June 15, 2009

Planes and Water

I have followed, with both interest and sadness, the story of the ill-fated Air France flight 447. I am sure many of you have as well. 228 souls went into eternity, it would appear, with only four minutes’ warning (maybe less). That number should stagger us, sadden us, and awaken us to the need of people all around us who, at some point in their lives, are going to have less than four minutes to live.

But I was startled, this week, when I discovered that a tragedy of the magnitude of Air France flight 447 occurs every single day … twenty times over. Consider the following quote from the website of Living Water International (http://water.cc):

Nearly 90 percent of all diseases in the world are caused by unsafe drinking water, inadequate sanitation, and poor hygiene. Every year, there are 4 billion cases of diarrhea as a direct result of drinking contaminated water; this results in more than 2.2 million deaths each year — the equivalent of 20 jumbo jets crashing every day. The weakest members of communities are the most vulnerable; every day water-related diseases claim the lives of 5000 children under the age of five. That’s roughly one every 15 seconds.

Do you feel like someone just punched you in the gut? Perhaps you should. “The equivalent of 20 jumbo jets crashing every day”? A preschooler dead every 15 seconds … simply because he or she has no clean water to drink? Can it be? Yes, indeed. But the news media (like my own rubbernecking soul) seems more intrigued by one jumbo jet crash than with the 20 per day that come in the form of diarrhea and other water-borne illnesses.

Don’t get me wrong. I hope they find those flight data recorders at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. I hope they figure out what went wrong, not least of all because I have been on a few of those cross-Atlantic Airbus flights and want them to be as safe as possible. I want the bereaved families of flight 447 to have closure, too. So I’m all for France and Brazil doing everything they can to make sense of the mess.

But isn’t it a little bit strange that the world is willing to spend millions upon millions of dollars diving in thousands of feet of water to find a data recorder that will explain why 228 people died needlessly … all while 5000 children die needlessly every single day … without water, and without press coverage? It’s incongruous to me.

But I’m not writing this little article for the governments of France and Brazil. I actually have a hunch they are doing the right thing. And I don’t believe it is, ultimately, the job of world governments to fix the water problem. That’s actually our deal … you know, us Christians. We’re supposed to be the mercy people. We’re supposed to be the ones giving out cold cups of water in Jesus’ name. And we have even more than water to offer to the dying children in Africa, don’t we? We can actually prepare them for eternity! So let’s allow tragedies like Air France 447 (which we can do nothing about) to spur us, for Jesus’ sake, to do more to prevent the tragedies that are waiting to happen … every single day.

If you’d like to pick up a bucket and pitch in, check out http://water.cc … or, even closer to home, http://abbaslivingwater.wordpress.com.

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