The global water crisis is a security issue. It's an international relations issue. It's a foreign policy issue. It's a global health issue and a significant contributor to world poverty. However, for the Church of Jesus Christ, the global water crisis represents an amazing opportunity to help people with their most basic physical and spiritual needs.
According to recent statistics, 884 million people still lack access to clean, safe drinking water. These are the neediest people on the planet, both physically and spiritually. They live on a dollar or two a day, and in many cases, have also have the least access to the gospel.
If we as the people of God take seriously the mandate to bless all the nations (people groups) of the world, we must realize that no one can truly be blessed without having access to the most basic physical commodity—water. Without an adequate supply of clean, safe drinking water, other efforts to help people physically are not sustainable. Food programs, health care, educational programs, and economic development cannot be successful long term without safe water.
Helping communities acquire access to clean water can open doors and build bridges for the gospel where more conventional means have failed. In some parts of the world, followers of Jesus have been denied access to their community’s water supply. In those same communities, churches have been planted and water wells drilled; when this happens, clean, safe water is made freely available to Hindus and Muslims—and whoever comes receives not only physical water, but experiences Living Water—the gospel of Jesus Christ.
It's been estimated that hundreds of thousands of people have come to faith in Christ as a result of someone bringing clean water in Jesus' name.
Living Water International
Since its founding in 1990, Living Water International (LWI), a faith-based water solutions ministry, has completed more than eight thousand water projects, serving millions of people around the world every day. LWI is working in collaboration with churches, orphanages, schools, mission organizations, hospitals, and medical clinics. Water projects are often provided in refugee camps and internally displaced persons (IDP) camps. The mission of Living Water International is “to demonstrate the love of God by helping communities acquire desperately needed clean water, and experience ‘living water’—the gospel of Jesus Christ—which alone satisfies the deepest thirst.”
A vital part of LWI’s integrated approach includes sanitation services and hygiene training. Hygiene education in communities, schools, and clinics not only ensures a community’s physical health—it provides an appropriate and natural way to build trust, begin conversations, and share the gospel.
The poet W. H. Auden once said, “Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.”
There is a growing interest in the global water crisis. People of all ages are discovering that if you want to change the world, water is the place to start. It's encouraging to see so many young people of faith catching a vision for addressing the world's water issues. More than eighty percent of the world's diseases and premature deaths are attributed to bad water. Half the hospital beds in the world are occupied by someone with some kind of water-related disease, and a child dies every fifteen seconds from a water-related disease.
Water + Gospel = Saved Lives Today and for Eternity
More important than physical water is the living water Jesus spoke of in John 4 and 7. Water alone can save lives and change destinies, but the living water of Jesus can save lives and change destinies for eternity. One of Living Water International’s goals is to ensure that every person getting clean water from its projects has the opportunity to be exposed to a biblically-based and culturally relevant witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Only eternity will reveal the impact that his word is having in these hearts and lives.
Since connecting with the International Orality Network (ION) in 2007, LWI has adopted oral communication of the gospel among oral learners as its primary outreach strategy. According to ION, four billion people (nearly seventh percent of the world's population) are oral preference learners. In the regions of the world where Living Water International is working, eighty to ninety percent of the people are primary or secondary oral learners.
Time will tell, but the early responses indicate that storying and orality methods will greatly accelerate the advancement of the gospel in these areas. LWI has conducted orality workshops this year in Liberia, Rwanda, and Honduras, with outstanding results. Increasing numbers of mission organizations are transitioning to orality, not only for evangelizing, but also for making disciples and training leaders, teachers, and church planters. Another aspect of LWI's evangelism strategy is establishing alliances, partnerships, and collaborative relationships with other Great Commission groups and organizations. While the organization's primary focus is water solutions, there is a commitment to serve and support kingdom efforts in evangelism and missions.
There is a growing awareness among many that the most effective way to reach the last of the unreached peoples of the world is by meeting a physical need. Without a doubt, clean water is the most basic of these.