My Take: Why people of faith should care about clean water
October 14th, 2010
10:57 AM ET

My Take: Why people of faith should care about clean water

Editor's Note: Brian Mucci serves in leadership at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan and is on the board of  20 Liters.

By Brian Mucci, Special to CNN

Dirty water kills more people than all forms of violence, including war.

Nine hundred million people lack access to clean water.

That's one out of every eight people.

I am part of the “seven out of eight."  You probably are, too.

Is it truly possible for the seven of us to own the magnitude of these statistics? At what point are we reading these figures, but no longer internalizing their significance? Is it possible at times that the statistics actually immobilize us?

Over the last decade, our community - Mars Hill Bible Church - has discovered two things: Relationship makes global issues personal. And out of relationship we are compelled to act.

When you hear a number like “one out of eight” and you happen to know the “one,” you do something.

Anything. It is about relationship.

In 2004, our community began financially supporting HIV/AIDS programming in Rwanda. We also invested significant time and resources in building relationships with the local staff, leaders and recipients.

We spent several years just listening to our new friends.

And what we discovered were the “ones” who lacked access to clean water.

These are people we now know by name - like Jean, Dorosela and Veroniza.

We discovered that 99 percent of the roughly 35,000 people in the Masaka region of Rwanda lack access to running water. Seventy one percent have access only to water from a dirty pond or river.

We discovered that women walk up to two hours daily to fill up a 20-liter jerrycan with dirty water. A yellow jerrycan is what tens of millions of people use to collect, store and transport water. When filled, it weighs 44 pounds.

We discovered that the average Rwandan only uses 5 liters of water a day. The average American uses 575 liters of clean water every day, about 29 jerrycans.

Starting in 2006, volunteer engineers from Mars Hill researched the problem of dirty water and began implementing solutions that include slow-sand filters and rainwater harvest systems.

We identified local products and supply chains for the materials necessary to build water systems that support the local economy.

We’ve trained local Rwandans to implement the project, creating local capacity and ownership of their future.

We implemented the project alongside a local World Relief child health project to leverage the work of both programs on behalf of the community.

And we worked with World Relief to ensure local oversight and ongoing support of the Rwandan Water Team to avoid duplicating unnecessary administrative overhead costs.

Today, there is a team of Rwandans installing and maintaining water filters, as there will be tomorrow and the next day.

It is about people. Water is no longer a global issue for Mars Hill. It has become our story.

In 2007, a 7-year-old girl at Mars Hill realized there are children who cannot go to their sink and turn on the faucet when they are thirsty. She hosted a "Walk For Water" instead of a birthday party. Instead of bringing her presents, her friends raised money for water. In April, she was one of 750 people who walked for water and raised over $73,000 dollars for Masaka.

An engineer and his wife have made seven trips to Rwanda since 2006 to provide training and evaluate progress.

Three artists from Mars Hill entered an art competition called ArtPrize to raise awareness of this issue of clean water. They created a 20 foot by 16 foot piece of art displayed at the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum’s reflecting pool that was voted among the top 25 of over 1,700 entries.

An ocean away, a mother of three orphans in Rwanda began leading the local Anglican church because there was no one else. She now pastors 200 people.

Her church has a rainwater cistern and she is able to provide clean water to the village and even sell excess water. She uses the proceeds to pay for books, supplies and uniforms so local children can attend school, for a $2 annual fee that allows local families to have health insurance.

It is personal. I still don’t know what to do about 900 million people, but we have a pretty good idea about 35,000.

20 Liters emerged out of our relationship with the people of Masaka, for the people of Masaka.

20 Liters is the embodiment of people from all walks of life - volunteers in Rwanda, Grand Rapids, or anywhere doing what they can to help the “one."

For us this isn’t a passing interest. 20 Liters is a demonstration that we are serious about caring for people in effective and sustainable ways. It is an announcement about the most basic of needs, clean water, and the simple solutions that exist.

And we pray it is a voice for the “one” - the “one” who often isn’t heard.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Brian Mucci.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Africa • Christianity • Church • Opinion

soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. fawadkhan

    learn quran online.
    online QURAN explore

    May 30, 2013 at 9:28 pm |
  2. fawadkhan

    in developing countries most of population cant get or avail the basic necessity of clean water and they are attacked by many disease even though most of population caused by death due to unclean water. same as it is human being need good quality of education read and understand and implement they way of life.
    online QURAN explore

    May 30, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
  3. Doug Burkholder

    Why is this not in national news?

    October 20, 2010 at 4:44 am |
    • Raison


      Some articles might not make the list on the main page while appearing elsewhere, like the international CNN page...
      ..or perhaps we are blessed with special reports that could not be used elsewhere...who knows? Not me. :shrugs:

      October 20, 2010 at 4:49 am |
  4. Iqbal khan

    Please Listen and read The Quran with translation in many different languages check


    October 18, 2010 at 8:42 pm |
  5. Pete

    Well said Brian.

    October 16, 2010 at 9:34 am |
  6. Iqbal khan

    God bless all those who are doing this great work may this should open the eyes of those who have the money and power to spread this to the other parts of the world, we all should help each other in projects like this, instead of creating Wars and killing innocent people.

    October 15, 2010 at 5:24 pm |
  7. Olatoye

    Thanks for the good brotherhood, God bless you all

    October 15, 2010 at 7:24 am |
  8. Rachel

    Great Article!!

