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On a mission

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Local church teams up with non-profit to bring fresh water to those in need

Christ has no body now, but yours.

No  hands, no feet on earth, but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which Christ looks with compassion into the world.
Yours are the feet with which Christ walks to do good.
Yours are the hands with which Christ blesses the world.

-Theresa of Avila

BANGOR If you live in Bangor, chances are you've seen All Souls Congregational Church on the corner of State Street and Broadway. It's an impressive stone church, and provides one of the three steeples that reach up over the skyline that can be seen from many a vantage point in and around the city.

What you may not see is the work of the people there. But for several years now, members of the church have been going on missions - some far afield and others much closer to home.

'It started out as a youth mission program, where we could get kids to go out and do service projects,' said Renee Garrett, the minister of Christian Nurture for All Souls Congregational Church. She explained that one of the first projects was actually in upstate New York, where members of ASSIST-JC helped build a handicap accessible ramp for an elderly congregation. And they realized that it was a long way to travel.

'We don't have to drive all the way to New York to do stuff like this,' said Garrett. 

However, along the same time there was a doctor in the congregation, Clay Triplehorn, who had participated in many medical missions to Honduras after Hurricane Mitch had devastated much of the country. He impressed upon All Souls the need to do mission work to help them.

'He was very persistent. We found a group that works out of Nashville, Tennessee called Mission Discovery. We hooked up with them,' said Garrett. 'We went down the first time and stayed at the seminary. The government had thrown the refugees [of the hurricane] into this really desolate area in temporary shelters. We were part of groups coming in and making more permanent homes.'

Triplehorn, being a doctor, set up a medical clinic where people brought many of the children. It was then that they discovered that most of the illnesses that afflicted the people were waterborne.

'That sparked the dream for doing water projects in Honduras,' said Garrett.

But there were real obstacles in the way, including the ability to fund an annual international mission.

'There was no way we could afford to do this every year,' Garrett said. 'Having gone to Risingville [New York], we knew there was a teaching element to preparing us to do international missions.'

So the congregation developed a two-year cycle for mission work. One year, the entire team goes to Eastport to serve the community there. Anyone who is interested in helping with any of their missions has to start out serving in Eastport.

'It's a place to see how they handle stress; how they handle not getting as much sleep as normal. And that's good preparation for our team going off to an international site when you can't just run home,' she said. 'You need to know yourself and what you're made of. It's a great tool and a wonderful connection with Eastport.'

They approach the community leaders, who guide them to where there is a need. They've painted houses and churches and museums, replaced roofs and built shelves for the Labor of Love Food Pantry.

'We listen to pastors and the city manager, and they say who needs help. We make a list and take around our general contractor who tells us, This is in our skill range and this is beyond that,'' she said. And they have to be able to do it in a week. But you'd be surprised what can be accomplished.

This year, there will actually be three mission trips. ASSIST-JC (All Souls Students in Service to Jesus Christ) will be heading to Guatemala for a medical trip, vacation bible school and construction work. Another mission will be heading out to Black Mesa Arizona to the Navaho Native American Reservation, and then an adult mission will be teaming up with Pure Water for the World and heading back to Honduras (due to increased security risks, they didn't offer the youth mission to Honduras this year).

Pure Water for the World is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing clean water to developing countries, including Honduras and Haiti. They install water filters and latrines in these communities, working with the community to educate them about the benefits of clean water and proper hygiene. And this isn't an organization that installs a filter and takes off. They work directly with community leaders and employ community members to assist with not only the installation, but the ongoing education to help break the cycle of illness that comes from drinking or using contaminated water.

'Pure Water has 18 people working in Haiti and eight in Honduras. The eight in Honduras are Hondurans and one volunteer from Spain. Of the staff in Haiti, all but three are Haitians,' said Carolyn Crowley Meub, the executive director of Pure Water for the World. 

She said a lot of the work involves teaching people the basics, things we take for granted with an abundance of clean, uncontaminated water at our disposal like washing hands.

Meub recalled a time when she was working in Honduras and had an epiphany while talking to a resident there who told her about advice she had given her neighbor. The neighbor drank purified water, but was still bathing with water that hadn't been filtered. The woman, Maria Dolores, told her neighbor that she needed to use the filtered water for bathing as well as drinking, saying, 'Clean water is medicine.'

'That phrase has stuck with me,' said Meub. 'I could tell you how many people die per day. What we drink every day [in the U.S.] is medicine. I'm grateful for Maria Dolores for encapsulating what I do. What we're providing is health, because clean water is medicine.' 

Some of the stats, according to Pure Water for the World's website:

  • 1 in 5 people on Earth have no access to safe water to drink, and 5,000 children die each day as a result
  • One third of the world's people lack adequate sanitation

For much of the world, effective hygiene is either impractical or not understood.

And the impact is not only awful, it's cyclical. Children get sick and the mother can't work because she's caring for the children, which only increases the cycle of poverty. 

The mission to Honduras will be taking place from June 11 until June 21. Both the Guatemala and Black Mesa Mission will begin on June 23. Though anyone is welcome to help All Souls with their mission work, regardless of your affiliation with the church, you are required to attend a mission to Eastport prior to.

The church is currently fundraising for all their mission work and selling chocolate Easter eggs. For more information about the missions or to find out how can help, visit www.allsoulsbangor.com, call 942-7354 or email  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

To learn more about Pure Water for the World, visit www.purewaterfortheworld.org or find them on Facebook.

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