For as long as I live, I will never forget the experience I had when I lived in the Guatemalan jungle in the spring of 2013.
My team and I were serving in a small village in the mountains, located in the very center of the country. It was the early springtime in the jungle, which mostly meant it was perpetually chilly and the rain was unrelenting. The paths that swirled up the mountain were slippery and quite dangerous for the untrained foot. The altitude was surprisingly exhausting.
We served at a church that month, attending services several times a week and doing some minor construction work near the building. On other days we worked at the village school in the valley.
For drinking and cooking, our team collected rain water in big barrels by the roof and then used a water purifying system to clean it. Occasionally, we needed more water than the rain could supply so when the barrels emptied out, we’d have to hike down into the valleys where there were natural springs.
We’d carry 5-gallon jugs down the slick paths, balancing carefully on the wet rocks and pausing occasionally to catch our breath. When we reached the springs, we filled up two jugs with the fresh water and then started the hike back up to the church.
I remember lifting the jug between my arms, then hoisting it over my shoulder, trying to find the right balance. With five gallons of water in it, the jug must have weighed over forty pounds.
The hike back up the mountain probably took over an hour. I kept having to stop and readjust the cumbersome jug, which seemed to have no easy way of being carried. My lungs burned from the thin air, my legs seared under the strain of the climb, and my arms shook in exhaustion.
When I’d reached the final peak and I knew the church was within a few hundred yards, I set the jug down in the dirt and collapsed next to it. I was completely depleted.
I looked out at the valley to my left, thick with green, lush trees; glowing with a sort of mystery that only the jungle seems to have. I caught my breath. I looked back at the jug of water.
In my exhaustion and near defeat, I sighed and prayed, “Lord, don’t let me ever, ever forget this feeling.”
I lived in Guatemala for a month – that’s barely a drop in the ocean. But after I left that jungle, I continued on a journey to other countries where I continued to haul water from wells and bathe in rivers. More than once I became acquainted with that intense and distinct stomach pain that comes after drinking contaminated water. But again, my exposure to these things was so fleeting. A year of my life is nothing compared to those who live their whole lives hauling water.
But, ever since that month in the jungle, I don’t view water in the same way. When I flick on a faucet or stand in the shower or fill up my water bottle at the sink, I can’t help but feel the weight of that 5-gallon jug on my shoulders again. I can’t help but remember how laborious, how demanding, how complicated it was to acquire water for a few days worth of drinking and cooking.
And so when I came back to the States, a place where we collectively spend almost 12 billion dollars annually on bottled water, I knew that I needed to do something to advocate for a more universal access to clean water.
This spring, my friends and I raised $1,000 for Charity:Water. We helped fund a well in Uganda, which will be completed in the spring of 2017.
A few months after that project, I got word about another opportunity through a group called Team World Vision (TWV). World Vision is a giant organization that does a lot of things, one of which is providing more clean water globally than any other NGO. They use innovative, holistic approaches to alleviate poverty and address the root issues.
The basic premise of Team World Vision is: run a marathon, raise $50/mile, and bring clean water to communities in Africa for a lifetime.
Before I heard of TWV, I had no desire to run a marathon. I enjoyed running, but never that far. There was no compelling reason to complete a 26.2 mile run – until now.
The global water crisis is a really big deal. Thousands of kids are dying every single day because they drank dirty water. That is outrageous. And yet, we know a solution to the problem. Even crazier: we can be a part of that solution without ever even leaving our chair!
I pray that you will consider joining me in bringing the fullness of life to kids in Africa through the gift of clean water. Will you consider contributing $50 to change a kid’s life? Maybe you can’t give $50, but I assure you that every dollar matters and any amount you can give is so appreciated.
My goal is to raise (at least) $2,000 to give 40 people clean water. Will you partner with me?