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Low-tech water purification reveals God’s love to unreached villagers


TAMBI, Cote d’Ivoire (BP)–A clear plastic water bottle and a can of black paint sit on the ground. The man looks skeptically at the odds and ends and shakes his head. He knows there is no way these two simple things are going to make his family healthier.

But he’s willing to try anything. Too many people are dying.

Philip Moore, a volunteer from Bethel Springs, Tenn., squats on the ground and demonstrates how to paint the bottle. He makes clean strokes from the lip to the bottom, careful to paint only half of the bottle.

Finally, the bottle is ready. The pair walks to the local water source, a hand-dug well that is not properly lined, allowing run-off, dead animals and feces to contaminate it. The other source of water for the 7,000 people living in this village, called Tambi, comes from barrels sitting under the thatch roofs, catching rainwater.

After filling the bottle with water, it is placed in the sun, paint side down.

The next day, the same man meets Moore on the path to his village. He excitedly asks him to come immediately to his house.

The man grabs the water bottle, points inside and says, “It works … it works. Look at all those dead mosquito larvae floating inside. Nothing was in that water yesterday when I filled it. The sun really does kill the microbes.”

Moore smiles as he examines the bottle.

“Just think what would be in your stomach if you hadn’t put your water out in the sun,” he replies. “You would be sick with diarrhea, but now your body will get healthy.”

Volunteers from Macedonia Baptist Church in Springfield, Mo., First Baptist Church in Murphy, N.C., and First Baptist Church in Bethel Springs, Tenn., joined Baptist workers in a special water project reaching Tambi village, where 7,000 members of the Nafana people group live. In 2000, Tambi had a high mortality rate — mostly due to dirty water, poor sanitation and inadequate hygiene.

Volunteers taught a simple water treatment method called solar water disinfection (SODIS). It uses sunlight to destroy micro-organisms that cause waterborne diseases.

A transparent bottle is filled with clear water and placed in the direct sunlight for five hours, two days if it is cloudy. SODIS does not change the chemical quality, odor or taste of the water. It works by combining the effects of water temperature and UV radiation. Painting one side of the bottle black helps raise the water temperature.

As the volunteers walk through the large village, they pray for the people to be released from the darkness of witchcraft and ancestor worship. They pray for the healing of the sick and that fetishes would be cast aside. They take every opportunity to tell the Nafana stories about Jesus Christ.

They pray these things, not knowing that a member of the Nafana village council had long ago placed a curse to keep out white men and their influence. One particular council member watches the Americans closely during the project and at the end asks the pastor to pray for the curse to be broken through God’s power.

“We know how much you love us because you have worked every day, even during the hottest time with the sun beating down upon you,” the chief says. “You did all this to help my people. Thank you for sharing with us.”
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(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: WATER OF LIFE. For more information about taking the gospel to the Nafana, e-mail [email protected].
— Find out more about human needs projects in West Africa by e-mailing [email protected].
— Learn more about Southern Baptist missionaries “Planting with Passion” at http://www.imb.org/ime/Planting.
— NOW ON TC ONLINE: Planting for eternity — Sam and Ginny Cannata’s missionary career sounds like a novel, but their purpose has been clear: make disciples. http://www.tconline.org/Stories/nov01/cannata.html.