JANTIGUE, Mozambique (BP)–The woman lay exhausted on the ground almost 10 feet from the water spigot. From the deep, muddy trail behind her, Dale Duncan guessed that she crawled until she could no longer move — all for a drink of water.
The Southern Baptist volunteer from North Carolina pulled an empty bottle from the truck and filled it up. He walked over to the elderly woman, brushed away the flies, held her head up and gave her a drink.
“This lady was near death and couldn’t get to the water,” Duncan said. “Somehow she had crawled close enough to the water in hopes that someone would see her and help. Many of the people in Mozambique have gone days without clean water.”
Since the Mozambique flooding began in early February, adults and children have been drinking the floodwater — a major health hazard because the torrent loosened the primitive latrines used by villages and the water is contaminated with dead bodies and animal carcasses.
A Baptist disaster relief team made up of volunteers from North Carolina, Texas and Oklahoma Baptist Men responded quickly to the need for clean water. The team worked closely with the South African Baptist Union in establishing the makeshift watering hole.
Norman Wagner, project coordinator from Oklahoma, said getting the water purifiers set up was not an easy task. Constant rain hampered the start of the project and then one of the pumps broke down.
“In the beginning, we were pumping as much mud as we were water,” Wagner said. “Now we are going strong and pumping about 24 gallons a minute.”
The water pumps deposit clean water in a holding pool until trucks loaded with 5,000-liter water tanks come to fill up. The project provided water for three relief camps — numbering almost 20,000 people. Water also was given to people coming with their own containers.
“Our goal is to meet the physical needs of the Mozambicans first and then their spiritual needs,” Wagner said. “After they see that we care that they have water to drink and food to eat, they will ask more questions and then we will be able to share Christ.”
While the main work of the volunteer team took place on the edge of a small creek, many hopped rides with the water truck to see where the tanks ended up. Once in the camp, the water tanks were connected to a long hose and water spigot. Usually, a crowd already was formed and waiting for the precious clean water.
Missionary Scott Flowers said the clean water helped lift people’s spirits. “Everyone is happier now, it is like they have their own town now — just because they have their own water,” he said. “Even in places that were not heavily hit by the flood, people need clean water. These areas can’t get to their water because there is no electricity to run the pumps.”
Flowers sees the water he pumps as “water for life” — water that lets the people live, but also water that lets them hear about the “living water” of Jesus Christ. “If it takes a massive flood for this country to know God and start a spiritual revival — then we need to start praying and working,” Flowers said. “The people are hungry — they are hungry for something to hang on to.”
In one village, volunteers experienced this desperation firsthand. Duncan said the people were so thankful for the water but wanted to know why he would come so far to help. He told them that Jesus gave a drink to the thirsty and fed the hungry. As he spoke, villagers erupted in a chorus of praise to God.
“All it takes is one drop of water to save someone’s life,” Duncan said. “And all it takes is one drop of water to show the people we love and care for them because Christ loves us.”