O-U team trains to provide clean water


Special to the Advocate

OXFORD — Not long ago, six members of a mission team at Oxford-University United Methodist Church didn’t know much about reverse osmosis, water testing or covenant making. 

That changed after attending a Clean Water U training school at Camp Hopewell in Oxford. Clean Water U, a training school for Living Waters of the World, is a four-day simulation experience designed to equip mission teams with the skills necessary to form partnerships with communities in need of clean water, install a community-based water treatment system and equip local leaders to lead ongoing health, hygiene and spiritual education. 

Every year 3 million people die of water-related illness, most of them children, according to Living Waters of the World. With training from Clean Water U, the six member team from O-U UMC is ready to change that statistic one community at a time.  

“I’ve heard from people who have been on mission trips that the primary illnesses were from water,” said Scott Rone who attended a workshop on how to build a water treatment system. “I thought this was something that would appeal to me, and I can’t wait to try it out.” 

The local mission team was part of the more than 50 students from 11 states, Mexico, Kenya and Ghana that participated in the training which began on Oct. 18. During the four days, each mission team sent members to classes in leadership, education and installation to become equipped in the skills and know-how to bring fresh water to a needy community. 

“The whole point of this is to simulate what they will run into in the third world. They will start with literally just the parts and build the whole system to completion,” said Living Waters of the World administrator Steve Young. 

So far Living Waters for the World, a global mission resource of the Synod of Living Waters (Presbyterian Church USA), has served as a resources to churches, civic organizations and others and helped them install 92 systems in 14 countries over the last 11 years.  

“When you train people how to do this, you can multiply the number of systems installed very quickly,” Young said about the mission’s goal of teaching local people how to install and operate each system.  

For members of the team, providing clean water is a significant step in reaching others with the gospel message. 

“Water is a source and symbol for life,” said O-U UMC associate pastor Claire Dobbs. “Anything that promotes community and empowering others to promote life is worthwhile for a Christian community to embrace. This ministry seems like a practical, hands on and spiritual way to do that. We are looking forward to the experience.” 

“Not only are we going as missionaries but we are empowering these communities to be missionaries to neighboring communities,” said O-U UMC adult ministries director Danny Kelly. 

Kelly and Dobbs will both participate in the first trip, which will take place early next year in the Mexican Yucatan area.  

The training school focuses on two types of batch water systems. The standard system costs about $2,500 for parts and cleans bacteriological contamination.

The more complicated system, the one the team at O-U UMC is preparing to install, costs about $6,000 for parts and is able to clean water that is salty, has heavy metals or is hard. 

“We flush more water in one day in the United States than a family of five in a developing country uses in a week,” Young said. “This dramatically changes their health, especially the children.” 

“It’s nice to do something that brings people together. Everybody becomes friends and realizes we are brothers and sisters in the world together. That becomes very clear when you bring clean water to a community,” Young said.  

While Brent Hampton and Rone were learning how to connect filters to pipes, other team members were in class learning how to begin and carry out the mission. Jean Shaw and Ken Parkinson participated in CWU 101 where they learned the fundamentals of field survey, water testing and partnership development needed to negotiate contracts with a community in need of clean water.  

“I got a tremendous amount of information about setting up a partnership with people who were previously strangers and in another culture and country,” Shaw said.  

 “I have seen people in different parts of the world who are taking water right out of a muddy river to their home. It was very compelling to me,” Shaw said. “That idea was strengthened because in our training we had international people from three different countries. They just solidified the idea that there is a tremendous need out in the world."

The rest of the team, Dobbs and Nicole Gladden took CWU 102 where they learned the skills needed to lead the training for in-country instructors in health, hygiene and spiritual curriculum. 

Water: A Crisis in Our Time

  • 40 percent of people have no access to clean water
  • 3 million people die every year from preventable water-related diseases
  • Scarcity of water has created more refugees than all the wars in history, producing “hydrological poverty”
  • Future wars will more likely be fought over water than oil
  • Chronic intestinal disease reduces the body’s ability to absorb food, creating “malaborptive hunger”

Source: livingwatersfortheworld.org