Monthly Archives: September 2015

Purification: Changing lives with water filters

After we received such positive feedback to our last post, Saving Souls… One Bottle at a Time. I thought it might be valuable to show you another piece of our evangelism strategy: building bio-sand water filters. Like building cisterns using bottle-brick construction, this method has the same clear advantages:

  • It meets a felt need: for clean water & good health.
  • It’s sustainable: anyone can do it with local materials.
  • And it provides a lot of relationship-building time between the local church and the non-believers who want to learn.

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In July, we attended a workshop in Anacortes, WA, on bio-sand water filters. One of the big lessons we learned is that this is a community effort! You can see how everyone was working together in each of these pictures.

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All the time we spent shovelling and sifting sand, mixing concrete, pounding the mold, we were building relationships with the people we were working with. We started our total strangers. After a week of sweating together and eating together, we had become close friends.

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As we worked on this, it became clear to us that this could be a great tool for evangelism. The Maasai understand that dirty water can make them sick; they are constantly looking for maji saafa–clean, safe water. When they come to help build their own water filter, or a filter for their child’s school, they will be building relationships with Christian men and women.

So how well do the filters work?

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As you can see from our graphic, they work very well. They work as well as most commercially available filters, but they can be built by local people, using locally available materials. With a simple modification, they will remove arsenic from water!

Consider the effectiveness of the filters in Goma, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since January 2015, there have been more than 100,000 documented cases of cholera, with over 2,000 deaths. Our friends at Friendly Water for the World (who trained us) trained two teams of BioSand Filter fabricators (one made up entirely of women rape survivors from the war.)  They installed BioSand Water Filters in 26 orphanages, and taught basic hygiene and community sanitation. Since installing these filters, they have completely eliminated cholera: As of September 2nd, there is not a single case of cholera in any orphanage in Goma.

This gives us an opportunity to be a blessing to the community, and a method to spread the gospel. Matthew repeatedly tells us that Christ went about healing people, teaching and proclaiming the news about the kingdom. We emulate His model in our work in Tanzania.

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Filed under Clean Water, mission prep, Mission Work

Saving souls… one bottle at a time

empty soda bottles

What do empty soda bottles have to do with saving souls? 

We made a tremendous discovery while we were helping the church at Monduli Juu!

By the way, Monduli is the general region. Juu means “upper.” We have rented a house in this community, about a quarter mile from this church. Our co-workers, Lewis and Tammy Short, live in Lower Monduli, or Monduli Chini. 

This church–and the community they are located in–has no water supply. They carry water in from streams and ponds a couple of miles away; the same streams and ponds that are used to water animals. It’s not clean water, but it’s all they have. We proposed collecting rain water from the church building, and sharing it with the community.

Initially, we were going to buy large vinyl tanks. We told the church that we would partner with them: if they buy one tank, we will match it. But since they don’t have a lot of cash, that wasn’t working well.

We found a design for building tanks and houses out of discarded soda bottles, filled with dirt. You still have to buy cement, but nearly all your other materials are free. We proposed this to the members of the Monduli Juu church. So after collecting about 500 bottles, we set a day and started building a tank.

We drew a circle on the ground, and mixed concrete to pour a circular floor. While one group was preparing concrete, another group started filling plastic bottles with dirt. We mixed mortar, and started building a circular cistern. When one of the neighbors wanted to learn how to build this way, we all got together another weekend and worked together with her family.

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Mixing concrete on location. You can see the center stake and part of the inscribed circle.

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Filling bottles with dirt and ground pumice. In the background, the first few bottle bricks have already been laid.

That’s when we made our discovery. It took a long time to fill bottles and mix cement and lay bottle bricks, and all that time, people were chatting. They made fun of  each other, and they exchanged phone numbers. They tried to figure out which friends they had in common. In short, this time-consuming, tedious process was a perfect opportunity for evangelism!

It meets a felt need: for good water storage near home.

It’s sustainable: anyone can do it with local materials (and it cleans up the environment!).

And it provides a lot of relationship-building time between the local church and the non-believers who want to learn about this method.

This was exactly the sort of project we had been looking for. This method can help us become a valued part of the community, and can be part of an indigenous evangelism effort.

And that’s how we use empty soda bottles to win souls for Christ!

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Rainwater collection at Andrew Connelly School of Preaching

The main purpose of our 2015 trip was building relationships with the other workers in the area. So we were delighted to work with the folks at the Andrew Connelly School of Preaching in Kisongo, near Arusha. We started building a rainwater collection system for the school. Because the school is buying water in tanker trucks during part of the year, this would save them a lot of money. It could also provide higher quality water than they currently have. It would also support the drip irrigation system that they use in their garden.

Andrew Connally School of PreachingAs you can see, this is a large complex, with a lot of roof. After discussion with Cy Stafford, we decided to build a small system to test our construction design.

We chose to work with the two small roofs on top of the dormitory complex. All the roofs have eavestroughs installed; we just converted them to a rainwater collection system.

