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Living Water

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How one non-profit is bringing health and hope to thirsty people around the world.

Written by Susanna Donald | Select photography courtesy of Living Water International

SUGAR LAND, Texas (SLM) – It all began in 1990, when a group of 36 people from Sugar Creek Baptist Church went on a mission trip to Mombasa, Kenya, and saw firsthand how desperately the people needed clean water.

The team tried to drill a well, but they were unsuccessful. A group of three men – Harry Westmoreland, Gary Evans, and Gary Loveless – returned to Kenya, but there was still no water. When it seemed the project was destined to fail, Westmoreland made one final attempt, this time equipping Kenyan nationals to drill. The water that erupted from that borehole signaled the birth of Living Water International.

Living Water International is a non-profit organization based in Stafford that works to bring clean water to poverty-stricken countries and share the message of Christ

Living Water International, a Stafford-based non-profit organization, has been working for more than 20 years to bring people water-for life-in Jesus’ name. Since 1991, they have drilled and repaired wells, taught health and hygiene classes, and shared the love of Jesus in 23 countries around the world. More than 11,000 water solutions across India, Africa, and the Americas exist today because of Living Water International.

A Global Crisis
Sadly, 783 million people in the world don’t have access to safe, clean drinking water. According to the World Health Organization, diseases from unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation kill more people every year than all forms of violence – including war. Each day, diarrhea takes the lives of 2,000 children in Africa – more than any other single cause of death. Safe water, a toilet, and clean hands could prevent 90% of these deaths.

More Than Water
“Having access to clean water is the basis for every other kind of development – it’s the first step, not the final one,” says Paul Darilek, Living Water’s senior director of communications. For nine years, Darilek worked as a missionary in El Salvador, in a village called Tierra Nueva. Every family had lost a child in infancy due to waterborne illness, and it was only a matter of time before the water landed Darilek in the hospital. When villages like Tierra Nueva get clean water, everything changes – education, economy, health – a pattern that Darilek has witnessed over and over again.

Children collecting water in Ghana

“At Living Water, we recognize that clean water is only the beginning,” says Darilek. “What we do is ultimately about the gospel, about demonstrating and proclaiming God’s love by giving water to people who need it,” says Darilek. Living Water invests deeply in relationships, empowering locals to manage and sustain their own wells, educating people about the importance of health and hygiene, and sharing God’s love – the living water of Jesus.

Mission Trips
More than a fundraising organization, Living Water seeks out those that are thirsty, and engage in a relationship with them. As Darilek points out, “If you really want to love the thirsty, you have to know them.”

Danny Miller, Houston Baptist University’s director of Baptist student ministries, has taken students on 11 mission trips with Living Water. “The students go to help drill a well, but they come back understanding that the people they served have really served them,” Miller says. “They see joy and peace in the middle of complete material poverty, and it changes their priorities.”

For Sugar Land resident Jasmine John, her first trip with Living Water was exactly as Miller describes. “I heard stories about how people walk miles to get water, but it is so different to hear a story and to actually see it,” says John. She joined Miller recently to travel to Santa Guadalupe, Nicaragua, with a group of 10 students. “Nicaragua, the community and the children, really changed my life,” she says. “It won’t be my last mission trip.”

Resident Rowanda collect unclean river water to use for drinking and cooking

Get Involved
Living Water offers many different opportunities to get involved. “Ask God how he wants to use you and your gifts,” says Darilek. “A mission trip might be the thing for you, but there are two little girls who love doing origami and created a fundraiser called Paper for Water around their skills. They raised over $120,000. There’s a special way God can use you, too.”

SUSANNA DONALD is a freelance writer and long-time admirer of Living Water International and the work they do around the world.

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