As our nation celebrates Independence Day amid a pandemic and cries for racial justice, I find hope in the Gospel’s message of emancipation. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, was born to free the world from the wages of sin and death. When I ponder on this truth and the grace with which our Lord has pursued humanity, I cannot help but say, “What a liberating life we have in Christ!”
This is what motivates me in my work as a Water Mission ambassador. After retiring from professional baseball, I found passion and purpose in helping to fight the global water crisis. Today, more than 2.2 billion people — one-third of the world’s population — suffer and die under the bondage of water scarcity, water poverty and water inequality.
To help shed light on the daily hardships that our brothers and sisters in rural, refugee and post-disaster settings must endure, I have collected a few facts about water-related needs that persist today and the solutions that foster freedom from such inequities:
1) Because of the global water crisis, billions of individuals are subject to waterborne and water-related illnesses, most of which are fatal and are the reason for why half of the world’s hospital beds are filled. Universal access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation and hygiene could reduce the global disease burden by 10 percent.
2) Without safe drinking water, local and large-scale issues in food and nutrition, health and medicine, education, and economics cannot be solved. Water inequality and water scarcity are the beginning of the poverty cycle. Thankfully, every dollar invested in basic drinking water yields an average of $7 in saved medical costs and increased productivity in rural areas.
3) The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed inadequacies in the developing world’s fragile and underdeveloped water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructure. While hand washing is one of the most recommended preventive measures against disease transmission, nearly half of schools and healthcare facilities around the world do not have hand washing facilities with soap and water. Water Mission and its partners have responded to these needs, helping to install more than 1,200 hand washing stations in 10 countries.
4) A third of the world’s population uses water from a contaminated source. Bacteria and viruses, such as cholera and the norovirus (commonly known as the “stomach bug”), are commonly transmitted through such contamination. In Haiti, water sources containing cholera bacteria led to 800,000 infections and nearly 10,000 deaths between 2010 and 2019. During this time, I witnessed Water Mission engineers develop and implement best-in-class safe water, sanitation and hygiene solutions that helped to end the outbreak.
5) Around 297,000 children under 5 — more than 800 per day — die annually from waterborne illnesses due to poor sanitation, poor hygiene or unsafe drinking water. Children in countries experiencing political conflict are 20 times more likely to die from causes linked to unsafe water and poor sanitation than from direct violence. That’s freedom to live and thrive daily stolen from 800 of the world’s future teachers, nurses, doctors, mothers, fathers, pastors, artists and public servants. With safe water, children in war-torn countries can celebrate more birthdays, more milestones and more opportunities to help lift their communities out of social and political strife.
6) Millions upon millions of women and girls are subject to gender-based violence because of water inequality. Tasked with collecting water for their families from distant, isolated sources, women and girls become exposed to physical and sexual harm. On top of this, they spend countless hours on walks for water, divesting time from education, livelihood and family. Water justice also means justice for women and girls. With access to safe water, they can be healthy and can focus on school, work and other pursuits.
7) On a recent visit to safe-water projects in Haiti co-supported by Water Mission, Help One Now and the Pittsburgh Kids Foundation, fellow baseball players Zach Duke, Paul Malholm and I discovered a painful ramification of the global water crisis: Families lacking basic resources are preyed upon by traffickers. In desperate need for necessities such as water, parents are coerced into child trafficking. The safe water project we helped to implement served a compound for children rescued from this modern-day form of slavery. Nearby, safe water solutions also served households — targeting both the beginning and end of a systemic evil.
The Bible says that faith without works is dead. To share the freedoms I enjoy in this country and the freedom I have in Christ is to drink from the still waters that He leads me to and to be a conduit for His redemptive grace. My Shepherd has called me to live out my faith by sharing clean, safe water. And from this calling, I have come to see the Great Commission take place as well.
Water Mission is an engineering ministry that has served more than 5 million people worldwide through safe water, sanitation and hygiene solutions. We partner with community members, local leaders and the global Church to not only help ensure access to basic resources but to the Gospel. The two go together: One makes a way for freedom from physical affliction and the other from spiritual death. Both offer a taste of the most refreshing and sweetest of truths — that by dependence on the Living Water, no man, woman or child shall ever thirst again.
— Former MLB player, Water Mission ambassador Scott Linebrink on power of empathy
— Pitcher Jaime Garcia overcomes fear, shares Gospel through work with Water Mission
— Cardinals infielder Matt Carpenter surrenders to God during ‘offseasons’
— Former MLB players band together to bring safe water to Uganda through Water Mission
— Orioles’ Chris Davis sees God’s plan at work in using his struggles to help others