by Eric Valentine
The final lines of our Baptismal Covenant are both empowering and vexing. They provide the framework for our interactions with the rest of humanity. They guide us to strive for justice and to treat all people with dignity, and in this striving we are seeking and serving Christ. These words are empowering because they make it exceptionally clear that to seek and serve Christ we must serve and respect the dignity of every human being. This is simple until our humanity, at least my humanity, comes into play. It is in those moments of humanity that our covenant can be a bit vexing. Do I have to respect the dignity of that guy that cut me off in traffic? How about that young women who is panhandling at the intersection? Do I really have to strive for justice and peace when I’m engaging with someone I disagree with about gun control or the best way to end violence? Does this apply to people who were born in a different country or to people who practice a different religion? Fortunately, the answer to these questions is simple, a resounding yes, I will, with God’s help.
I would love to start by saying that after weeks of contemplation and discernment, with long periods of fasting, God revealed to me that the best way I could live into my Baptismal Covenant was to raise money to provide clean water and sanitation facilities for villages in Ethiopia, Uganda, and Cambodia. Unfortunately, that is not how God interacts with me, or more precisely, how I interact with God. In most instances, I start off with the intention of doing something fun that will feed my travel addiction, my ego, and my vanity. Sometimes God steps in and interrupts my plans with an opportunity for me to serve. In all honesty, I’m sure God always provides an opportunity to serve; it is just sometimes that I happen to be listening.
That is exactly how my upcoming mission trip to Tanzania came to be. I was planning a vacation in Croatia to celebrate graduating in May with a B.S. in Psychology. I also realized that summer was just around the corner, which meant it was time to get back in shape and recover from a winter of sloth and gluttony. As proof that God does not only speak to us when we are in church, God took the opportunity while I was sitting at an IHOP to suggest that I use my vacation to live more fully into our Baptismal Covenant, get in shape, and be an active part of the Jesus movement. I would need to do only two things: raise $10,000 to build wells and sanitation facilities, and train to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in Africa. Simple enough, I will, with God’s help.
Within an hour of finishing breakfast, I contacted Lifewater International to see how I could serve. Lifewater is a highly-rated, Christian, non-profit organization that provides water and sanitation facilities, prayer, baptism, and the message of Jesus Christ to people in Africa and Southeast Asia. In 2017 Lifewater teams completed 184 water projects serving 117,411 people. They have baptized 328 people and created 1,006 part-time jobs. Although you can show someone that you respect their dignity in many ways, providing clean water, clean private bathrooms, and the Love of Christ must be on the list someplace. Many non-profit organizations spend much of their money on administration or fundraising. Lifewater stands out by spending 80 percent on programs (people), 10 percent on administration, and 10 percent on fundraising. Due in large part to Lifewater’s community approach, 92 percent of their clean water projects are still operational, which is 56 percent more than the average in sub-Saharan Africa.
According to an April 2015 Newsweek article, the next world war will likely be fought over access to clean drinking water. Goldman Sachs describes clean water as “the petroleum of the next century” and a quick Internet search uncovers staggering statistics:
- 8 million people do not have access to clean and safe water worldwide.
- 4 million school days are lost each year due to water-related diseases.
- 4 billion people are without improved sanitation facilities.
- Girls under the age of 15 are twice as likely as boys to be responsible for fetching water, which often prevents them from going to school.
- Over half of the developing world’s primary schools don’t have access to water and sanitation facilities. Without toilets, girls often drop out at puberty.
- Nearly 1 out of every 5 deaths under the age of 5 worldwide is due to a water-related disease.
- By investing in clean water alone, young children around the world can gain more than 413 million days of health.
Along with providing sources for clean water and sanitation facilities, Lifewater promotes community by employing a group of local men and women, selected by the community, who are responsible and accountable for maintaining the safe water source. They are trained to collect user fees, which are used to help when repairs are needed. This approach is key to providing sustainable solutions and instilling a greater sense of pride in the community. It allows everyone in the village to come together and practice loving their neighbors.
To bring attention to the world water crisis and to support Lifewater in its activities, I have set a fund-raising goal of $10,000 and a deadline of July 15, 2018. All of this money will be donated to Lifewater International. This is a lot of money to raise in a very short period but, I will, with God’s help.
Because I still want a vacation, I will travel with a group of missionaries to Tanzania on June 20 to visit with villagers, to bear witness to the continuing work of Christ, and to climb 19,341 feet to the peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro. The climb will take eight days. Our group of 23 climbers will require the assistance of over 60 porters and sherpas to help us get safely to the top and back home to our families. Throughout our days and nights on the mountain, we will engage in Bible studies, daily devotionals, and evensong. We will live and work as a community. Together we will make it to the top, We will, with God’s help.
Over the next three months, as part of my training to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and to spread the word of the Jesus Movement and the work of Lifewater, I will compete in numerous Savage Race obstacle course. With those behind me, I look forward to standing at the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro proudly displaying the Episcopal Flag. I will, with God’s help.
This experience, while daunting for a group of inexperienced climbers, will hopefully show a few people halfway around the world that they are loved, not only by us but by God, and that we respect them. Hopefully in some way we will be able to show them that we, and they, are part of the Jesus Movement, We will with Gods help.