Mission goes to camp. Camp goes to mission. Each statement sounds neither compelling nor poetic. But over the past 20 years, both statements have converged to compose compelling poetry for a camp called Hopewell and a mission called Living Waters for the World (LWW).
Located five miles east of Oxford, Mississippi, the home of “Ole Miss”, Hopewell Camp and Conference Center (HCCC) long has provided Presbyterians and other Christians the perfect setting of hardwood trees and lake waters to find God and to connect with fellow pilgrims in the faith. Twenty years ago, Wil Howie, a minister member of the Synod of Living Waters, was called by God to launch a mission to provide overseas communities drinkable water. Soon, the two ministries were combining efforts to turn the destination camp into a training ground and launch pad for worldwide mission.
This past September Hopewell hosted and LWW threw a celebration of ministry that marked Howie’s retirement and the commissioning of his successor Steve Young in the context of commemorating 20 years of one of the most impactful ministries going on in the Presbyterian world.
Guests included Neal Presa, moderator of the PC(USA)’s General Assembly; Tom Taylor, president of The Presbyterian Foundation; Greg Allen-Pickett, general manager for World Mission for the Presbyterian Mission Agency; Terry Newland, executive of the Synod of Living Waters; and Warner Durnell, executive of Presbytery of Middle Tennessee. More noteworthy among attendees was a host of volunteers, past and present, who have installed 572 water treatment systems in 25 countries over the past two decades. And not to be missed was a collection of students attending Clear Water U, a week-long program that equips the next round of volunteer leaders for system installations.
Howie traced the ministry’s story to 1989 when he was heading to seminary. “The name Living Waters for the World hit like an epiphany,” he recalled. He had already been working with Bread for the World. He now was a candidate for ministry from the Synod of Living Waters (based in Franklin, Tennessee). “Boom. It all came together.”
He surrounded himself with scientists to figure out how to clean up water. He did not set out to create new sources of water but to treat existing water sources, to make them germ, disease and pollution free. “In the world, there are probably 10 water access ministries for every one water treatment ministry.”
Through their synod ties, they invited Presbyterians to volunteer a week’s time to go to pre-arranged sites to install water treatment systems. In time, they realized that, given the fact that 780 million people lack access to clean water and three million die annually from preventable, water related illness — their efforts were lagging far behind the need. Then in 2003, in a meeting between Howie, Steve Young, who had joined the LWW staff as development director, and the Synod of Living Waters executive David Snellgrove, a eureka moment struck. “You can train people.”
Soon Clean Water U (CWU) was launched to equip volunteer team leaders. Hopewell offered accommodations for staging the program that quickly developed three components:
- 101 Project management: Team leaders to coordinate logistics, budgets, covenants and testing;
- 102 Health: Teachers to instruct the target communities about germ theory, and the difference between the need for clean water (e.g., drinking) and untreated (e.g., washing hands, except for infants);
- 103 Technology: Hands-on workers to install and train locals to operate and maintain the system.
With a cadre of over 1,600 CWU graduates, the ministry has mushroomed. After installing on average 2.5 systems per year in 1996-2003, in 2004-07 they installed 35 a year. In 2013, the number jumped to 79.
The LWW-CWU-HCCC model has been expanded to Calvin Crest conference center in Oakhurst, California; both are staging CWU courses this spring and fall. The model also has been adapted for use by Solar Under the Sun, a mission effort of the Synod of the Sun that aims to “illumine our fellow human beings with hope and life through solar energy.” Their 10th Solar School will gather at Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center just outside Little Rock, Ark., in early May.
Expectations for the future: many more system installations for both water treatment and solar power, many more convergences of camping and mission, even many more compelling pieces of poetry.