By Lauren Hollon
Of the many ways life in the United States differs from life in Kenya, few are harder to imagine than spending a fourth of one’s waking hours walking for miles, hauling a bucket, building a fire, boiling water and waiting for it to cool, all for a drink.
One community in Busia, Kenya has gotten a chunk of their lives back, thanks to a North Texas church in partnership with Buckner and Water Missions International.
The Church on Rush Creek has been partnering with Buckner for three years to minister in the community of Mudoma in Busia, Kenya. The church takes a mission trip there every year to do Vacation Bible School for the 50 orphans in foster care.
While touring the Community Development Center during their August 2008 trip the group noticed a water pump that no one used.
“We got to talking to one of the people in the community, and they said, ‘Oh, yeah, we can’t use this well,’” said Norm King, the team leader for Rush Creek’s partnership with Buckner in Kenya. “We pumped some water out and it was nasty and smelled bad.”
“The water was black,” he said. “If you boil it, it stays black. They couldn’t even wash clothes in it, because it stains them black.”
The government Ministry of Water in Busia dug the well in 2006, but the water was unsafe to drink from the start due to its high iron content, said Dickson Masindano, country director for Buckner in Kenya. The nearest clean water was four to six kilometers away.
Back in the United States, trip leaders made connections with Water Missions International, a Christian organization familiar with the area. They worked together on evaluating the site to determine if repairing the well was feasible, sustainable and beneficial. They also worked with Buckner staff in-country to make sure the project lined up with Buckner’s goals there.
After three months of gathering information, Water Missions determined the project was possible with a budget of $30,000.
Pastor Russell Barksdale presented the need to the church one Sunday during the service.
“He said, ‘Look, this is something we need to do. It’s going to save lives, benefit the community and build up the local church,’” King said.
King said his biggest thrill is presenting something to God and watching it happen. He had no doubt the money would be raised within a year, but after Barksdale presented it to the congregation, they collected $30,000 that day, in one offering.
“My jaw dropped,” said King, “and we were able to call Water Missions and say, ‘Whatever y’all need to do, do it.’”
Water Missions works through prominent local community members, gathering civic leaders, church leaders and tribe elders.
“They form a team to say, “This is our well; this is what we need to do,’” King said. “It was done by Kenyans. It was Kenyan engineers, Kenyan community leaders and Kenyan Buckner representatives that made it happen.”
The well was completed and dedicated on December 9, 2009.
“A number of community leaders came to me after the dedication service and said they had 24 deaths the previous year due to waterborne diseases, because even if they traveled to get water from other wells, it wasn’t being filtered,” King said.
“Can you put a price tag on even one life saved by clean water? When I learned that, all the stress and work was worth it.”
The well has made a huge impact on the local community in its first year of operation, King said. Before, people were spending four hours each day collecting and purifying water.
“The kids don’t have to choose anymore between going to school or spending the day fetching water,” King said.
The well is opening doors for the local church, too, said Brian McFadden, compassion and community pastor at Rush Creek.
“The site of the well is where the church and the school are located, and it’s those folks who are actually operating the well. So when people come in to draw water, there is a believer there to build relationships with them.”
“It was exciting when we went back in 2010 to see how people are still so thankful for something that we consider a basic thing that we have in every single home,” McFadden said.
Buckner and Water Missions helped the community form a committee that is responsible for the implementation, maintenance and oversight of the system.
“The committee is aimed to foster the sustainability of the project,” Masindano said.
“All in all the project has created this sense in the community that Buckner indeed is keen about meeting the needs of the community in which it works,” Masindano said.
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