Active participants in the Streams of Mercy initiative are (from left) Pastor Mark Bankson—Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church; Leslie Hughes—Streams of Mercy volunteer at Our Saviour’s; Michael Hughes—co-chair of Streams of Mercy Water Initiative at Our Saviour’s; Joyce Zeigen—co-chair of Streams of Mercy Water Initiative.
Our Saviour's Lutheran Church has launched an ambitious Streams of Mercy outreach initiative to raise $2,500 so a desperately needed water well can be built in Kenya, a country plagued by water scarcity and lack of sanitation.
Edward and Lucy Wanambisi, recent immigrants to Stanwood from Kenya, know first-hand the toll of this crisis.
"We're very grateful to Our Saviour's for their Streams of Mercy campaign to help Kenyans who are struggling for the world's most precious resource, which is water," said Edward Wanambisi, who, with his wife, Lucy, and their six children, emigrated to Stanwood last November and attend St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Mt. Vernon. "Our people are getting sick from water-borne diseases because they can't gain access to treated water."
The church plans a community fundraising dinner featuring Kenya cuisine, live music performed by the Wanambisis, a slide show presentation and special prizes. The dinner, which is open to the public, is scheduled for Saturday, November 14, at 6 p.m. at Our Saviour's Lutheran Church, 27201-99th Ave. NW in Stanwood.
In the meantime, church and community members are depositing spare change in water bottles and turning them into the church fellowship hall Streams of Mercy station. Thrivent Financial for Lutherans has pledged to match donations up to $1,200.
Our Saviour's Lutheran Church, led by Pastor Mark Bankson, is raising awareness and funds to construct a water well and sanitation facilities in Kisii, a village located in southwest Kenya, northwest of the capital city of Nairobi. Our Saviour's members can be found in Stanwood wearing blue Streams of Mercy t-shirts and handing out information encouraging citizens to join this humanitarian outreach initiative.
Funds raised by church members will be used by the Heidelberg Christian Community and Medical Centre, a Kenyan Christian Relief and Development Non-governmental organization, which will oversee the construction of the well. Streams of Mercy monies will also cover the costs of training in Kisii for sanitation and hygiene education, and for implementing organic farming techniques that result in better water retention and improved crop production.
Kenya and Stanwood found each other when Dan Haskins, Our Saviour's Church Council President, recently volunteered his veterinary services in Kisii through Christian Veterinary Mission, a subsidiary of Crista Ministries in Seattle. Haskins' powerful testimony to church members of Kenyans' constant struggle for clean water prompted the church to respond. Future Streams of Mercy water initiatives are under consideration.
"While serving in the Kisii area," said Haskins, "I was amazed at the amount of time and effort these families put into collecting and hauling water each day to their homes so they could have clean, safe water to drink and cook with. Everywhere I went, I saw women and young children carrying containers of water - some as large as 5 gallons in size - to their homes as far as a mile away along hilly terrain."
More than half of Kenyans in Kisii do not have access to potable water, and about 80 percent of Kenya's rural population relies on polluted rivers or streams for their domestic water. In fact, less than half of all Kenyans have access to safe drinking water. According to the World Health Organization, more than 1 billion people worldwide lack access to safe water sources.
For the Wanambisi family, the water crisis is very personal. A close relative recently recovered from typhoid, and friends have contracted water-borne diseases from unprotected wells in Kenya. The Wanambisis lived four hours north of Kisii, near the town of Kitale.
"You can't imagine how serious it really is unless you're there," Edward said. "Our people are exposed to polluted waters, and because of that, typhoid, cholera, and dysentery are rampant in Kenya. You don't know if you're putting your life at risk when you reach down in that dark water. But you know you really have no alternative."