Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Drinking Water and Christian Missions

When Jesus talked to people during his brief earthly ministry, he described himself as the "Bread of Life" and "Living Water". By comparing the unseen needs of the human soul with tangible and universal physical human needs everyone could relate to, Jesus made it easier for people to visualize their "hunger" and "thirst" for the type of spiritual fulfillment which only Jesus could offer to mankind.

By feeding the hungry and healing the sick, Jesus earned the credibility he needed to have when claiming that God genuinely loved people and cared about all of their needs.

Christian missionaries have long recognized the link between missionary endeavors designed to lead to spiritual regeneration and charitable acts pertaining to fundamental human needs such as food and drink, housing and medical care.

While tragedies such as drought and famine are clearly to be avoided whenever possible, such tragic events have sometimes had positive aspects as well. Such events have caused people in desperate need of help to be more receptive to new ideas introduced by missionaries who have cared about those disaster victims enough to respond to crises with fresh arrivals of outside food and water.

In many third world countries, problems pertaining to lack of safe and plentiful drinking water have led to all kinds of evil results, not the least of which has been the rampant proliferation of various diseases with which those in more developed nations seldom have to deal.

Medical missionaries, in particular, have recognized the pointlessness of trying to combat diseases without addressing the causes of those diseases. Consequently, one of the first things missionaries often do when visiting such countries is to help build new wells in order to alleviate many of the problems caused by the lack of adequate and safe drinking water.

No doubt, that type of traditional work will continue to be needed for a long time to come. But just as the invention of the airplane forever changed missionary work by making it possible for missionaries to visit remote villages deep in the jungle without having to spend months and months trying to get to those locations, there are now new technologies which seem to have a great deal of potential in terms of providing short-term and long-term solutions to drought conditions.

I just read about a company named Aqua Sciences, located in Miami Beach, Florida. According to an article I read in a recent national magazine, Aqua Sciences makes a product (available in several sizes, capabilities and prices) which is capable of pulling vast quantities of safe drinking water out of the air on a daily basis. It can be powered in multiple ways, including a diesel generator or local AC power.

Once a community has begun to produce adequate crops for the purpose of creating biodiesel fuels in addition to meeting all of the community's nutritional requirements, a switch from regular diesel fuel to environmentally friendly biodiesel fuel might enable such communities to continue to generate drinking water without further contributing to a depletion of the world's oil reserves. (That's my idea, not something found on the Aqua Sciences web site. But I'm guessing that their machine could be modified at some point so that it could use biodiesel fuels.)

Their largest model (measuring 40 feet x 7.7 feet x 7.8 feet) is capable of extracting up to 1,200 gallons a day from the air, depending on environmental conditions. With its reverse osmosis module included, the unit "can provide emergency water for up to 3,000 people per day." (The reverse osmosis module "can provide up to an additional 8,000 gallons/day from an existing source dependent upon conditions.")

The company's web site says, "Aqua Sciences, Inc. is poised to transform the water industry while making a positive humanitarian impact on the world's capability to deal with crisis situations on an emergency or long-term basis. Its success will be measured not merely by the company's profitability, but by its continuing contribution to the world's safety, health, and quality of life."

Unlike a physical well, which is a permanent structure and which therefore can only serve one village or region, an Emergency Water Station from Aqua Sciences is a portable unit which could easily be towed by a large commercial truck from one village to another, making it suitable for short-term disasters which temporarily overwhelm the normally adequate capabilities of local water systems. The website mentions the applicability of the company's machines to disasters ranging from hurricanes to terrorist attacks on a city's water supply.

The company's home page says, "According to the United Nations, between 5 and 9 million people per year die as a result of lack of access to safe drinking water." That's something which should concern every Christian and every church.

Undoubtedly, national and international secular relief organizations will find it extremely useful to be able to generate thousands of gallons of drinking water on the spot, even in areas afflicted by extreme water pollution or lack of adequate drinking water due to other factors.

However, Christian missionaries and mission organizations have been in the international relief business for far longer than any secular government or international organization. It seems to me that Christian mission organizations should therefore leap at this new opportunity (provided that Aqua Sciences' claims are found to be credible) to meet the fundamental human need for adequate drinking water throughout the entire world.

Bringing safe drinking water to regions of the world will open new doors to evangelistic missionary endeavors, to be sure, but our motives should ultimately be to obey and serve Jesus, regardless of whether or not such altruistic efforts result in conversions. Charity should not just be the carrot on the stick which lures people into the church in order to furnish our pastors with captive audiences and new sources of donations. Rather, charity should be a sincere expression of the love for all people which results from a full appreciation of the love and mercy God has extended through Christ Jesus to each and every one of us.

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