Monday, June 23, 2008


Water is the symbol of a major sacrament in Christendom – baptism. It’s also a symbol of purification and of life itself. We are blessed with clean water…or, better said, we know how to purify water so that human life is sustained and kept healthy. However, last year, one billion people in the world drank unhealthy water, and five million died from drinking polluted water, many of whom were children who didn’t reach the age of five years.

Each year, Sister Julian and Sister Miriam, formerly of the order of Sisters of Charity and now of the Community of St. Mary, travel to Port au Prince, Haiti to minister to dying children in an orphanage there, some of whom have become ill from infectious diseases caused by drinking polluted water. During the silent retreat held recently at St. Mary’s, Sister Julian and Sister Miriam talked about their forthcoming trip to Port au Prince and the problem of unsafe drinking water. As we listened to the presentation and watched the slides of the beautiful faces of children in this country, Vickie and I remembered that we had once spoken to Gail Drake, one of the founders of LEAMIS, International Ministries, Inc. and that she had mentioned a water purification system LEAMIS used in third world countries. We told the Sisters at St. Mary about the system and asked them to accompany us yesterday to see a demonstration of water being purified, sponsored by LEAMIS, at the Morton Memorial Methodist Church in Monteagle,TN. The demonstration awed all of us, and the Sisters promptly recruited the technician, who explained the purification process, to help set up such a system in Haiti.

The system the technician demonstrated is called a New Life International Water Purifier and is the brainchild of a man named Duvon McGuire who had visited Ecuador, South America with his family on a mission with shortwave radio station HCJB, “The Voice of the Andes” and contracted Guardia from contaminated water. This experience caused Duvon to study parasitology, and before he graduated from college he spent the summer serving in hospitals in India. There, he witnessed deaths that result from humans drinking contaminated water. So, in 1992 he designed a water purifier for orphans who had become ill from drinking unsafe water. This system was demonstrated to us yesterday at the Methodist Church.

The water purification system is fairly simple and filters protozoa, helminths, etc. from water by using bio-sand filters to remove the parasites, then a chlorination system to eliminate bacterial and viral contaminants. Sterile water storage is also taught. A by-product of the purification process is sodium hydroxide, better known as lye, which can be used to make soap in a cottage industry or to sterilize sewage.

My botanist friend Vickie and I are interested in enabling the Sisters to obtain a purification system and to fund the trip for the technician who demonstrated the purification system yesterday. He will be able to train others in Haiti to use the system. The LEAMIS organization, founded by our friend Gail Drake and Rev. Debra Snellen, is committed to carrying out the Gospel imperative, “And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple…” and the Sisters of St. Mary who minister in Haiti have been searching for a method to do the same. The Sisters need $4,000 to carry out this imperative, and Vickie and I want to empower the work by garnering financial support for the water purification project. I plan to pledge the first $500 and feel that many who read this may be called to assist this project. We hope to enlist many supporters.

If you’re interested in ministering to those who are deprived of clean drinking water, most especially children in the orphanage in Haiti, write to me. Your support of this project will be an expression of your gratitude for the gift of water with which we are blessed daily.
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