I’ve worked in the water industry for a year and a half. Throughout that time, I’ve been exposed time and again to the realities of dirty drinking water — how children are constantly sick and women have time for nothing but collecting water, cooking, and looking after the barrage of children under their care. But there’s something about hearing the ragged breathing and watching as a four-year-old’s neck strains under the weight of a bucket, that drives home the indisputable fact that the global water crisis is an abomination.
Our team — a four-person production crew from Water Mission and In Touch Ministries — is on a 12-day filming trip to the community of Enariboo, Kenya, which is receiving safe water for the first time in its history. We’ve been in Kenya for five days, and already I’m exhausted. It takes us an hour and a half to get to Enariboo from our hotel. It’s not that the village is so far, but rather the roads are so impassable. A distance that should take only a few minutes ends up taking what feels like an eternity. The jarring of your bones as the car ricochets back and forth, and side to side, doesn’t grow manageable with time. Instead, any conversation being held at the beginning of the trip quickly turns to grunts of pain and discomfort followed by the silence of people forcing themselves to believe that it will eventually come to an end. That is the only thing that brings comfort on these drives — knowing that, by law of nature, the road has to end.
Part of our filming expedition is to capture where people have historically collected water in Enariboo. We walked to the small, seasonal creek where some of the families collect water, and I tried to prepare myself for what I would see. As we arrived and began scouting for a place to film, a woman walked down to the edge of the creek. We crossed to the other bank as a herd of large, hump-backed cows came careening down the hill, past the woman, and into the water. They spread out, situating themselves from one side of the creek to the other and all along the limited access point. The water became darker, if that’s even possible, and I stood there watching as the woman wound her way through the throng of cattle, bent down, and scooped handful after handful of water into her mouth.
I glanced from her to the cows upstream and realized that roughly seven feet away from her a cow was urinating into the exact same water she was scooping into her mouth. I looked around, eyes wide with bewilderment, and I saw more and more cows relieving themselves into the water, the very same water that this woman was putting into her body and feeding to her children. And all I wanted to do was yell for her to stop. I wanted to run to her and say, “Can’t you see? Can’t you see that this is bad? Look there! A cow is, right now, urinating into the very same water you’re drinking! This water looks like mud! This is crazy! What are you thinking?! Why are you drinking this!?” But I couldn’t. I was shocked into a lack of speech, and for the better part of 10 minutes, I stood there watching as she filled up her buckets. My heart broke as I realized that she does see it – they all see it, and they all know. Yet they have no other choice. It is either drink this water or die. And then I remembered why I was there. I remembered the story we are capturing — the story of hope, the story of life change. And I remembered that in 24 hours, this will no longer be her story. She will have another choice.
In 24 hours, safe water will be running through her entire village. She will wake up, get out of bed, and realize that today she doesn’t have to walk four hours to collect dirty water. She will realize that she will never again have to stand among a group of cows and drink the same dirty water as them. And oh how I wish I could be there to dance around her home with her! What a joyous moment to realize that your life has been changed forever and there is an entirely new future in front of you. You see, this is what safe water builds. It builds moments of joyous dancing when lives are changed. It builds strength as the bacteria and toxins are flushed from the body. It builds the realization that tomorrow can look different and better than today.
For me, safe water builds faith that this woman is known and seen by God, that He has not forgotten her. It builds faith that she is worthy of water that will keep her alive, not slowly turn her life to ruin, and that in some small way I have been invited to play a part in the Lord’s blessing on her life. And so tomorrow I will wake up early and drive the miserable hour and a half, because I know that tomorrow brings with it the gift of safe water.