January 23, 2020

Bill Casswell

Westminster Member

This past summer, I spoke with Pastor Jon about the Living Waters mission work. I felt my spiritual journey calling me to do more in the community and the idea of helping those that don’t have access to safe water appealed to me. As a project manager, who worked extensively with water systems in a previous life in the Navy and industry, I thought I may have something to offer. Providentially, Jon was looking to grow the bench strength of the roster of project managers working with communities in Living Waters. He asked if I would be willing and able to attend the upcoming session of Clean Water University, for which my answer was Yes, send me!

So in early October, I flew to Memphis and took a bus to Oxford Mississippi, meeting up with Westminster’s own Jim Hatfield, to spend the next five days in a retreat center in the woods, to learn what we need to know about the water purification systems Living Waters enables communities to use, and more importantly, what the faculty, alumni, and in-country network people have learned along the way to make the partnerships created while making these installations successful, spiritual, and long-lasting.

Living Waters for the World is a global mission ministry of the PCUSA Synod of Living Waters. The organization trains volunteers to partner with communities to install water purification systems and enable health education systems. The takeaway being that there are many places in the world where safe drinking water is not a given, it is either not available or has to be bought bottled, which takes a significant share of family income. The exposure to unsafe water can lead to all sorts of medical issues, which seriously impacts the life prospects for all, especially children. By partnering to install and maintain a reliable & inexpensive method of delivering safe water, Living Waters and partnering volunteer groups can make a difference.

People come from all over the country to attend, some as far away as California. In-country network people were there as well, from Haiti and Guatemala. There are three courses offered, to provide teams with the ‘skill positions’ for the project. We soon fell into the habit of calling the roles by the ‘number’. I was in the 101 course, for project managers, Jim in the 103 course, for technical (installation, testing, maintenance). The course not represented by Westminster this session is 102, or Health & Spiritual Education.

My instructors, Scott & Dan, put us all at ease from the start, ensured we got to know each other through ice breakers and team building. From there, we went from 0 to 60 with all that is involved in running a Living Waters project, starting with the general and working into specifics. Learning best practices for planning, budgeting, team roles (including the very vital in-country network staff) and most importantly, partnering with the community we serve.

Lots of knowledge sharing from veterans of many installations as technical or educator roles returning to learn project management. Pointers on what to expect in country, dealing with locations vastly different from the USA, how to work with language differences, cultural differences (most places in the world think Americans tend to rush from task to task, trying to get everything done yesterday, without taking time to know or understand others).

Many opportunities to get to know folks in the other courses through mealtime and nightly get togethers in the chapel for talks, prayers and singing.

I came away with a solid understanding of what Living Waters offers, what our roles are in these projects, and the awareness that we are there to partner, to enable communities to operate and educate. I left very motivated to participate in our Westminster team’s visit to Honduras in November.