Since my retirement from Major League Baseball, I’ve made it my mission to share God’s love by helping to meet physical needs around the world. So I began working for Water Mission, a ministry that provides much-needed safe water for rural communities, disaster areas and refugees.
Not long ago, in November 2019, Blaine Boyer joined me and other former professional baseball players, Jason Standridge and Kyle Hanlon, on a visit to Bidibidi, Uganda, the world’s second-largest refugee settlement. It was on this trip that Blaine, Jason and Kyle witnessed firsthand how people displaced by war and famine lived.
“Being on the ground in Bidibidi has really brought home what these women and children have had to endure. They walked for more than 15 days just to get into the refugee settlement,” Blaine said. “And when they arrived, they didn’t have what they needed — clean water, food, shelter.”
In Bidibidi, where more than 230,000 refugees reside, water supply used to be unreliable and never enough.
“There were lots of challenges — no water but many villages. Water was not enough,” said Mary Yangi, a refugee who has lost a child and her husband since fleeing South Sudan.
Blaine and I had the chance to meet Mary in November. She told us that even when there was water, it wasn’t guaranteed to be safe for consumption. After surviving an arduous trek across borders, Mary arrived at the settlement, only to resort to drinking dirty water. To add to this, the only water source was miles away from her tent, requiring her to walk long distances in the hot sun.
Jesica Poni, another refugee we met, said, “I was pregnant and I lost my child because of the long walks I had to make to collect water. It was a long distance.”
To remedy this, Water Mission has provided the settlement with safe water solutions near dwellings, with multiple taps to serve multiple people at once.
Recalling conversations with Mary and Jesica, Blaine said, “I was overcome by the strength of the women I met and the way they had to fight for their families.”
Fresh in Blaine’s mind are images of refugees living in Ugandan settlements — children who have lost parents and women who have experienced extreme violence. Having met some of them and seeing for himself their dire reality, it breaks Blaine’s heart to imagine what effects COVID-19 might have on their communities.
“To hear about the threat of the coronavirus knocking on their door, my heart goes out to refugees who are already fighting depression, hunger and a lack of the most basic needs,” Blaine told me over the phone.
Blaine understands that amid this pandemic, the need for clean, safe water and hygiene resources are more critical than ever. Without safe water, refugees and medical professionals in these settings cannot wash their hands and clean their spaces. Without hygiene supplies and information on preventive measures, they risk community spread of the disease.
Now, with the threat of the coronavirus reaching refugee communities, Blaine and I are praying more fervently than ever, asking the Lord to protect Mary, Jesica and 70 million others like them living in under-resourced settlements.
“I have a snapshot ingrained in my mind of Mary with her eyes closed,” Blaine said. “She was in such joyous fellowship with the Father. When I take time to think about her and her heart for the Lord, it gives me pause and everything starts to calm down.”
Today, amid uncertainties surrounding COVID-19, Blaine and I hold fast to that image of Mary — reminding ourselves that someone else’s problems are always worse than our own, and that focusing on the needs of others takes our minds off our own problems and helps us keep perspective. We know we have peace in God that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:6-7). With this peace, we continue to commit ourselves to seeing refugees have the safe water and hygiene resources they need.
While we are feeling the effects of the outbreak here in the U.S., millions worldwide do not have what they need to be healthy and stay healthy. You can learn more about this life-saving mission at Watermission.org/jointheteam.
Right now, we are all on one team. As Blaine said, “We all have to band together to overcome this.”
Scott Linebrink was an MLB pitcher for 12 years, and now works as a Water Mission stewardship advisor.
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