In Serem, Indonesia in November 2016, I witnessed a community coming together to build a water filter. My outreach team taught the people of Serem the building process, but the best part was seeing them take it on as their own project.
I asked the people we were working with in the larger city of Ambon if the water filters could meet needs of the people of Serem. They said that stomach bugs and diarrhoea were common problems on the island. We didn’t have test kits to see for sure if the bacteria was coming from the water. Either way, we were excited to bring practical help to the island.
I have taught these water filters before many times, but this time in Serem was my favourite.
We saw a huge group of people come, and a great variety. In other places I had taught before, a lot of women came. Here in Serem, men, women, and children all came to learn. This was great knowing that the entire community was coming together. Even better, they all ended up working together to build their first filter. This group of about 50 people stayed long past dark to see their project complete. Everyone had a role.
Watching this community work together showed me something great about the people of Indonesia.
When we go on outreach, we don’t want to bring along the culture we grew up in. We want to bring God’s principles and watch them displayed in each unique culture. That’s why we also really care to teach the people and not just hand something to them. We want to show them that they are valuable and capable. When we leave, we can be excited at what was left behind. The people now have all the knowledge and experience to continue to bring clean water to their own homes and villages.
In late 2015, my team taught these filters in eight different locations around Kolkata, India. In March of the following year, they had already built 40 new filters. That was only three months after we left! That experience gave me a lot of hope for what can happen with these filters the more we teach people how to build them.
When we teach people to build water filters, they often ask us why we are doing this.
I love sharing with them that God cares for them. He wants them to be healthy. He wants them to be able to give clean water to their families. Our practical service also shows God’s character. It’s an easy thing for us to do, but it has the chance to change a nation through improved health.
My favourite part of doing this, though, is seeing groups of people come together. It’s never the same group of people every time, and I can’t teach them the same way every time. Each culture is so different and great. By giving them the ability to build their own filters, the beauty of the differences comes to life.
There are so many things that point to God in every culture. I’m glad that this simple act of teaching a community to build a water filter can bring out those godly attributes of each individual culture.