I worked quite closely with Lairumbe while I was working on this system. I showed him how to build a “first flush” system, and then asked him to build the next one. When another of the students came to see what we were doing, I asked Lairumbe to explain to them what we were building, and why. At the end of one day, he asked me to come to meet his fiance. They hope to be married in December. Lairumbe is from Monduli Juu, where we will be living next year. His father is one of the elders in the community, and his half-brother Koimere preaches in Monduli Juu.

Building a first flush system

Building a first flush system

The happy couple

The happy couple

We connected the gutter systems on both dormitory roofs to the 5000 liter storage tanks already in place. We built a sand filter to capture any large particles that escaped the first flush system. And then we went to work on a large steel tank on the ground, to capture overflow from these rooftop tanks.

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One of the students helping me build trusses

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Welding a roof truss

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A basic sand filter for the collection system

Partially completed tank

Partially completed tank with trusses ready to lift

A local contractor was hired to construct a PVC liner for this tank, which will be 12 feet deep when completed. Unfortunately, I was injured, and was unable to complete the tank. I spoke with Ely Martin, a christian and local contractor (I had been using his welder), and I believe he can complete this project. If not, I expect to work on it again on our return to Tanzania in 2016.

Full disclosure: I was injured largely because I was working by myself at the time. I have been ordered not to repeat this error. I received treatment at the Tanzania Christian Clinic, and am fully recovered. 

The advantages of this system for the school are quite obvious: better water, more water, less expensive water. However, the huge advantage for me was the opportunity to work closely with both the faculty and students of this school, building relationships that we hope will last for many years.

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Rainwater collection at Tanzania Christian Academy

Evangelism is our primary mission in Tanzania. We are following the example of Christ, who went about teaching, proclaiming the good news, and healing (Matt 4:23, Matt. 9:25, etc.)  Meeting felt needs is a way of reaching people, so they will listen to our good news about Christ.

Building a rainwater harvesting system for Tanzania Christian Academy was one of our dreams for our most recent trip to Tanzania. We didn’t complete the system because of a lack of funds, but we were able to plan the system while we had “boots on the ground.” We hope to complete the system when we return to Tanzania in the spring of 2016.

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Tanzania Christian Clinic & Tanzania Christian Academy (click for a larger image)

The buildings on the left in this picture are the guest house for Tanzania Christian Clinic and the Headmaster’s house for the school, with the clinic in the background, lower on the hill. To the right are the school buildings which are under construction, and in the background, at the upper right, is Mount Monduli. The house we have rented for next year is on the other side of this  mountain. You can see how beautiful this area is!

Here’s the challenge: there is no consistent supply of clean water in this part of the world. There is a long rainy season roughly from March to May, and most years, there is a short rainy season in November. The least amount of rainfall occurs in July. The average in this month is 4 mm (about 0.15 inches). The greatest amount of precipitation occurs in April, with an average of 218 mm (about 8.6 inches). The total rainfall is generally above 29 inches… about as much as Iowa or Kansas. During the dry season, it is dryer than Utah.  There is a great need for clean water in this community.

A rainwater collection system could collect sufficient water during the rainy season to supply the school during the dry season. We would be happy to take donations to help with the cost of constructing this system, or you can make donations directly to Tanzania Christian Services.

 

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Rainwater collection at Lewis & Tammy’s home.

The week before our arrival in Tanzania, Lewis Short posted a picture on Facebook, showing the water that his family had available: about 3 gallons. Three gallons for cooking, drinking, flushing toilets, showers, and everything else for a family of 5–and we were going to be staying with them. So one of the first projects we tackled was a rainwater collection system for their house. It would help, once the rainy season started.

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We bought several tanks, and we hired a welder to modify the Short’s tower so we could install a 2000 liter tank in the base. We also had him build a cradle for the water pipe running from the main house to the tower, so the line wouldn’t sag when it was full of water.

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Twyla catching water

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Ralph, Lewis & Albert collecting water

Soon after we started building the system, it started raining. The rainy season finally arrived, 3 weeks late. We had tanks, but we didn’t have them plumbed in, so we gathered as much water as possible. It made a real difference to have water!

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Before we finished, we had 10,000 liters of storage, and that was full before we left. We learned a lot about available materials and provided a water collection system for the Short family.

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Brief Update

Building a bottle brick cistern in Monduli Juu

Building a bottle brick cistern in Monduli Juu

Twyla and I have both been quite active on Facebook, so our friends who are on Facebook will be aware of the things we’ve been doing.However, several people have reminded me that they don’t use Facebook,and they would like to have regular news about what we are doing.So this blog is one part of our effort to keep people better informed. In addition, these posts will have the advantage of being centered around a theme, rather than the “here’s what we are doing now” quality of Facebook.

So for the next few posts, here’s what you have to look forward to:

  • Rainwater collection at Lewis & Tammy’s home.
  • Rainwater collection at Tanzania Christian Academy.
  • Rainwater collection at Andrew Connelly School of Preaching
  • Constructing a Bottle Brick cistern at the Monduli Juu Church of Christ
  • Visiting the Arusha Game Park
  • Our Non-profit corporation in Tanzania
  • We found a house to live in!
  • Learning to build bio-sand water filters
  • Visiting family and friends
  • A vehicle for Tanzania

That’s a good beginning; these topics will give you a good idea what we have been up to since we left for Tanzania in March.

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