By Greg Taylor
Each paragraph of this article marks the death of another person from a preventable waterborne disease.
We are willing to vote, fight, and sacrifice in order to drill and have all the oil we need.
Are we prepared to vote, fight, and sacrifice so that this sentence doesn’t represent another person dying because he didn’t have the most basic physical resource in life?
God created it, hovered over it, destroyed life with it, parted it, lapped it up with fire, walked on it, and drank it at a well. And he gave it to us to drink.
3,900 Died Today
So why do a billion people in the world have to drink dirty water? Humans create injustice and inequity, not God. Folks like us in rich nations have too much. Nearly half the world has too little.
Water. We need clean water to live. And so do the 3,900 precious persons who died today because they didn’t have clean water.
Huge disasters kill hundreds and make headlines. Lack of good water kills thousands every day.
Three thousand nine hundred children and adults died yesterday from cholera, diarrhea, and guinea worm. Another 3,900 will die today. Tomorrow, another 3,900 will die. (Based on statistics from the World Health Organization, 2004.)
So every year, 1.8 million people die from diarrheal diseases, according to the World Water Council.
Each morning millions of children like Maria wake up and fetch water in their villages. Maria scooped the water from between the cows standing, urinating, and defecating in it. Drinking the water made Maria anemic and dehydrated from constant diarrhea.
Maria died this year of a preventable disease, along with approximately 1.8 million others. She could have been in school playing, skipping, and laughing if she’d had clean water.
Who will go and help little girls like Maria get clean water? Shouldn’t this be a major mission of Christians? To see basic justice being done? Isn’t it fair that each person in the world has at least a cup of clean water to drink each day when we have all we want, more than we need?
In the village of Bulanga, Uganda, I couldn’t in good conscience lead people to baptism without also addressing a most basic need: clean water. They drank from the same spring as the cows. Not wanting to enter that water source and foul it further, we dug a pit—a grave—and filled it with water and baptized there. People passing by asked us who was getting buried. We replied, “About 15 people. Want to watch?”
The village also watched as Christians helped drill a water well for Bulanga.
Now little girls like Maria can live rather than suffering a painful death from guinea worm, dysentery, and dehydration.
I worked with Dr. Mark Hall in Uganda, who concluded that a geologist could do more for village health than he could as a doctor. Yes, primary and secondary health providers like Hall are necessary as well, but without the basic building block of clean water, the body is vulnerable to dozens of waterborne diseases. You cannot be healthy without clean water.
Try this: get a bottle of water and go to a cattle pond or mud puddle and fill it with water. Drink it. Not willing? That’s what 1 billion people on earth do every day, and it’s not their fault any more than it’s to your credit that you get to drink clean water every day.
Wanted: An Army
Water justice. I’m looking for an army of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and anyone else who wants to fight for justice to be done in the most simple of needs: water for the world.
My goal is for you to consider giving your life to the cause of water justice. Does this sound extreme? So, what should we call our desperation for oil and gas? The world needs water more than we need cheap gas.
Jesus is the water of life. Water is life, and much of the world doesn’t have this life in either form. There is a strong tie between helping people get water and helping people know Jesus.
Ghana West Africa Mission drilled a water well in a prominently Muslim community, and many people asked why Christians would do this for them. Many decided to follow Christ not only because of the answer but because of the actions of those Christians.
Dick Greenly is a businessman who makes gas and water pumps in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. His life has changed in the last year after traveling to Sierra Leone and helping drill water wells. Now he’s starting a nonprofit and raising millions of dollars a year to drill water wells.
I’ve worked for 15 years around water well drilling and villages in need of clean water. Until this year I had assumed that a well-drilling rig, a generator rig, and a trailer full of pipe was necessary to drill a water well. The cost is typically $3,000 to $10,000, depending on the country, the soil, and the remoteness of the site. These rigs get the job done and will continue to play a key role in getting water to remote areas.
But when I met Dick Greenly along with pastors from several churches, I learned that a water well can be drilled, using a special bit and technique, for less than $100. Pumps of Oklahoma, where Dick is a geologist, is producing low-cost bits and pumps and starting to train people from China to Africa to hand-drill wells. Local people provide labor and build tanks where the water is pumped so it can flow down to the community, giving it new life.
This company has also developed a pump that can be powered by any form of locomotion, but the most innovative is a solar panel that sucks enough power from the sun to suck water from the earth! This solar unit is being installed in orphanages and schools, while the lower-cost drilling and pump (hand pump) is being placed in many communities.
More than 30 paragraphs make up this essay. Each represents a person who has died from waterborne illness since you started reading.
Some people have the means to give generous amounts of money. Others are gifted at fund-raising. Still others can train or use technology or skills to drill wells in all parts of the world. What about you?
If you want to get involved, write me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are the Web addresses of some organizations making a difference in water justice:
Greg Taylor is associate minister with Garnett Church of Christ in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and managing editor of New Wineskins magazine (www.wineskins.org).