Sports Spectrum Weekly

Former MLB player Scott Linebrink reflects on Hurricane Dorian’s destruction of Bahamas

As hurricane season brews, I think back to Hurricane Dorian’s devastation of the Bahamas just one year ago. Hovering over the islands for days, the Category 5 storm brought sustained winds of up to 185 miles per hour, storm surges of approximately 20 feet, and left 70,000 people homeless. Neighborhoods were flattened, airports became inoperable, and road blockages prohibited traffic. Like in the aftermath of most natural disasters, safe water became an urgent need.

As partnerships director of Water Mission — a Christian engineering ministry that builds safe water, sanitation and hygiene solutions in developing nations and disaster areas — I saw secondhand the wide breadth of destruction in the Bahamas. Our hearts collectively broke as our brothers and sisters in Christ struggled to secure basic resources, including safe water.

Flooding from the hurricane contaminated main drinking sources with saltwater, leaving survivors without enough fresh, safe water. Craig Williams, Water Mission’s disaster response coordinator, said bluntly, “No government or organization can take this on alone — it’s just too big.”

Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) stepped up to the plate by donating $70,000 to Water Mission’s disaster response efforts in the Bahamas. Challenges exist for MLB and the MLBPA as they approach the expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. However, the shared value they place on maximizing the platform of America’s game for the collective good is evident in this joint contribution. With this grant, Water Mission has brought safe water and acts of kindness to the Bahamas.

The MLB and MLBPA’s contribution honored Roberto Clemente, the MLB Hall of Famer whose life was cut short in a 1972 plane crash while attempting to serve earthquake victims in Nicaragua. His legacy is one of true sportsmanship: fairness and generosity to others, both on and off the field. As a former professional baseball player, I celebrate MLB’s ongoing commitment to support causes that assist vulnerable populations, including access to safe water.

Water Mission staff evaluates the reverse osmosis machine used to turn saltwater into safe water. (Photo courtesy of Water Mission)

Championed by the MLB and MLBPA, Water Mission entered Hurricane Dorian’s wreckage with an innovative solution: reverse osmosis.

Reverse osmosis is a specialized water purification process where contaminants are filtered out of the water before it is treated. In this case, our team used reverse osmosis to turn saltwater into clean, safe water for survivors to drink. This solution has allowed Water Mission to provide the Bahamas with more than 1 million gallons of safe water.

“It [the reverse osmosis process] relieved us of having to get money and to pay [for water] or even stand in line and find out that at the end of the line, you’re only getting two small bottles of water. This has been a tremendous blessing, not only to the mainland but to the Cays as well,” said Earlyn, a Bahamian resident and local pastor.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought new urgency to the Bahamas just seven months after Hurricane Dorian struck. Water Mission staff members remained on the ground and installed handwashing stations, as safe water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) practices are a key factor in COVID-19 prevention. Water Mission continues assisting in the long-term rebuilding of the islands, particularly as they brace for future emergencies.

Water Mission staff remain in the Bahamas installing handwashing stations and providing coronavirus-specific learning materials. (Photo courtesy of Water Mission)

The Climate Prediction Center forecasts that 2020 may be an active hurricane season. Water Mission stands ready to be first responders immediately after a disaster.

As Christian athletes, we have a unique imperative. “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others,” says the Apostle Paul in 1 Peter 4:10. You and I understand what it means to be a team player. A team player uses their abilities for the good of the team. They encourage their teammates when the score is down. They look out for the underdog. If we believe that the Christian athlete’s mission is to love and serve our neighbors, then team players like you are especially capable of embodying that mission.

Though damaged, a local Bahamian was hopeful to find a Bible among the wreckage in his church. (Photo courtesy of Water Mission)

This hurricane season, we have an opportunity to serve our neighbors in vulnerable communities. I invite you to extend Roberto Clemente’s legacy by supporting Water Mission’s response to natural disasters in one of three ways:

Pray. The book of Matthew says that where two or three are gathered in His name, Christ is there with them. Christian athletes have the collective power of prayer to lift up the people in the Bahamas and other communities affected by hurricane season. We trust that the Kingdom of God connects us with the people of these communities as players on the same team.

Advocate. As hurricane season rolls through, your neighbors and friends might be eager to help where disaster hits. You can spread the word about Water Mission in conversation or by following and sharing our posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Give. Both immediate relief and long-term rebuilding are made possible by support from people like you. Help prepare for future disasters by giving today.

Whatever the hurricane season brings, I know that Water Mission can provide safe water for affected communities when they have teammates like the MLB, MLBPA and Christian athletes like you.

Join the team and help us respond to natural disasters.

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