From October 29 to November 3, 1998, Hurricane Mitch dropped historic amounts of rain in Central America with some places in Honduras reporting rainfall in excess of 36 inches. In the days after, reports of the devastation grew. George Greene was driving back from a meeting in Atlanta and heard on the radio that over 10,000 people had died in the aftermath of the storm. While driving, he had a sense that the Lord was telling him to do something. When he arrived home, he sent an email to the Episcopal bishop of Honduras, offering to help and expecting to receive no response. George and his wife, Molly, owned a growing environmental engineering analytical laboratory and he told the bishop, “We know a little bit about water.”
When George turned on the computer the next morning, he had received a response from the bishop. “Can you send us six drinking water units?” The Greenes had a sense that the Lord had his hand on this as getting immediate responses from developing countries is not the norm and getting any response from Honduras in the post-hurricane scene was simply miraculous.
The Quest for Clean Water
The Internet was not the behemoth that it is today but that’s where they turned to do some research on drinking water units. The Greenes weren’t certain of what they were searching for but what they did find, they knew wouldn’t suit the purposes of the people in Honduras. On one end, they found single person backpacking units and on the other end, they found military grade water filtration units at a cost of over $250,000 each.
George, along with one of his engineers, pulled textbooks off the shelf and pulled out yellow legal pads and began devising a way to purify water, mostly through mechanical filtration. In just a few days they had a design that later was the basis for the Living Water Treatment System. Six weeks later they had built six water filtration systems and Senator Strom Thurmond had arranged for an Air Force C-5 Galaxy to transport the systems to Honduras. The Galaxy doesn’t normally fly out of Charleston and the Air Force doesn’t always respond to requests from long-serving senators but there they were. George and Molly headed to Honduras along with 16 people from their company and 50 tons of supplies, mostly donated by the people of Charleston.
Water Mission tells of being in Honduras: “When the Greenes arrived in Honduras, they were shocked by what they found. The river that flowed through a nearby village was the color of chocolate milk, deep brown with toxins, bacteria and hopelessness. The residents of the village referred to it as the “River of Death” – no one survived once they drank from that river. As one of the newly built water systems became operational, the local villagers were still terrified to drink any water from the river – whether it was clear or not. So Molly and George placed their own lips to the hose and drank the newly purified water. With that action, Molly and George bridged the final gap and the villagers swarmed forward to drink the water.”
The Birth of Water Mission
The Greene’s interest in international missions began when their then 13-year-old daughter went on her first mission trip. They saw the changes in her from being exposed to another culture and serving abroad. They supported others who went on trips and hosted people from other countries in their home. At one point, George went on a short-term trip to Haiti but it was their experience in Honduras in 1998 that really opened their eyes to the global water crisis and their role in addressing the fact that billions are forced to drink dirty water every day. In 2001, they formed Water Mission in order to address the crisis.
Twenty percent of the world’s population or approximately 1.4 billion people lack access to clean drinking water. Every day 3000 people die from water borne diseases and as George relates, “We don’t know how many of those people die without ever having heard the Gospel.”
Water Mission is a Christian engineering ministry committed to addressing the global water crisis by designing, building, and implementing safe water, sanitation, and hygiene solutions for people in developing countries and disaster areas. They are guided by the commandments to love God and love our neighbors (Mark 12:29-31) while also endeavoring to bring the Good News to the communities in which they serve.
They have over 250 team members throughout the world with 50 of those being in their headquarters in North Charleston. They have over 650 community development and disaster projects underway around the world. The global water crisis is huge and their work is impressive.
Water Mission and the Local Church
Water Mission would not exist apart from the local church for it was in the local church where George and Molly grew in their faith and where they were first exposed to the work of the church in other locales. George’s engineering background, Molly’s background in Spanish, and the success of their engineering company all prepared them to launch and run Water Mission. They continue to hold themselves accountable to the local church and are active in a LifeGroup at St. Andrew’s.
Partner with Water Mission
Pray for their work around the globe and that the Lord would continue to inspire them with new and innovative ideas for addressing the global water crisis. You can go to their website (WaterMission.org) and click on “Get Involved” to sign up for their weekly prayer email.
Last year over 23,000 volunteer hours were donated to Water Mission. Volunteers work in various capacities but the most common is to work in their warehouse to assemble Living Water Treatment Systems. These volunteers were not just local; Water Mission also hosted out of town mission groups.
Water Mission writes, “Our faith and our belief in the sanctity of life compel us to develop and implement the best technologies and community development programs so that, through our work, God will be honored and glorified and lives will be transformed for eternity.” You can learn more about Water Mission by visiting their website at WaterMission.org.