Villagers in a remote area of Sierra Leone in Africa expressed their joy as they watched water spew from a recently installed pump.
Gospel recording artist Sandi Patty said she watched the villagers' exuberant faces and was filled with excitement during her recent African mission trip with the Oklahoma City-based Water4 organization.
“I'm telling you, it was so incredible to see the joy on the kids' faces,” Patty said during an interview.
“To see the women begin to connect the dots that they did not have to walk two miles to get this basin of water, that they literally could walk maybe 15 steps outside their hut to go to the pump and take clean water back — there was just so much joy in their community.”
Patty and her family traveled to Sierra Leone in February with one of the Water4 Foundation's mission team. Water4 is a faith-based nonprofit which provides clean drinking water to poor, at-risk communities around the globe through water well drilling and the manufacturing of inexpensive water pumps and manual drilling equipment.
Patty said she and her husband, Don Peslis, were drawn to the organization when they moved to the Oklahoma City area from Indiana in 2009. She said she has become more committed to global mission endeavors over the last 25 years and she and her spouse were impressed with Water4's work not only to help impoverished people but to help the people help themselves.
“The men in the communities are able to step up and really be the champions for their village and be able to supply this clean water and then become businessmen and help villages around them do the same,” she said. “To me, that's what's so exciting, that this is sustainable.”
Patty said it was on one of their initial meetings with Water4 leaders that the couple knew they wanted to go on one of the organization's mission trips. She said she and her husband had always wanted to take their children on such a venture and the recent trip provided them that opportunity.
“It was just incredible to share this with them.”
Patty said she got to see and experience firsthand the physically demanding labor involved with water well drilling at one village. She said her team began to find water about 40 feet deep.
“That was so exciting,” she said.
Patty said at another village, unofficially dubbed the “polio village,” the Water4 team built a water system destined to make the villagers' lives much easier and safer. The Grammy Award-winning singer said the village was populated with families of polio victims, all treated as outcasts by other villages.
She said the new water system made it possible for the villagers to have water for drinking, cooking, showering and other uses.
“It made me so happy to be part of that and to see the joy in that village where most of these people would be outcasts. To see that there was a place for them to celebrate their brokenness and to have a place where they can enjoy their families, love their families and live the rest of their lives, to me, that was so exciting,” Patty said.
She said the most inspirational aspect of the trip was interacting with African mothers and learning about the difficulties they face due to lack of clean water.
“As a mom, the thing that touched me was seeing the other moms and knowing that there is nothing that we as moms wouldn't do for our children,” Patty said. She said she and her daughters gathered with many women in one village and learned how grateful the Africans were for safe water. So many of them had watched as their children died of waterborne diseases because one in five children under the age of five will die of waterborne diseases, according to statistics, Patty said.
”That's just their normal. It's so common that there is not even emotion attached anymore sometimes,” she said. “I'm sitting in that circle and I have eight children and I'm thinking that would mean one of my children — or two — would just die. I just could not stand to think that I would let that be their normal.”
Patty said she would like to see more Oklahomans embrace the Water4 mission and help support the foundation's efforts to provide safe water to places that desperately need it.
“I would just so love Oklahoma, the spirit of what we know this state to be, to get behind Water4, because this is something that is going to radically change our world,” she said.
“I want to issue a challenge to every single person reading these words that we can be part of the solution for as little as $10. This will give water to one person for the rest of their life. There are people who can give $100,000 that will sustain an area in West Africa or Central Africa for their rest of their life,” Patty said.
“We are going to be able to say ‘remember when there was no water and Oklahoma was one of the states that stepped up and said we can't allow this to be the normal in Africa or in India or in Central America or wherever it may be.'”