Why We Choose Filters Over Wells
Clean water is critical to life and good health. According to the World Health Organization, the third leading cause of death among children under 5 years old is directly related to contaminated drinking water. Worldwide, 144 million people rely on collecting untreated water from lakes, ponds, rivers and streams for drinking and cooking. Among them are many Jewish people from the Lost Tribes of Israel that we serve in Africa. Thus far, Jewish Voice has worked mainly in Ethiopia and Zimbabwe, and we have found that we can meet that the need for clean water most effectively in Zimbabwe.
As a ministry that meets humanitarian needs in order to show the love of Jesus and open hearts to hear about Him, Jewish Voice is reaching out to bring clean water to members of the “Lost Tribes of Israel” primarily through the distribution of water filters. Why filters and not wells? Here are two significant reasons.
After an organization digs a well for a community, a person or group often takes control of the well for personal gain and to exert power over the people. They can charge outrageous fees to use what was meant to be a gift. Through intimidation and threats of violence, they often deepen the oppression of a people intended to receive relief.
Wells need attention. Things break and sometimes quit working altogether. It’s essential to find the right person to remain a point of contact for maintenance. This can be a difficult challenge in a new area where we have no established relationships. Without an ongoing relationship with a designated, committed caretaker in the community, a well can fail, and the funding organization will know nothing about it. For instance, in Wolkite, Ethiopia, where we held a Medical Outreach for the first time in 2021, we learned of a well that was dug by another organization but hadn’t functioned in six years. We fixed it for the community and discovered the problem 80 meters below ground. Without knowledge and money for maintenance, a well can remain in disrepair indefinitely.
We’re not opposed to wells
We are not opposed to digging wells for members of the Lost Tribes of Israel. In fact, we have done so in Zimbabwe, placing the wells under the care of designated Messianic Jewish congregations to ensure their maintenance and that they remain gifts to the communities. This has been an effective arrangement in many cases, and we will continue to drill new wells there as we are able to meet the need.
Filters do the job
When Jewish Voice conducts a large-scale Medical Outreach, we also distribute LifeStraw® water filters that clean water right in the home or at a community center. When we return to an area, many people tell us they no longer feel chronically sick since using the filter. LifeStraw® water filters remove 99.999999% of bacteria, parasites, and viruses that lead to chronic and sometimes life-threatening diseases. We distribute two sizes: Family and Community. A Family LifeStraw unit filters three to five years of water for a family, and a Community LifeStraw® cleans 26,000 gallons of water to improve the health of an entire community.
We also include a water education program along with the filter distribution. During the classes, people learn about the importance of clean water and hygiene to prevent disease. After one class, a woman stood up immediately, saying, “Thank you. We never knew these things.”
Yet, there is another kind of “water” that gives life.
Filters open spiritual doors for the Lost Tribes of Israel
Jesus promised that those who believed in Him would have rivers of living water flowing inside them (John 7:38). As we bring humanitarian aid to open hearts to this living water of Jesus, we have found that prejudice against the Jewish people can be so strong as to try to keep them away from our Outreaches. We’ve seen deliberate miscommunication of Clinic dates and even the blocking of roadways to prevent Jewish people from receiving the services we’ve brought to an area for their benefit. So, we started the Living Waters program.
Through the Living Waters ministry tool, we bring both healthy, life-giving drinking water and the living water of the Gospel right to the Jewish villages. This guarantees that we’re able to effectively serve our target community. Local Messianic congregations then follow-up with the families that received water filters, further spreading the Gospel and developing relationships in the community.
We have found distributing water filtration units to be an effective means of providing healthy drinking water to remote Jewish villages and opening hearts to the Gospel – the living water that provides eternal life.
We are excited about future opportunities to serve the Lost Tribes of Israel. As we expand to reach Jewish communities in other locations and countries, we continue to supply our “ministry toolbelt” with need-meeting tools, whether food, water, medical or other needs. As we continue addressing the vital importance of clean water in the future, we look forward to engaging further in WASH evaluations (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene), education and resources to help the Jewish communities we serve.