Two local families to bring clean water, Christian message to Belize

March 6, 2010 

  • Two Bluffton families will kick off their Water Missions Belize project with a fundraiser from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at LowCountry Community Church in Bluffton. There will be live music and barbecue. The event is free; donations will be accepted. Details: 843-290-2994, www.watermissionsbelize.org

Safe water -- something most Americans take for granted -- is a basic necessity for survival. Yet in some parts of the world it's nowhere to be found.

According to Water Missions International, one in eight people around the world (about 884 million people) don't have access to clean water and 5,500 people die every day without it.

A nonprofit Christian-based engineering organization, Water Missions aims to provide safe water, wastewater management and storm water control to developing countries and disaster areas by creating and distributing water-treatment systems called Living Water Treatment Systems.

The system uses filtration and chemical disinfection to treat water from local rivers, lakes, springs, ponds or wells, removing contaminants and neutralizing pathogens, making the water safe for people to drink.

Two local families have joined the group's efforts by founding Water Missions Belize. The Harsta and Stephens families, both of Bluffton, will move to Placencia Village in Belize, where they will live and work for at least a year.

"It's a great organization, and they provide water for about a million and a half people around the planet right now," Water Missions Belize team member Roel Harsta said about the international organization.

"(Water Missions International is) in Haiti is very active right now after the earthquake. And we decided that Water Missions would be a great opportunity for us to take to Belize," Harsta said.

The people of Water Missions International believe God cares about the physical and spiritual well-being of all people and desires a personal relationship with each of them.

The group's primary goal is to take care of the physical need for clean water in countries such as Belize that are desperate for it.

But team member Aaron Stephens said the group will be giving the people of Belize more than just a refreshing drink and a clean bath.

"The water is a tool to get the Gospel message to the people because it's really about the people," he said. "The water is just the means of reaching them."

The two families, who have been nicknamed the "Quench team," will begin their Belizean adventure in July by assessing the needs of the people and where the water sources are.

The team will install water systems and latrines, and educate the people about health and hygiene. They will train the people of Belize how to use the water systems so they are able to continue using them after the team has left the area.

Each water treatment unit Water Missions brings to the country can provide water for about 3,000 people.

LowCountry Community Church of Bluffton and possibly other churches will periodically send teams for short-term mission trips to help the Belize team.

THE STEPHENS

"This is just the logical next step for us," Stephens said. He and his wife, Christine, have worked in the mission field for at least 20 years.

They worked with Youth With A Mission in South Africa, Hurricane Katrina efforts in Mississippi and a church camp in New York. Aaron spends two weeks a year working with a youth outreach program in London. He also has been to Haiti twice since the recent earthquake.

Now the couple and their two daughters, 13-year-old Indya and 10-year-old Reanna, will trade life in the Lowcountry for a new one in Belize.

THE HARSTAS

The Stephenses' friends Roel and Jennifer Harsta also have been working in missions for years -- mostly with their church, LowCountry Community Church, but also on a few short mission trips. The Harstas will bring their sons Chase, 9, and Logan, 7, as well as Jennifer's mother, Pat Ramsey, along with them to Belize.

A mission trip last year to Belize with another Christian nonprofit group called ROWKIDS is what pushed the Harstas to continue working with the people of Belize.

Since Roel already was involved with Water Missions International, he wanted to do something with the group in Belize. He suggested the idea to the Stephens family, who had been praying for a mission opportunity, and they jumped onboard the new venture.

"You've got to stop looking at people with your eyes and start looking at them with God's eyes," Aaron said. "When you can do that, then you can go anywhere in the world on missions."

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