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Texas Baptist Men seek to provide pure Water of Life

Posted: 12/29/06

Texas Baptist Men seek
to provide pure Water of Life

By Barbara Bedrick

Texas Baptist Communications

ZACATECAS, Mexico—Many children in villages throughout much of the Mexican state of Zacatecas cannot drink water without swallowing arsenic and heavy metals. But Texas Baptist Men volunteers are seeking to correct that problem, one community at a time through their Agua de Vida—Water of Life—project.

Texas Baptist Men volunteers test and purify water in Zacatecas, Mexico. The men’s work in Mexico is saving the lives of people whose only source of drinking water was contaminated.

Much of the water supply in central Mexico contains heavy levels of arsenic. Thousands of indigenous people live with this danger, but children are the most vulnerable because their immune systems are not fully developed. Toxins in the water can cause skin lesions, cancer, neurological damage and even death.

In early December, TBM volunteers focused on the community of Cervantez, but the team met an obstacle at the border where customs agents prevented their truckloads of water purification systems from crossing.

While the delay was disappointing, the team pressed on to turn a loss into an opportunity.

“We went and met with several dignitaries to build our relationships,” said TBM Logistics Coordinator Dick Talley. “Through this (discussion), a lot of doors are opening for future efforts.”

The water purification ministry has opened hearts and doors.

Leaders have seen how the work by TBM teams has made a difference in their communities. In areas where people have no running water and the water they have is unsafe, TBM is saving lives by delivering and installing water purification systems. 

Working with missionaries in Mexico and state leaders in Zacatecas, TBM workers already installed one large water purifier in the Santa Tomas area.

“Because of this connection, each family in this small community now has running water in their homes. Before this, they had to walk three miles every day for the past 92 years to get water,” TBM Executive Director Leo Smith said.

The water purification ministry has opened hearts and doors for Texas Baptists, Talley added.

“It’s allowing our missionaries opportunities we’ve never had in the past. We are working directly through the missionaries and letting them guide us,” he said.

Baptist missionaries such as Ananias Cruz and Leo Baggett are an integral part of every mission TBM does in Mexico as the Baptist men work with local pastors to offer the pure water and the spiritual “Water of Life,” Talley observed.

“TBM is hopeful that the water purification system will have the same impact in other cities as their efforts did in the small Zacatecas community” of Santa Tomas, Smith added. “In Zacatecas, the improved water became the turning point for major (business) development to consider the area.”

TBM’s encouragement to share the improved safer water supply prompted state leaders to secure a tanker truck to transport clean water to surrounding hillside villages. To get there, the leaders first had to construct a new road. In turn, it led to the creation of a dam and a lake, which now provides a clean water supply to thousands of residents.

The initial water ministry project in Zacatecas impacted only a few hundred, so the TBM ministry team is pleased with this result. The team also has provided computers to students as they extend their outreach efforts. They are helping the indigenous people restore their lives and livelihoods with every week-long trek to central Mexico.

“The serendipities of that first trip to purify water for thousands of people have been unbelievable,” Talley said.  “A major automobile subsidiary saw the impact of this effort, and they decided to invest in the community. The company bought a warehouse, refurbished it and then bought sewing machines. The company plans to hire more than 650 workers to make seat covers for the auto company worldwide.”

Livelihoods are changing, with many workers now trained and others expected to be hired.

Coupled with the partnership between these Texas Baptist mission workers and missionaries, the movement also is saving lives for Christ. At least 13 churches have been started.

“The churches may be small, but this has led hundreds to know the Lord, including some of the political leaders,” Talley said. “Pastors are being trained.”

As relationships grow, so does community support. Residents in Cervantez already have built a structure to house the TBM water purification units headed to the community.  

“They’ve done such a beautiful job of building and getting it ready,” Talley said. “It’s an unbelievable effort, and the community is very proud” of its accomplishments.

The TBM Agua de Vida team plans to return to Mexico in January to install the new water system.

“We need prayer to know that we’re working where the Lord wants us to be working,” Talley said. “We also need financial assistance to support the ministry.”

The team is praying that through its water and computer ministries opportunities will arise to train more pastors. A new facility is needed to provide a school to equip church leaders.

And word has spread about what TBM already has done in Zacatecas, as evidenced by a tree trimmer working in Talley’s neighborhood who stopped to talk after seeing a TBM insignia on his vehicle.

“You were in Zacatecas,” he said. “We know what you are doing. You’re improving our health, and you’re making a difference in Zacatecas. Someday, we may not have to come to America to get a job.” 

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