This post is my contribution to the 40 Day Fast. I blogged last year about Blood:Water Mission, and decided to do the same again this year because I believe in the work they are doing. Blake is blogging for team two today
In Frederick Buechner’s book Telling Secrets: a memoir, he recounts in brief a story he had shared in an earlier book:
“I described what from the outside looked like a trivial domestic scene with my mother but which turned out to be such a watershed of my life that I must describe it briefly now. We were just about to have a pleasant dinner together when a friend of mine telephoned to say that his family had been in an awful accident and to ask if I would come wait with him at the airport where he was to catch a plane to where the accident had happened. My mother was furious. She said I was a fool to think of ruining our evening together for such a ridiculous reason as that, and for a moment I was horrified to find myself thinking that maybe she was right. Then the next moment I saw more clearly than I ever had before that it is on just such outwardly trivial decisions as this – should I go or should I stay – that human souls are saved or lost. I also saw for what was maybe the first time in my life that we are called to love our neighbors not just for our neighbors’ sake but for our own sake, and that when John wrote, “He who does not love remains in death” (1 John 3:14), he was stating a fact of nature as incontrovertible as gravity.”
I started writing an essay last year that I haven’t returned to yet, titled On Being Selfish. The gist of the essay was that, while I help others in part because of the consequences for them if I don’t, I’ve come to realize that one motivation for me is the knowledge of what kind of person I’ll become if I don’t, what it will do to my soul if I make every decision based on how it will benefit me, based only on what I can get out of it.
In last year’s post about Blood:Water Mission, I wrote about how often a mother or her children are forced to walk 15 miles or more to get water. They do it to get water to survive, but without a clean water source, the water they go to such lengths to obtain will eventually kill them. I wrote about how the need to travel such distances for water not only affects the health of the family, but, because it can take up most of the day, the ability to become educated and to accomplish other basic tasks, and thus retards the process of a family, a community, rising out of abject poverty.
Today, I’d like to write about another issue that Blood:Water addresses that I haven’t seen talked about much: sanitation. Last week, I had the opportunity to sit down for an hour at a coffee shop in downtown Nashville with Aaron Sands, Director of Donor Relations and Development for Blood:Water Mission. While we were talking, Derek Webb, one of the spokesmen for Blood:Water, came over from a nearby table he’d been working at, and we talked about the Ride:Well bike tour, which ends this Saturday, and some of the ways one participant, author Donald Miller (Blue Like Jazz, To Own a Dragon), has been able to raise awareness of the work Blood:Water is doing, like with this video.
During the course of our talk, Aaron mentioned the difference it makes if health and hygiene are addressed when they enter a community, and how the benefits are even greater when sanitation is addressed as well. When he got back to the office, he sent me this statistic from the 1000 Wells Project staff: “Our experiences as well as countless studies show that providing clean water in a community will bring a 15-20% reduction in water borne diseases. If health and hygiene training (handwashing, food prep, etc) is provided as well, the reduction improves to 35%. If sanitation is addressed, a 60-65% reduction in water borne diseases occurs. Clean water is a doorway in, but is limited in its effect because habits and practices (and places to do them) must be reformed as well!”
The main campaign Blood:Water has going on is their 1000 Wells Project. Four years into the project, they have been able to fund 340 wells in 11 countries, making clean water available to more than 276,000 people in Africa. Each well provides water to anywhere from a few hundred people up to a thousand, on average. They have wells in smaller villages that provide all the water a community needs, and then they have wells in places like refugee camps in the Sudan, camps that are home to 40,000 people. At one point they had seven or eight wells in one camp, with people still lined up to get water around the clock.
The wells do more than just provide water to live. In places like Rwanda, they have seen communities come together over their mutual need for clean water, people groups with a long history of animosity putting aside their differences, for at least a little while, and beginning to build relationships. Blood:Water works with local groups in each community that are given the task of instructing people in health, hygiene, and sanitation practices, as well as being responsible for maintenance of the well, so that long-term change will happen. “By working in partnership with community members at the grass roots level and with larger organizations dedicated to their empowerment, the 1000 Wells Project is contributing to the holistic development of 1000 communities.”
If you want to be a part of the work Blood:Water Mission is doing, they have a number of suggestions on their website of ways you can contribute. Their Two Weeks of Sacrifice campaign is an easy way you can help make a difference, and one I’d recommend.
Quoting Frederick Buechner again, in his book Secrets in the Dark – A Life in Sermons, he has one sermon that I find myself returning to again and again, Waiting. He writes,
“Much of what goes on in churches, I’m afraid, is as shallow and lifeless as much of its preaching, and as irrelevant to the deep needs of the people who come to church hungering for a sense of God’s presence that they more often than not never find. The church is not just in the hands of the charlatans and clowns who are apt to be the ones who represent it to millions on television, but in the hands also of good and faithful people who nonetheless often seem to be going about the business of church, the busyness of church, with so little real conviction or passion or joy that it is no wonder pews tend to be emptier every year. And yet, in spite of all this, the church is also, in St. Paul’s unforgettable metaphor, the Body of Christ. On this planet at least, church is the only body that for the time being Christ has, which is to say that you and I are the only bodies Christ has. He has no hands to reach out to people with except our hands, no feet to go to them except our feet, no other eyes to see them with, no other faces to show them his love.”
I’m reminded of a quote that author/musician Michael Card has on the wall of his recording studio: “Let the excellence of your work be your protest.” While Mike was thinking of his music when he had that quote printed there, it applies across the board. So when I get frustrated with what I sometimes see in the American church or on religious television, when I don’t like the image presented of the Church, my response should be not one of despair or cynicism, but an increased desire to be the body of Christ, to show his love to others. To take personal responsibility for the perception those around me, and those across the world, have of Christ’s body. To live as if the Gospel were true, as if Christ truly will make all things new. As if Christ has made all things new. And hopefully I’m tending toward the latter response a little more every day.