic drugs that drive the title, because fifty doses can be bought for a single US dollar. 

Claude Good was born in Spring City, Pennsylvania, to Allen Good and Hannah Gross just before the Great Depression. While farming shielded the Good family from some of the worst ravages of the economic downturn, his childhood was far from easy. Hannah, his mother, died when Claude was six years old, and the family was unequipped to deal with trauma. This experience impacted his work and ministry, where he gave special care for suffering children because “he himself was a child whose suffering went unperceived” (8). 

How to Change the World One Penny at a Time consists of fourteen chapters. The first covers Claude’s early years, with the next eight chapters covering his time at Eastern Mennonite College where he met and married Alice Longenecker, and his time as a conscientious objector doing medical 1-W work in Philadelphia. The bulk of those pages, of course, cover the work—part medical, part evangelical—in rural Mexico. Despite disinterest from the Triqui and resistance from the Catholic church, the Goods formed a small Bible study.  They were aided in their outreach by their medical work, which was their major contribution to the community, providing services ranging from stitching up participants injured during bar fights to dispensing medicine from their living room pharmacy. 

Over their twenty-five years of service in Mexico, the Good family returned to the United States for visits and for furloughs. How to Change the World One Penny At a Time does not shy away from the difficulties encountered when returning home. Chapter 8 provides a frank and helpful account of culture shock and its toll upon mental health. 

The close of the book shifts in focus and in format away from Claude Good’s life and towards the Worm Project. An outgrowth of the medical work in Mexico, Claude understood parasite treatment in children to be an affordable, efficient, and achievable public health intervention. How to Change the World One Penny at a Time gives a detailed account of how he reached this understanding and how he organized The Worm Project both informally and formally to bring his vision into reality. Today, Claude Good’s vision means millions of antiparasitic pills have been distributed, aiding over ten million children. How to Change the World One Penny at a Time is both educational and inspirational. It provides a window into twentieth-century Mennonite life and worldview and provides an example of how a dedicated individual can make concrete improvements in the lives of others through compassion, concern, and dedication. 

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