    October 15, 2010 at 12:20 am |
  9. Reality

    National Geographic recently had a special issue on water. As per NG, simply filling an empty PET water bottle with contaminated water and letting it sit in the Sun for a six hours will purify the water.


    From Ann's original blog post, enti-tled, "Easy way to make drinkable water – National Geographic article...April, enti-tled "Water, our thirsty world"...

    "Might Marks for Clean Water. Retrieve a discarded water bottle. Tear off the label and fill with any water that's not to murky from a creek, standpipe, or puddle. Place the bottle on a piece of metal in full sun. In six hours the UVA radiation will kill viruses, bacteria, and pa-ras-ites in the water, making it safe to drink."

    It is not "questionable," it is a method called SODIS "Solar water disinf-ection" – SODIS for short.

    SODIS, the acronym for this Swiss-pioneered water-disin-fection program, is now being used all over the world to provide drinking water for some 4 million people. “It’s simple, it’s free, and it’s effective,” says Ibelatha Mhelela, principal of the Ndolela Primary School in Tanzania. In 2006 her school started using SODIS to disi-nfect its contaminated tap water, placing bottles on the building’s corrugated metal roof. The result? Absenteeism due to diar-hea dropped considerably, and examination scores soared. “Before we started SODIS, only 10 to 15 perceont of the children passed the national 6th-grade exams,” says Mhelela. “Now 90 to 95 percent of the students pa-ss.”"

    October 14, 2010 at 4:36 pm |
    • Jeff

      In places like the Yucatan, the problem is not the bacteria, but the total dissolved solids. In one of the towns where we tested, the TDS value was in excess of 700 ppm. That's very hard on the digestive system – at 1000 ppm, such water pretty much acts as an emetic all by itself. Another problem in the Yucatan is that the lines from the treated tanks to the villages/houses do not have constant pressure on them (since they must service different parts of the area at different times of day), and so the water, which has been treated with chlorine at the cisterns, gets contaminated with ground water seeping down through animal feces and into the lines. Tough problem!

      October 14, 2010 at 9:24 pm |
  10. Raison

    That bottle on the left doesn't look like clean water...

    October 14, 2010 at 4:13 pm |
    • .


      October 15, 2010 at 12:27 am |
  11. Reality

    Who generated these statistics and how? "Non-profits" unfortunately fudge statistics or don't bother to check the data in order to generate donations.

    October 14, 2010 at 12:57 pm |
    • adams

      i've read that somewhere too- false stats to increase urgency.
      research well before donating to a non-profit

      October 14, 2010 at 1:00 pm |
    • David Johnson


      Actually, I was going to buy a bottle of water and send it to them....

      October 14, 2010 at 2:42 pm |
    • Dan

      Did you know 23% of statistics are made up on the spur of the moment?

      Do you have something against clean water? Do you have something against helping people?

      October 14, 2010 at 10:57 pm |
    • adams

      not at all dan- we live in the most fortunate time and country of all history- i consider it my duty to help other people through non-profits and otherwise.

      but it is important to know that there are dirty cops, unfaithful clergy, and dishonest non-profit runners.

      do you agree?

      October 14, 2010 at 11:00 pm |
    • James Swanson

      I completely agree with the assertion there are corrupt people in all walks of life. But I also think that tons of people use this as an excuse not to give anything because there is a chance it wouldn't go to what they intended it for.

      I am so glad this generation of Jesus-followers are trying to solve immediate physical needs and not just taking His words as spiritual metaphors.

      October 15, 2010 at 9:10 am |
    • Actionnotly

      You do realize there are links in the article which answer your question...?

      October 15, 2010 at 5:05 pm |
    • ed56

      UNICEF says: Almost fifty per cent of the developing world’s population – 2.5 billion people – lack improved sanitation facilities, and over 884 million people still use unsafe drinking water sources.

      October 19, 2010 at 9:30 am |
  12. ktrails

    What's great is that there are so many different venues for participation. Imagine what could be done if everyone set aside their fancy bottled water and their starbucks and put the savings into water projects – now that would be some true sacrificial giving! 🙂

    October 14, 2010 at 12:35 pm |
  13. Jerry Miner

    Water Missions International (watermissions.org) is seeking to engage the Church in ending this crisis. They are asking churches to engage in a simple, mostly text to give based, campaing to bring safe water to 250,000 people in the next 10 weeks. Check out giftsofwater.com. Get involved yourself and get your church, college, or friends involved

    October 14, 2010 at 12:24 pm |
  14. David Johnson

    I totally salute the Presbyterians for this effort. If I had a church I would want them to be involved in programs like this.

    Cheers to them!

    October 14, 2010 at 11:33 am |
  15. ktrails

    Living Waters for the World, livingwatersfortheworld dot org, is a global mission sponsored by the Presbyterian Church, USA that seeks to provide clean water to small communities in under-developed countries. I've been blessed to participate in two installations in Mexico, and it is a wonderful system for those who have access to a water source and electricity.

    October 14, 2010 at 11:17 am |
    • Havildar

      But in Pennsylvania we will no longer have Clean Safe water to drink Thanks to the misguided fools that elected the Crooks to the government Their collective greed will destroy PA's Clean Safe waters for short term profits from Irresponsible drilling.
      Where water catches FIRE.

      November 5, 2010 at 4:39 pm |
  16. adams

    great article Brian

    October 14, 2010 at 11:13 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.