Clean water mission organizations flow into developing world

Water is essential to survival. Access to clean water around the world is inconsistent and an unfortunate hallmark of impoverished nations. According to current UNICEF statistics, about 2.5 billion people in the developing world – roughly 50 percent — do not have regular sources of clean water. This fact is not lost on numerous Christian mission organizations which make providing clean water for people internationally their business and an expression of faith. Everyday Christian profiled three of the numerous groups involved daily in the fight to provide the clean water often taken for granted in the United States. Hydromissions International Steve and Jennifer Lorch had plenty of meaningful personal experiences to lead them down the path toward creating their own company. The South Carolina couple became interested in water projects through their church and took a drilling course in 2001. Two years later Steve, who is a surgical nurse by trade, went on a medical mission to the Dominican Republic and observed that most of the medical needs of the local population could be mitigated by regular access to clean water. The wheels began turning into making water missions a passion and a career when Hydromissions was formed in 2004. “I think water is a physical need which is so basic that it opens a lot of doors in so many places, Steve Lorch explained. “Getting a good water supply addresses so many needs from waste management to hygiene. There are also so many direct correlations which can be made to the Gospel with living waters that there are points of reference to bring it alive in an understandable way.” A unique spinoff of the mission is teaching people how to make their own soap and be proactive in their own personal care. “We can’t emphasize enough the importance of teaching hygiene as part of water usage,” Lorch said. “It’s something that we tend to take for granted, but things like hand-washing and proper waste disposal methods are very important teach. “Some countries tax soap and it becomes something a lot of local people can’t afford. There is a craft to soap-making and it’s something we can teach as a micro-enterprise which people can barter and sell with.” A creative business model is at the heart of Hydromissions’ efforts. The company builds and sells water pumps and related items and a limited liability corporation (LLC). The mission project which goes into the field is run as a traditional 501(c)3 non-profit. That way, all the money made from the physical material is separate from the non-profit and not donations to it go toward administrative expenses or overhead. “Let’s say that you write a check to your church,” Lorch said. “That money can go to anything from paying the electric bill to ministry outreach. In this case 100 percent of the contributions to the non-profit go to field projects.” And from a ministry standpoint, Lorch has seen memorable results. “Success is not measured in gallons per minute,” he said. “Some of the most memorable trips we’ve taken which have had the greatest impact for Christ have had the least impact from a water standpoint. “We had a trip to India where we hit water in village and the well kept collapsing. We had to try different techniques to teach the locals and there was some frustration. We had learned there were a group of nearby pastors and other Christians who wanted to help. This was a community which had been completely closed to Christians. We were able to come up with a new well and were successful to the point where the village elders thanked us and allowed a mud hut to be used as a church as well as allowing members from the dalit class (traditionally at the bottom of the Indian caste system) access to the wells. When it come to the love of Christ, that was a pretty memorable one.” Water Missions International Since its founding growing out of a response to Hurricane Mitch in Honduras in 1998, Water Missions International (WMI) now has a presence in 41 countries. “We are fully immersed in every step of the process,” explained WMI communications specialist Lindsay Wine. “It’s not always a matter of digging wells. Working with existing water sources and working on water purification strategies is important. There may be existing water we might look at think is clean that is filled with bacteria that is making people very sick. “In that case we’ll go through a chlorination process to work on making the water potable. We’ll have engineers test the water sources as we go along to make sure it is in proper working order. We don’t leave until we’re certain we have what we need. There is a ministry component where we are able to share the Gospel after having built a relationship with a particular community.” The relationship building process for the Charleston, S.C.-based ministry is aided by partners around the world and a working relationship with FedEx to deliver needed parts and supplies globally to meet demands. “One way we’ve been able to expand our is we’ll have ministry partners in other countries who will tell us about a water project which needs to be done in a particular place and we’re able to come in, help and establish relationships,” Wine explained. The partnership with FedEx, which Wine said was critical, allows WMI to respond nimbly to disaster such as last month’s earthquake damage in Indonesia. “We had existing water systems in the country positioned, and because of that we were able to respond immediately,” Wine said. “It has been a blessing on our end to be in a position to help right away.” Assistance to Indonesia and South Asian neighbor Sri Lanka was born of necessity in response to the massive 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. WMI ordinarily gets field reports from these predominantly Muslim countries and from locales in Africa with polytheistic cultures inquiring as to why Christians from the other side of the world are concerned about their welfare. “As an example, we had one person in Indonesia recently walk up to a technician after having been in the community for a couple of days asking to tell him about God,” Wine said. “We don’t push it, but people are very open to hearing the message when they see the relationships we build.” With This Ring Like Hydromissions, With This Ring is built on an entrepreneurial business model. Founder Ali Eastburn, wife of Southern California pastor Ken Eastburn, took a look at the diamond on her ring finger and decided it could be better served being sold to serve Africans in need of clean water. The ministry has expanded it outreach since its inception two years ago. Fifty-one rings and other jewelry have been donated this year as a total of seven wells have been dug in West Africa. “The new well we just funded will be dug in (the) Yendi (region) in Ghana,” Eastburn explained. “We are still working on providing that entire region with clean drinking water. We have now funded 7 wells in that particular region. “We have done wells in Sierra Leone as well, but now our full attention is on Yendi where about 90,000 local villagers reside. We have since provided tens of thousands of people there with clean water but we still have at least 10 more wells to go.” She added that the recession has not a negative impact on giving. “The amount of rings given this year is still going up so I think in terms of donations we are having a great year and don’t really feel the impact of the poor economy,” Eastburn said. “However, if we look at our growth in terms of transformed lives, it’s a landslide compared to last year. So many people have literally changed the way they live, and how they view their possessions today is far different than what it was before. That’s huge because that’s an economy never changes, one that depends on God, not man.” That impact is boosted by the enthusiasm of people who become involved with the ministry for the first time. “It’s interesting, but most of the time we see people diving in head first instead of just sticking a toe in the water,” she said. “That’s how I know God is in this. He is already working in the hearts of people far before they ever hear about With This Ring. “The other thing that’s really cool is that we don’t ever go to a function or event and ask for anyone’s ring or prized possession. We just share WTR stories. It never happens because of an ask. It always happens as a move of the Holy Spirit on someone’s heart. And to be honest I wouldn’t want it any other way.” Links: Hydromissions International: http://www.hydromissions.com/index.htm Water Missions International: http://www.watermissions.org/ With This Ring: http://www.everydaychristian.com/news/story/2144/

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