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Honduran water shortage reveals global thirst for ‘living’ water


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Doing church work on his native Georgia soil was all Kenneth Murphy had in mind when he enrolled at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1998. Then he met George Martin, associate professor of Christian missions in the Louisville, Ky., seminary’s Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth.
Martin, a six-year veteran of Southern Baptist international missions, persuaded Murphy to sign up for a short-term mission trip to Indonesia. But Murphy, who was uncertain about a nagging call to missions, got a reprieve when turmoil in the Asian nation compelled organizers to cancel the trip. The relentless Martin asked Murphy in November to help with a relief effort in Honduras, which had been virtually torn asunder by Hurricane Mitch’s havoc.
Within days, Murphy was on a plane for Central America with a water-purification system and a burden for sharing the message of Jesus Christ.
Television news reports hardly prepared Murphy for the almost-apocalyptic landscape that greeted him there. In an eerie parallel with Jesus’ parable of the house built on the sand, Murphy saw mountains literally ripped in half by the by the raw force of the hurricane. Villagers frantically scoured the wreckage of their homes for corpses of loved ones.
Murphy was also unprepared for the work of the Holy Spirit of God which he saw making itself known in the lives of Honduran believers. He recalled one man who was buried alive in a mudslide and spent the night listening impotently to the screams of his also-buried wife and daughter. Their cries dissipated into the gasps of death. But the man, rescued the next morning, immediately hit the trails of the Honduran villages with evangelistic fervor.
When told no one expected that behavior on such a mournful day, the man, recalled Murphy, insisted the women were with the Lord: “He said he wanted to warn those who did not have a relationship with Jesus that they didn’t know when their time was coming.”
Murphy went to Honduras on behalf of the Heart for America Foundation — an organization started and operated by Christian businessmen, laypeople and ministers for the ultimate purposes of sharing the gospel and planting churches. After a week of training missionaries and townspeople in how to operate the water purification system he’d brought, Murphy preached in a nearby church. He was amazed to see hundreds of people standing in and around the church, each one hungry for the gospel. Murphy preached about Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well in John 4. The purified water would serve as a temporary fix, he told the crowd, but there is One who can give living water that will satisfy thirst forever.
Murphy overcame the wariness of missionaries from other traditions who were suspicious of his theological convictions. A top official in a Wesleyan missionary organization engaged Murphy in a good-natured debate on the perseverance of the saints. Recalling class lectures on the doctrine by Southern Seminary dean of theology Daniel Akin, Murphy pointed to Bible verses indicating that true believers can never fall away from salvation. Unable to answer Murphy’s biblical defense of Baptist doctrine, the elder missionary was convinced that Murphy was not only able to purify water, but also knew his Bible well.
Forever changed by his quickly arranged trip to Honduras, Murphy will next May leave for Indonesia to complete his M.Div. degree in church planting on the “two plus two program” of Southern Seminary and the SBC International Mission Board. He now hopes to spend a lifetime proclaiming the living water of the Messiah to those who have never heard his name.
As one more voice carrying to the nations the triumphant announcement of a full atonement, Murphy is overjoyed to have discovered his calling: “Dr. Martin played a big role in all of this. God has used him to lead us to our calling,” Murphy said. “My wife, Katrise, and I believe God has called us to a lifetime of mission work through Dr. Martin and the project in Honduras.”
Somewhere in the nether regions, however, a malevolent spirit must be wondering: “Who is this George Martin and how do we shut him up?”

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  • Russell D. Moore