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How a clean water program is furthering the Gospel in remote regions of Asia, Africa

Operation Clean Water initiative
Children use a water pump built under Wycliffe's Operation Clean Water initiative. |

A global Bible translation organization is giving new meaning to "washing with water through the word."

The Orlando-based Wycliffe Associates, best known for its partner mother-tongue Bible translators and its partnership with local churches worldwide in the advancement of Bible translation, is helping Christians in Asia and Africa build bridges for sharing Scripture in Asia and Africa by providing clean water systems in remote communities.

Through its Operation Clean Water initiative, Wycliffe Associates supplies tools and training for local Christians to dig water wells and build clean water systems for their villages.

To date, the program has built nearly 40 water systems in two countries in Asia, Guinea, Togo, Niger and South Sudan in Africa, according to Bart Maley, Wycliffe Associates community development program manager. 

Maley told CP the work in Asia — where 14 water systems were built or are being built in countries where the work is so sensitive they cannot be publicly identified — involves training local pastors and staff to build water catchment systems.

Those systems capture water from a spring in the mountains and gravity feeds to a tank and distribution system in the village.

Members of the Wycliffe language community build the systems themselves and are then encouraged to guide neighboring language communities to build their own water system, Maley said.

"We have referred to this as 'clean water outreach' because it allows new and existing believers the chance to reach out and meet a felt need, which in turn allows them to share God's love even in places that are hostile to the Gospel," he added.

In Africa, where seven water systems have been built or are in the process of being built, communities pay part of the cost of the water system construction due to the technical and equipment requirements of water well drilling, according to Maley.

All of the water wells — or boreholes as they're known in Africa — have hand pumps and have been constructed in areas where a Wycliffe Bible translation team is working. 

Founded in 1967, Wycliffe Associates supports native speakers under the authority of the local church to translate Scripture into their heart language using resources and tools provided through Bible translation workshops. 

Maley said part of the ministry's strategy is to have leaders of the translation team read the most recently translated Scripture at the well site as community members come to collect water.

"Most often, this is the first time they have heard the Bible read in their language and often the first time they have heard the message of God's love," he said. "Many of the testimonies have included people of different faiths having an encounter with Jesus as a result of the message they have heard or the relationship that was built through coming to collect clean water."

It's a scene that is reminiscent of Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well in the Gospel of John.

"The story of the woman at the well is the [epitome] of showing how Christ met and had relationships with the people He gave his life for," said Maley. "Clean water is opening the door for these kind of relationships around the globe and it will only have a higher impact as the quest for clean water grows."

Approximately one in three people globally do not have access to safe drinking water, and roughly 3 billion people lack basic handwashing facilities, according to the World Health Organization. 

Anyone wishing to partner with language communities that are sharing the love of God for the first time can do so by signing up to pray for Operation Clean Water. 

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