Water Mission is an American-based Christian engineering non-profit that is focused on building safe water, sanitation, and hygiene solutions, often blessing people in developing countries. But currently some of their teams are active in war-torn Ukraine to help ensure safe drinkable water.
Earlier, as war broke out, Water Mission was active in border nations like Poland, Romania, and Moldova – where an influx of millions of Ukrainian refugees had strained local abilities to provide necessities.
Gregg Dinino, public relations director for Water Mission, explains that close to a dozen of their water treatment systems are already in place in Ukraine to meet daily emergency water needs for literally thousands of people. A priority now is to install safe water systems in hospitals for cooking, cleaning, and consumption. Another shipment of water systems is on the way to Ukraine, with teams in place to get them up and running as soon as possible.
Adding to the outreach, 3.5 million water purification packets are being distributed through church partners and NGOs (non-government organizations). Gregg says, “They look like a small sugar packet” that can be added to a container of water to deactivate bacteria and dissolve sediments “to provide emergency safe water, quickly.” And thousands of personal hygiene kits have been made available, lending some comfort in a time of crisis.
Perhaps above and beyond seeing to the physical needs, Water Mission has purchased thousands of Bibles in the Ukrainian language for distribution.
Water Mission’s Josh Burns is just back after two trips to the region. One of his responsibilities is working with local partners and authorities within Ukraine to identify where and what the needs are, and then help coordinate a logistical plan to respond. “The Ukrainian people are very, very resilient. I was shocked by how many people I met who had left their homes and they’re wanting to return right away because they don’t want to be away from their loved ones.”
As a Christian, early on in the crisis, Josh had the opportunity to pray with some Ukrainians who fled the country and might not return soon, if ever. “I got to pray with people who just lost their homes and who are looking to start a new life in a new place. My prayer was very consistent that people would feel God’s love and His presence near them at a time that they’re strangers in a foreign land – and that people would feel really cared for by the strangers they’ve been meeting.”
Right now, Water Mission is concentrating water assistance on the Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv (or Nikolaev), which is located near the Black Sea. The city of nearly 500,000 was founded in 1789 and is a critical seaport to a nation that risks being landlocked due to Russian land seizure and aggression. Incoming water lines have been damaged by Russian shelling. The issue in Mykolaiv is that the local water there has high salt content due to the proximity to the sea, along with some chemicals. Water Mission is custom-designing treatment systems to counter those contaminants. And area hospitals are the priority.
It’s pretty much impossible to be working on location near a war zone without being touched by the immensity of the pain and loss. “I’d say my heart is really broken for people on both sides of the war – Russian and Ukrainian. And while I was in a church in Poland, a person from Ukraine actually stood up and reminded everybody in the church to be praying for both people – Ukrainian and Russian – and that ‘God wants everyone’s heart,’ and I think that challenged me in the way that I’ve been thinking a little bit about this conflict – and it reminded me that, yeah, God wants everybody’s heart and we need to be loving to complete strangers – and that’s what’s really on my heart, to continue to pray for the people who have been impacted by this war on both sides. And it’s really challenging to grow in my view of love and my view of God and how He is sovereign despite a tragedy like this.”
Josh was told a heart-touching story by one of the churches that Water Mission had given a financial grant to. The church was welcoming hundreds of refugees from Ukraine. One Ukrainian woman had just arrived and the team was providing her with food and shelter and helping her determine what her next step should be. “And the woman began to open up and said that no one has ever shown her as much love as she’d received [at the church]. And she said, ‘You are treating me with more love than I’ve ever received – and I’m a complete stranger to you – and because of that, I want your God to be my God.’” And she gave her life to Christ.
Josh and Gregg share much more about what’s taking place in our complete interview podcast, just below.