A great darkness has fallen over West Africa. Mainstream media doesn’t hesitate to allude to the depth of that darkness and they aren’t exaggerating in this case. The darkness is vast and deep for our brothers and sisters in that section of our world. To date there have been over 3,000 deaths reported, primarily in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. According to the World Heath Organization, the number of infections has been doubling every three weeks. Given the overall sense of non-combatable urgency, it seems impossible to find even flickers of light. Where can we find hope as people are mourning losses and living in fear far beyond our imaginations?
Journey with us to Kabala, a mountainous agricultural center in the far north section of Sierra Leone. Kabala is one of the largest towns in Sierra Leone in total land area, but is less densely populated. This poverty stricken village is largely Muslim, but includes a strong Christian population living in harmony with their Muslim neighbors. While tribal tension is common in many areas of West Africa, Kabala is a center of peace and respect for the variety of traditions, beliefs, and cultures represented. In the center of Kabala sits a Christian health clinic coined “Nar Sarah.” This small but vital clinic is lead by Head Nurse and Health Program Officer, Peacemaker, and his sister, Theresa.
In 2003, Peacemaker and Theresa started roots for this clinic out of Peacemaker’s two room home. Their hearts were dedicated to providing much needed health care for their community and to bear witness to the power of Christ in their lives. Enter Les and Hope Law, Coloradans with an already established heart for the people of Kabala. Over the next few years, Les and Hope aided in establishing Nar Sarah as a certified clinic and raised funds to build a larger facility. The community in Kabala embraced the project and spent two years constructing a new facility using the materials provided through fundraising efforts. In 2010, a ten-room clinic was born and evolved into a Community Development and Health Organization. The new Nar Sarah serves over 4,000 people per year, many of who walk up to three days to be seen by Peacemaker and his team.
During one of Les and Hope’s mission trips, Devon, a member of the team, witnessed the community’s reliance and utilization of a near by river for washing, cleaning, drinking and lavatory needs. The people of Kabala did not connect unclean water with sickness. Illness and death are unquestioned aspects of their culture. Devon knew of Healing Waters International (HWI) and returned to Denver with a mission to introduce the Healing Waters team to Nar Sarah. In 2012, Peacemaker, Theresa, Les, Hope. and their daughter, Dorcas visited HWI Colorado office and completed training and certification for their new water purification system and health and hygiene education curriculum. One small concept introduced during their training was the use of Tippy Taps, a simple device for hand washing with water. A five liter container with a small hole near the cap is filled with water and tipped with a stick and rope tied through a hole in the cap. As only the soap is touched with the hands, the device is very hygienic. Simple, but hygienic.
Healing Waters staff had no way of predicting how God’s hand would reveal itself in this training process, but they witnessed the passion and fire for Christ in the Nar Sarah team. Back in Kabala, their Healing Waters project was established, the community business model rolled out, and influential community leaders were chosen to lead the project. Recipients of safe water began learning about health and hygiene practices and word began spreading to the remainder of the village. An unprecedented 300 Tippy Taps were installed by local women and children in Kabala, bringing with them the education of hand washing and its congruence with health and wellness. A spark was lit. What the community didn’t realize was how vital that spark would become in the following year.
Ebola began striking West Africa in March, 2014 and has continued to grow in intensity. When the disease began traveling through Africa, Kabala was on the front line of empowerment.
“There is a sense of hope built by the awareness that Ebola is real and should not be underestimated. Good knowledge of health education about water and hygiene and helping people to develop a culture of hand washing will go a long way in combating this type of illness both now and in the future. Clean water reduces the rate of water bornediseases like worm infestation, diarrhea and vomiting, etc. People in the community are accessing safe drinking water now. We are also producing small bags of water, 20 in a bundle, which are selling like hot cakes in the community. Everyone loves drinking these packets of water. Tippy Taps serve directly in fighting Ebola. What we learned at Healing Waters has provided us the opportunity to combat Ebola.”
Currently, Kabala, is part of the ONLY district in the country free from the Ebola virus. THAT is impact. Impact brought about by God working through a passionate group of Christian people banding together for common good. Impact brought about by education and ongoing ownership and accountability. Impact so often starts in a simple place and is given fuel as it travels. It’s given fuel as it is nurtured. Eventually, impact grows wings and acts as a flame in the midst of complete darkness. As the Nar Sarah team expands their knowledge and installation of Tippy Taps to outlying villages, they hold on to hope for all of God’s children in West Africa. The Tippy Tap -a small, almost incidental, portion of the model Healing Waters provides- has become significant in Kabala.
We’re convinced that little is much when God is in it. Kabala and Nar Sarah are flames of hope in the darkness Ebola has produced. Eternal flames.
II Corinthians 9:10: Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.
The HWI family is humbled when painted a magnificent picture of the harvest God can reap when we simply sow the seed. Healing Waters remains steadfast in our faithfulness to our mission and calling.