Editor’s Note: This is the second in a two-part series exploring the challenges of engineering clean drinking water in third world countries. In Cuba and Guatemala, two missions recently brought success and much needed change. For part one click here.
Something was wrong.
Too many villagers coming into the medical clinic near the remote Guatemalan city of Chisec had the same problem—the diagnosis of a swollen stomach brought on by parasite infections from their drinking water. For high school student Logan Franks of Jacksonville, working in the clinic as part of her church’s mission trip, it was an eye-opening moment.
“I was blown away,” she said. “I can get fresh water out of my refrigerator, but the water these people had was making them sick. I started thinking about what I could do to make a difference.”
The result was a personal crusade to help provide villagers with a way to meet the basic need of fresh, safe water to drink and use.
|16-year-old Logan Franks of Southside UMC, made it a personal mission to help find clean drinking water in the village of Chisec. She is shown here alongside missionary Manny Batres addressing village men about Jesus being our living water.|
In July, after a year filled with meetings, research and fund-raising, she returned to Guatemala to help teach villagers how the 200 ceramic pots, equipped with natural charcoal and sawdust filters that her efforts helped provide, can change their lives.
“I love how God says to come to Him with the innocence of a child,” said her mother, Amy Franks, director of women’s outreach at Southside United Methodist Church in Jacksonville.
“As an adult, I had fun watching her do this,” she said. “She presented the Gospel in action to the people in Guatemala. All the village showed up. Men were pressing in to hear her. Many of them had tears in their eyes. It was amazing to see.”
For the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church, providing clean water in areas of need is a priority; and few places have a more acute need than the Caribbean nations.
According to a U.S. Army report, Guatemala has the highest child mortality rate in Central America, and much of that is attributed to tainted water. Sixty percent of the households in Chisec don’t have running water or indoor plumbing. Residents have to walk a couple of miles to a stream and fill containers.
The water is polluted from a variety of sources, including domestic wastewater, deforestation and industrial runoff. Much of the water goes untreated. Helping combat that problem is a life-saving undertaking.
Amy Franks has led mission trips to Guatemala for eight years, building trust with the villagers and relationships with local missionaries. Her daughter joined her three years ago as a sophomore at Stanton College Preparatory High School. A year later is when Logan Frank’s eyes were opened to how she might help address a crying need.
After returning home, she began to research ways to combat the problem. She learned about Ecofiltro, a Guatemalan-based company with a stated goal of providing clean water to one million rural families by the end of the decade.
“They were eager to help,” she said.
|Ecofiltro is a Guatemalan-based company with the stated goal of providing clean water to one million rural families by the end of the decade. Here a group of mothers from the village of Chisec carry filters up the mountainside.|
The company devised a system where untreated water is poured into the filtered pot. As it works its way through at a rate of up to two liters per hour, bacteria and pollutants are removed by the clay, sawdust and colloidal silver filter.
The result is water that is safe to drink and doesn’t contain the rancid smell it had when untreated. The smell was a problem because many of the people Logan saw that inspired her to begin the project had issues resulting from substituting soda for water.
“Dehydration was a big factor,” she said. “The water made them feel sick, so they wouldn’t drink it. The soda just caused more problems.”
The next step was raising enough money to buy the filters. She began to hold a variety of fundraisers, including speaking at several area elementary schools. Many of those students dug into their pockets to contribute to the cause.
She held various sales and started a Go-Fund-Me page to raise the money. When she returned in July to Guatemala with her mother and more than 20 other women from her church, Logan Franks saw the fruits of her effort.
Along with representatives from Ecofiltro, they presented the gifts to the people, along with something else. As she spoke in English, and it was translated into Spanish so the villagers could understand, she presented her testimony.
“I got to share the good news of Living Water,” she said. “I felt like God was calling me to do this.”
The experience also opened her eyes to the future. She will enter college next year and is said to be interested in future missionary work. With so much need by millions of people for just the basics of clean, drinkable water, it would appear there is much work yet to be done.
First, though, there will be another trip next summer to Guatemala. That’s when Franks may get an idea how effective the filters have been. If fewer people show up in the clinic needing medication to combat water-related problems, that will be the biggest clue.
“It will be interesting to see where God takes me,” she said. “I can’t wait to find out what that will be.”
--Joe Henderson is a freelance writer based in Brandon.