Thinking Out Loud

September 15, 2009

Third World Sponsorship of Another Kind

I’m gonna be totally honest here, and it’s not pretty.   Our family doesn’t do the child sponsorship thing.   I know that in Christian circles it’s spiritually incorrect to say that, but it’s true.   We’ve talked about it.   We can do the monthly payment.   We can do the praying.   But when it comes to committing to write the letters and getting emotionally involved, we feel somewhat spent.    And some days, I write dozens of letters, articles and blog posts.

Last year, we felt that all our charitable giving was too focused on North America, and concerns even closer to where we live.   So we cut back on Christmas presents — at least I’m told we cut back — and donated some money to a project my wife’s uncle is involved in, which is providing well restoration to parts of Africa.    It was, pardon the pun, a drop in the bucket in a much larger project.

turn on the tap

Two weeks ago someone told me about a project that Samaritan’s Purse is promoting called “Turn On The Tap.”   You don’t adopt a cute kid who sends you letters and a fresh picture every year, but for $100 you finance a well that services a whole family, using the technology found in BioSand water filters.

The BioSand Water Filter is an award-winning Canadian water filtration technology developed by Dr. David Manz, a former University of Calgary professor. BioSand Water Filters are an adaptation of slow-sand filtration, designed for use at the household level. The filter removes water-borne bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and other organisms that cause diseases such as cholera, typhoid fever, and amoebic dysentery. The filter also strains out the particles and organic matter that cause cloudiness, unpleasant taste, color, and odor.

Filters can be built on location with local materials. The exterior is made of concrete, with gravel and sand layered inside. Rain, surface, or ground water is poured through the top and filtered as it passes through the layers of sand and gravel. The sand filters 1 litre of water per minute, enough to provide an entire family with sufficient water for their daily drinking, cooking, cleaning, and hygiene needs.

To service one family takes $100.   That’s it.   Not a monthly gift.   Not an obligation to write letters and send them your picture.  You just reach into your pocket and give, and a family has clear, clean water.

To learn more about the Canadian project, Canadian link here.  In the UK, Turn on The Tap is promoted through the Global Walk for Water;  UK link here.  In the U.S., Turn on the Tap didn’t get started until April of this year and operates differently; U.S. link here.

If you’ve always been cynical about child sponsorships, or, like us, you were just too stretched to get involved, here’s something you can do.   There are a variety of similar programs available for individuals or your entire church.   And you don’t have to wait for Christmas.

Gain a better perspective on this from someone who’s been there:

Anne Jackson makes the case far better than I can in an excellent blogpost at FlowerDust; click here to read it.


  1. I do not struggle with the letter and photo aspect. I struggle with physical water and food to the neglect of spiritual water and food…the whole way the social gospel has taken hold of the church. I think we often pay a type of penance to the third world countries as a backhanded apology for our abundance. But as a family we do support a feeding center for poor children in the Philippines where they also recieve Sunday School lessons and prayer with their meals. That makes sense. The scriptures say not to preach to a man with en empty belly and then say “Go on your way” But neither do they say to feed him and say “Go on your way” without also giving to him the hope of Christ. Thanks for this honest post …should cause lots to think

    Comment by Cynthia — September 15, 2009 @ 7:44 pm

  2. forgot to click notify box…sorry

    Comment by Cynthia — September 15, 2009 @ 7:45 pm

  3. Hi Cynthia.

    Good comments as always. I think the balance between meeting the socioeconomic needs of people and presenting the hope of the Gospel is best described as a pendulum that seems to swing back and forth.

    Evangelicals would accuse the so-called “liberal” churches of preaching a social gospel, while they themselves were doing absolutely nothing to confront poverty — either in the third world or in the third block over.

    Now the pendulum has swung the other direction. The group my wife heads provides a much-needed weekly meal to some disadvantaged people in our community, but at the insistence of some people on the committee doesn’t even so much as say grace before the meal.

    (We’ve had a lot of heated discussions at home about that one!)

    One woman once said to my wife: “Jesus is here when you people show up.” So the message gets through — at least to her — but certainly not overtly.

    As you may sense, I’m not a huge fan of some of the dominant relief and development agencies, but there are some that do go out of their way to include a gospel component in each project.

    Which means there are others that do not.

    Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — September 15, 2009 @ 7:54 pm

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