I will always think of the little boys with the pond scum mustaches when I consider the developing world’s water crisis. I met them in Kenya this week as the World Concern team was surveying an extremely remote village where we are planning further development.
We drove to a water pan – essentially a man-made pond for water collection. Water pans are usually reserved for livestock, but in this case, a couple of water pans were the community’s source of drinking water. After slipping through a fence made of gnarled branches and walking toward the muddy pond, I saw the water. It was green with algae, and moving with life. Over the surface of the water was a film of muck, essentially – pond scum.
As I was getting video and photos of this water pan, reality set in, as a group of five friends – thin and quiet little boys around 10 years old – came with filthy jugs, out to get a drink. They lined up alongside the pond, dipped their jugs in the water, brought the water to their mouths, and tipped the jugs back.
I knew at that moment that the boys were being infected, as they had been many times before, with parasites and bacteria that would make them sick. We scooped up some of this water in a clean, clear bottle – and with the naked eye could see worms and other creatures flex and swim through the opaque mess.
I could not believe the heartbreaking scene that I was witnessing. But for these little boys, there is no other source of water nearby. As they drank I noticed that around their small mouths was green pond scum.
In many cultures where World Concern works, there is a sense of fatalism. The tragic circumstances dealt to people are their fate, and they just need to accept them. Part of it is religious, part of it is cultural, part of it is just the fact that they haven’t seen anything better. Why would they hope for something they had not seen or heard about?
Here is the truth: God aches for these boys, as do we. What we know that the little boys don’t is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Working together, we are can bring the love of Christ in tangible ways to relieve the suffering that families have endured for generations. It just doesn’t have to be this way.
In communities where we have worked in a more significant way – communities that have seen the benefits of clean water, of sanitation, of education for children, of opportunities to work and save money – we have seen something happen. A spark of realization in the minds of hopeless people that the misery they’ve endured is not the final word. When they get it, mountains move. Children grow. Goals are set. Communities change – long term.
Water is one of the most important ways we can begin the process of this transformation, to show the light of Christ to people who have suffered for so long.
To learn more about World Concern’s water programs, or to help bring clean water to communities like this, visit www.worldconcern.org/water