FLINT, Mich. (Christian Examiner)—As churches nationwide hear riveting stories of how the contaminated water system in Flint, Michigan has endangered its citizens -- even to the point of causing children to potentially become infected with lead poisoning -- members are pitching in with plans to collect and distribute clean water.
For example, one inner-city Detroit church has been collecting water bottles for Flint and plans to distribute them to the city later this month. They are also planning an evangelistically focused distribution of water next month.
Stephen Murphy, who serves as an associate pastor at Victory Fellowship Community Church in Detroit, says the idea first came to him because he had a good friend who lived in Flint. One day, he says, God laid it on his heart to help by mobilizing his church to gather water bottles.
"Bottled water is pretty cheap," Murphy said to the Christian Examiner. "We have easy access to it. I challenged my college ministry to start raising funds as well as bringing in water donations in preparation for our first trip of what we expect to be two or three to Flint to share in ministry with them and be a blessing to the residents of Flint."
Murphy challenged each member of his college ministry to provide two boxes of bottled water. He later extended the challenge to the whole church. He expects to take the first trip to Flint on Jan. 29 and continue with a subsequent trip sometime in February, probably two weeks later. The second trip will have more of an evangelistic emphasis as they prepare to share the Gospel as they distribute the collected water.
Victory Fellowship Community Church took on this effort despite the fact they're in the middle of a low-income inner-city neighborhood where typical household incomes are under $20,000 a year, Murphy says.
"I think this is a great time for us to show love and that we care," Murphy said. "It makes no sense for us to meet every Sunday and Wednesday night and come together within the four walls of our sanctuary and not get out into the streets to evangelize and share the Gospel. Jesus said he came to serve so we have to have a servant's heart, a missional heart, in order for the Gospel to spread and increase."
The water crisis in Flint is nearly three years in the making. According to a timeline provided by NBC News, an April 2013 decision to save the beleaguered city millions of dollars by joining a new water authority that got water from Lake Huron instead of Detroit initiated the problem. Because it would take three years before water from the new source would be available, the city began getting water from the Flint River while it waited.
Over the next few years, the water garnered from the Flint River demonstrated numerous problems. Most significantly, the river water is highly corrosive and eroded the water pipes that the city's households use.
USA Today reported that every person who drank out of the Flint water supply has been exposed to lead. Children, the article adds, are most susceptible to lead poisoning from that exposure. An infographic in the USA Today article showed that 90 percent of Flint homes had water with lead exposure more than five times what would be cause for concern.
Earlier this month the state's governor, Rick Snyder, declared a state of emergency in the city and called on the National Guard to distribute bottled water and filters in the city. President Obama also signed an emergency declaration for the city and ordered federal aid for the city.
Numerous churches have pitched in to help. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief delivered a truckload of water to the city last Saturday. Local SBC churches distributed the water earlier this week.
A Huntsville, Alabama television station reported that churches throughout the Tennessee Valley are coming together to collect water and will distribute it starting Jan. 31. The churches are collecting water during the two weeks prior to their planned trip to Flint.
"Water is a necessity. It's a necessity and so we want to be able to do our little part, just a little part, to make a difference in the lives of these people in Flint," Gresha Lewis of Body Ministry told WHNT-19 News.
Churches in the Lansing, Michigan area are donating 24,000 bottles of water for their Flint neighbors, too. Numerous other churches throughout Michigan and around the country have also pitched in.
Flint-area churches are serving as key distribution points for the collected water, too. People's World says that First Trinity Baptist Church is a hub for other churches to distribute water to their congregations and beyond. The church has used social media to connect with congregations elsewhere who want to help the Flint area by providing clean water.
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