Access to safe, clean drinking water is one of the world’s most serious humanitarian problems. Worldwide, unsafe water and lack of sanitation kill over 30,000 people each month, with children affected the most. Safe water can transform an entire community suffering from waterborne sickness and disease to a much healthier one where people can focus on education, opportunity and faith.
Several of us took a mission trip to Tanzania and saw first-hand the critical need for safe clean water. As a result, we launched a nonprofit called Safe Water Africa eight years ago to address this need. Our basic mission is to empower and assist local pastors to preach the Gospel in rural areas of Tanzania. We do this by providing the local pastor and church with a safe water facility (storage tanks and chlorinator) on church grounds.
We place these water systems in rural areas of Tanzania where the clean water needs are so great, and poverty is rampant. The system provides safe, purified water for the church and villagers in the surrounding area. When people from these nearby villages come to the church to get clean water, a relationship with the pastor is started. Eventually, the pastor can share the Living Water and the Gospel with these villagers. The water meets that critical humanitarian need but also becomes an outreach tool for sharing Christ. We try to first meet the need for water so they will be receptive to the Gospel message.
The water system we provide is actually quite simple. It’s a chlorination system where the chlorine cleans the water by removing all the impurities. We use a water tank, a chlorinator, a car battery for power and table salt to charge the process. That’s it. Each tank can purify 2,000 liters of water in a couple hours. We put two 2,000-liter polyethylene tanks at each church site, and each one can be purified in a couple of hours.
As President of Safe Water Africa, I’ve had a front row seat to the amazing work done over the years by our teams here in the United States and in Tanzania. We began these water projects in 2014 and we’ve completed 56 projects in 17 of the 25 regions of Tanzania. Ten of our 56 projects have been donated in memory of loved ones. We are now installing an average of 8 or 9 water systems each year.
It cost about $7,000 to put in a clean water system in a location when we first started. That included the technology, the foundation work, the labor and the shipping. Now we have the cost down to $5,000 so it’s really not that expensive for the incredible benefit it provides for these Tanzanian villagers in terms of humanitarian and spiritual needs.
It took me a while to get to this place in my life. I was baptized as a teenager but after I graduated college, I got caught up in my career. The Lord wasn’t as important to me as He should have been. But after I retired, my life took a major change when two things occurred. I became the executive pastor of a church, and started reading Bob Buford’s book, Halftime, which centered on changing your focus from success to significance. I felt the need to follow the Lord’s will and try to make a difference in the world. My wife and I took a church mission trip to Tanzania in 2007 and saw the great need for clean water. When a friend of mine, Joel Rugano, moved back to Tanzania to start a ministry, several of us co-founded a U.S. nonprofit to support Joel’s ministry. So Safe Water Africa was born from that series of events.
Joel is our key team member in Tanzania and is critical to everything we do there. He vets and selects the pastors in Tanzania where we’ll install a water system. He oversees the installation of our water systems, traveling to all areas of the country. He coordinates the week-long training conferences we put on for the local pastors where we do Bible training and counseling with the help and support of the visiting churches. Pastors’ wives are also counseled on how to support their husbands in their ministry.
This has become an important and personal ministry for me as it is for all our Board of Directors. 100% of the money raised through donations goes directly to the water systems. No one in our organization takes a salary from this. In fact, any miscellaneous costs are covered by our Board members, so any money we raise goes to these water projects.
Safe water changes everything! We are amazed, thankful and blessed by what God has done with this ministry, the number of water systems we’ve been able to put in different parts of Tanzania since 2014, and more importantly, how many villagers have been brought to Christ. This will grow and go wherever God takes it. Safe Water Africa is always looking to put in more safe water systems to help God’s people be able to enjoy clean water and to help them hear about the Living Water, Jesus Christ. What better way to fulfill the Great Commission!
God is Good!