Providing Fresh Water
Providing fresh water to people around the world all started with a simple statement from my daughter. “Dad, I want to go to the Amazon on a mission trip!” We decided someone needed to go with her! This decision radically changed my life. I would never be the same.
This Brazil trip was more about making sure my daughter came home instead of having compassion or love for the Brazilian people. While I was saved, I was very immature in my faith. Shortly after arriving, we boarded an Amazon Outreach riverboat in the hottest, stickiest place I’ve ever been. I remember thinking at one point,
“What in the world have I gotten myself into? Sleeping open air in a hammock, on a boat, on the Amazon River with all these crazy strangers?”
On the boat, we had a variety of ministries and I was assigned to the faith team going door to door and praying over each family. For me this was, perhaps, the most awkward and uncomfortable I have ever felt. The two first days, I didn’t say one word. Period.
The third day we were about to head across the river in a small boat to visit a hut on the other side. I sat down in the boat and Pastor Ricky unexpectedly got up and got out of the boat. I asked, “Did you forget something?” His response was the most terrifying thing I had ever heard. “No, you’ve got this”. My plea was, “Please don’t leave me”! Ricky left me not knowing if I was going to throw up or worse. I had no idea what to say or do.
We pulled up to a semi-flooded home seeing the water line on the wood walls where the rising Amazonian water had almost completely covered it. We were warmly greeted by a husband and wife and ushered inside. Shortly after arriving in this home, we realized the floors were raised up with planks because the home was still flooded. The woman asked me if I was thirsty. Here I was this giant American sweating buckets. I over enthusiastically said, “Yes, please”. I half expected her to grab a couple bottles of Ozarka from the fridge, but needless to say, that did not happen.
What I witnessed next changed my life forever. This small woman took two mismatched and cracked glasses outside and stood on a small plank outside their home. She then proceeded to dip water from the river, directly, into these cups. I remember thinking, “No way is she bringing that in for us”, but sure enough, she walked in and handed one cup to me and one to my interpreter. I asked myself, “What the heck am I supposed to do now”? We all have decisions to make at critical times greatly affecting the outcome of our day or our lives. On one hand if I drink this water I will spend the rest of the trip in the bathroom and, on the other hand, if I don’t drink it she will think I’m rude.
For the first time in my life, I was struck with the gross realization that people don’t have clean water to drink. They drink unclean water because that’s all they have.
This was also the first time I clearly heard God’s voice. Or perhaps I should say the first time I listened. HE said “Help them”.
The instruction was so simple but I did not understand it at first. So, I sat on that instruction until I got home. I had no idea what it meant and what I was supposed to do. How can I help them? I worked as a business consultant. What can I do? I reached out to the team doctor and asked, “How many people did you treat for issues coming from unclean water”? The doctor responded, “Oh that’s easy: all of them.” What, all of them? How can this be? The villagers presented symptoms of diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramping, and headaches. Again, I wondered, “Help them”?
I started researching water filtration options knowing we needed portable and long lasting filters.I found a bucket filter made by a camping supply company in late 2012. It attached to any bucket via a fitting and hose. I read the lab tests and it looked promising. It also looked promising as it yielded 350-500 gallons per day and had a lifespan of one-million gallons. Again, I’m just an ordinary guy from the business world so it looked like it would work to me. I bought a few of these and made my family drink the water from a lake near my home in Texas. The good news is no one died and no one got sick!
I decided to bring these filters back to the Amazon in 2014 and I raised the funds for 80 filters! During the fundraising and preparation for our trip, I met two men who became great friends and mentors for me. For all of us that year we just thought this bucket filter was a humanitarian tool and we would hand them out and save physical lives. I don’t think any of us understood God’s plan for this simple filter.
In Proverbs 16:9, we are told “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”
We had the course planned for sure, but the Lord had another plan. God’s plan was to use this “tool” to open a stubborn, sticky door. This tool would allow the true message of Jesus Christ to soften and penetrate even in the darkest and hardest hearts. While this filter would save physical lives, it also provided the living water, truly saving lives…eternally! When tending to their physical need, they became eager to hear the gospel message of Jesus.
The Bible is filled with multiple examples of God using ordinary, untrained, uneducated, and unqualified people to accomplish extraordinary things. My story doesn’t start with any ministry experience or theological training. In this process my greatest gifts have been from the people God has surrounded me with to expand His work.
Hopefully you will hear God also. “Help them”.
- 844,000,000 people lack access to clean, safe drinking water
- Nearly 1 out of every 5 deaths under the age of 5 worldwide is due to water-related diseases
- Since learning how to use this tool, Chris and his team started an organization called The Bucket Ministry (thebucketministry.org) and now work in: Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Belize, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia, Ghana, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, and Nepal.
- 350-500 gallons per day
- 1,000,000 gallon life-span
- Average lifespan is 22-25 years