By Timothy Carter, Samaritan’s Purse Water, Sanitation and Hygiene program manager in Kenya
Jerry cans are lined up outside the community water tank. Women and children are running from all directions, and a cloud of dust in the distance can only mean one thing: water is coming.
As we approached the Samaritan’s Purse water tank in the Maendeleo Community on a dusty, Friday afternoon, we expected to hear another powerful story of water changing lives. We were not disappointed.
The truck was greeted by joyful shouting when we pulled up to the water tank. Women and children waited patiently in line with smiling faces for their turn to fill their cans. The line grew longer and longer as people poured in from the fields in all directions.
While the life-saving effects of clean water were apparent, what we discovered was much greater than any of us had anticipated.
Samson Kombe, a member of the community water committee, welcomed us as he unlocked the water taps for collection time. Mr. Kombe is the pastor of Furaha (Joyful) Baptist Church, with 52 regular members. With his house right next to the Samaritan’s Purse installed water tank, Pastor Kombe is in charge of monitoring water usage to ensure there is enough water for everyone.
With the help of the water committee, a limit of five jerry cans of water per family per day is strictly enforced. Samaritan’s Purse-hired trucks supply 22,000 liters of clean water to the tanks every other day. The amount of water is also sufficient to meet the basic drinking water needs of people from the Kazamoyo Community, who walk 20 kilometers to the tank. Residents of these villages used to walk over two hours to collect water from the nearest water pan, which is now dry due to the drought.
Unlike most men in his culture, Pastor Kombe would assist his wife with the difficult and grueling task of collecting water. While he expressed a deep appreciation for the clean water, he could not contain his excitement about a different kind of water— Living Water.
When the drought began taking its toll in January of 2011, the pastor’s church experienced a significant drop in attendance. People were unable to attend because they would spend the entire day in search of water.
Since Samaritan’s Purse began trucking water to the community in February, Furaha Baptist Church has found new life. Eight former members have rejoined and 12 new members have started attending. One of the new members is a Muslim who now attends the Sunday services every week. Families collect 10 jerry cans on Saturdays to ensure they have enough water for the weekend and can attend church on Sunday.
Pastor Kombe has noticed a significant contrast in the level of energy and joy during Sunday services. The increased availability of clean drinking water has not only improved the community’s physical health, but their spiritual health as well.
At the pastor’s request, Samaritan’s Purse will also provide Bibles for his members to encourage continued attendance and discipleship after the drought has ended.
As we prayed with Pastor Kombe before departing, we reflected on the words of Jesus in John 4:14, “But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”