Monday, January 9, 2012

Water is Life

Kevin Herr '09 shares reflections on his time in Haiti with Water Missions International, and the organization's ongoing work to bring clean water and the gospel message to people in need around the world:

I stood there, waiting for water to flow out of the tap. It wasn’t coming. The crowd grew restless—mothers in line pushed to get in front of each other, kids ran around yelling. Everyone was waiting. Some had been in line for hours, hoping to fill their buckets with clean water to bring home to their families.

My wife and I, both Gordon graduates, had been living in Port-Aux-Prince, Haiti, for over a month at that point, and we were just starting to get accustomed to our surroundings. We had come with Water Missions International, a Christian engineering ministry. I primarily assisted with the Community Development Department, attending community gatherings and meeting with local pastors, while my wife, Janice, taught the Health and Hygiene curriculum.

We were delayed that day due to a broken section of pipe in need of replacement. One side of the long pipe was attached to a submersible pump that went down into a bacteria-filled well. The other side of the pipe went into a small building that housed a Living Water™ Treatment System (LWTS™). The LWTS™ is Water Missions International’s patented water system, capable of purifying disease-infected water at a rate of 10 gallons per minute through a process of filtration and disinfection.

In Haiti, it is common to hear people say, “Water is Life,” and it’s true. As I stood there in front of the anxious crowd, waiting for the new pipe to be installed, I understood what water truly meant to these people. I could never imagine an American family waiting in line for hours just to get a drink. But this wasn’t a new experience for these Haitians—they didn’t have access to safe water before the 2010 earthquake, either. Driving down the road, I would frequently see people collecting water from dirty streams or run-off ditches.

Worldwide, this lack of safe water causes the death of one child every 15-20 seconds. But that message, on its own, has a hole: Safe water is certainly a staple of healthy communities, but true transformational development will never take place without Jesus at its core. Providing safe water to these populations allows us an incredible opportunity to tangibly share the love of Christ. Many times, I, or one of our Haitian staff, would hold up bottles of clean and dirty water while sharing the gospel message—the correlation between the safe and the Living Water is so clear!

Janice and I were blessed to have spent two months in Haiti. It’s been over a year since we returned, and I now oversee the Church Engagement Program for Water Missions International. When I speak with churches, I can communicate with confidence the direct impact that their involvement has on people’s lives, because I’ve seen it first hand.

My passion for international missions developed during my time at Gordon College, where I participated twice on Mexico Outreach trips and then led a trip to Guatemala with World Focus. Without these experiences, I wouldn’t be where I am today. It’s incredible, the work that the Holy Spirit does inside of your heart when you leave your comfort zone and rely on him. If you give him the control, there’s no telling where you might end up. 

Kevin and Janice Herr (both ’09) live in Charleston, SC. Kevin and Janice graduated from Gordon College with Business Administration and Biology degrees, respectively. Kevin is currently working on a church initiative called Water Sunday (recently featured in a front-page article at the Christian Post)—one Sunday for churches to dedicate to educating their congregations about the global water crisis.The goal is for 50 churches to host Water Sundays in March 2012, raising enough funds to bring safe water and the Living Water message to 25,000 people worldwide.To learn more about how your church can host a Water Sunday, visit their website here.

Water Sunday from Water Missions on Vimeo.

Photo: Kevin and a Haitian boy work on the Living Water™ Treatment System.

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