Tag Archives: community

We don’t do handouts.

It was a bit shocking the other day, to hear another missionary telling a church, “We don’t do handouts!” Shocking, but absolutely spot-on.

Christ said, “The truth shall set you free.” Handouts, on the contrary, lead to dependency, not freedom. So we don’t do handouts.

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Building a bottle-brick cistern in Monduli Juu

We empower people. We teach them how to use the gifts God gave them, to improve their lives and free them and their children. If we help them learn to read, they can then learn to be free from AIDS, or a fear of AIDS. When they build their own water collection system, and their own water filter, it frees them from disease and from trudging miles to a dirty pond for water. They can raise healthier animals and better gardens, and make a better life for their family.We empower them by working with them to use the resources they already have.

If we gave them water filters, we might have a moment’s contact, from a benefactor to a supplicant. That’s not a good relationship for either person. The real need is not for filters or tanks, but for learning, and learning is a two-way street. When we work together to build a filter or a bottle-brick cistern, we all learn, we all have something to offer, and we all build relationships. When we have finished, the people who have built the filter or the tank or have learned to read can go back to their home and teach their neighbors to do the same.

We have certain principles which we use as a measuring stick, a canon in the classical sense, for choosing the work we will do in the community. This is the first: Can local people do this with materials they have or can afford? Put another way, will they need something from elsewhere (America, for example) or money from elsewhere in order to do this again? The answer must be that they can do this with their own resources, or it is not a worthy offering to them. Each thing we do must free them from being dependent; must enable them to help themselves and their neighbors.

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Filed under mission prep, Mission Work

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