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History of African Water Projects

I slowly developed an interest in compassion ministries through sponsored children from World Vision and World Help, teaching fifth and sixth graders at Grace Baptist, and considering how Jesus walked and talked in His earthly ministry. I began to focus on Old Testament verses that emphasized God’s desire for us to help the poor, and Jesus’ great interest in healing. It occurred to me that many people of this world struggle to stay alive, suffer disease and hunger daily, and are faced with impossible odds due to drought, wars, and brutal governments. I read “The Hole in Our Gospel” by Richard Stearns, President of World Vision, while on my second trip to the Global Water Research Institute at Emory and Georgia Tech a few years ago. Both the contacts at Ga Tech and the book convinced me to pursue water in Africa as a primary way to show compassion, and the Gospel, to the most needy people in the world. As I taught the Saturday night class, I encouraged the children to think of the poor of this world, using pennies to represent our income in the USA (120 pennies) compared to 90 percent of the rest of the world (1 or 2 pennies). We pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven, yet we as the super rich watch 2000 kids die every day of preventable water-related diseases in Africa. I had spent two years researching the cause of two airplane crashes in the US which killed 145 people in the 1990’s. Yet here were fifteen 737’s crashing every day, killing little kids, all preventable.

At the beginning of one year’s Saturday night class, I called in the departing class of sixth graders, and the new class of fifth graders, and announced a project for the future. I had a boy throw a dart, after praying for God’s direction, at a map of Africa. It landed on Geita, Tanzania, the place God had for us to focus our compassion efforts. By internet searches, I found three ministries working in Geita: a Catholic Orphanage of 36 kids, a German mission teaching agriculture to teens, and a new effort from Murfreesboro, Tennessee working to set up an orphanage in Geita. That city of 150,000 had 9000 orphans, poor water, malaria, witchcraft, and a foreign gold mine that did little for the communities. For the past three years I have communicated and helped these groups with money, ideas, a pump, a motorcycle, and lots of prayer. I visited Neema House in Tennessee, meeting the people involved in the new orphanage. I passed on my contacts to the class so that they could see what was happening by focusing on one specific place in Africa.

This year I started my retirement, after 42 years as an Aircraft Hydraulics engineer. I left as VP of Engineering for Canyon Engineering of Valencia to aggressively take on African Water Projects: develop new ways to meet the needs of 300 million of the poorest of the poor. Water became the focus because of the massive death rate, and because it was an achievable goal. As Stearns pointed out, the 300,000 churches in America could easily afford the project (our giving is presently only 2.5% of our income). We are not responsible for the causes of poverty, but we are responsible for addressing the problem. Our compassion for the poor comes from Jesus’ command to love our neighbor. God can, and will, move this mountain of a problem if we show our compassion. Many object to Africa as a mission, saying we should help the poor in America first. But I weigh the need in Africa as much more immediate and serious- to be at the poverty level in the US is to be at least 50 times “richer” than most in the rest of the world, especially Africa. Likewise I, with a good retirement, can easily afford to help hundreds of my Christian brothers in Africa, so why should I hesitate?

African Water Projects now focuses on two primary fronts: 1) local ministries in Kenya, Swaziland, and Tanzania where small water development projects take place and 2) development of large, innovative strategies which have the potential to revolutionize rural water development in Africa. I just completed a 5 week tour of the USA, from Memphis to Ohio, from Tennessee to Florida, and back, visiting organizations and individuals who work with water. Some, like Healing Hands and Compassion International, are compassion ministries who witness Jesus in their work. Others, like Engineers Without Borders and Water for People, have Christians in the work but are not Faith Based ministries. I am establishing a network of people to work with, witnessing to those who do not know Christ but have the desire to help the poor, and connecting Christians with non-Christians. For example, Dr Robert Vincent of Bowling Green State University in Ohio, and I spent two days together talking about the Remote Imaging via satellites for shallow groundwater. We established a wonderful relationship, sharing a love for choir singing, and further enhancing the groundwater search in Kenya and Tanzania. I also met Adam Drozek, a lead student at Engineers Without Borders at Ga Tech, who invited me to speak to the 25 students at their chapter meeting. He told me he was a Christian as we shared breakfast the next day. I literally dropped in on Chris Gingles, VP of Healing Hands, a Christian based relief organization, who expressed the need for an inexpensive water monitoring device (for safe drinking water) and two sites in Africa that have no water at all. So I am now working to connect Dr Vincent with him, and locate the sensor. These examples are only a few of the organizations visited- I am presently listing them all on a USA map, along with their primary mission or help area for AWP.

My major need at this point is a group of individuals who are interested in helping with this project.  I would like to meet weekly to discuss the scope of the project, form a board, and make either a for-profit or non-profit organization centered around innovative, clean water development in Africa. I believe we were placed here to significantly help our extremely poor neighbors, enabling them to see both the Hope of the Gospel and the hope of freedom from hunger, disease and poor health. We have seen from history that handouts do not work as it increases pride and superiority in the givers and despair and hopelessness for the receivers. It also encourages all sorts of evil behavior- from bribes to misappropriation of funds. Christian based microenterprise (like Hope International and the Chalmers Center) has significantly boosted the poor, allowing them the dignity of work and trust of neighbors to establish small businesses. It is my hope that this direction can be applied to the search for potable water: providing a means to find shallow water with a locally developed method to harvest it. Local African churches will take a significant part in this development, similar to the chicken farms in Swaziland (AFAC) and the Hope International microloan projects.

I pray that you will help me find interested individuals at Grace Baptist, so that this effort will be fruitful for the Kingdom. I can be reached at dace2@aol.com or 661-724-2135.   Paul Knerr