March 22 is World Water Day, a day set aside to highlight the global water crisis, and TCW wants to celebrate it by featuring the work of Sandi Patty. Sandi Patty is no stranger to the challenges of life. After experiencing divorce, remarriage, and becoming the mother of eight children and step-children in a blended family, Sandi has recently turned her attention to assisting with the clean water crisis in West Africa. With 40 Dove Awards and 5 Grammy awards, she is the most awarded female vocalist in contemporary Christian music history. Sandi has traveled the globe for concerts and service projects alike. Recently she and several members from her family travelled to Africa with Water4, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing clean water to communities around the world.
Water4 brings teams together to construct water wells by engaging communities in drilling, pump manufacturing, and water services. Sandi recently opened up to TCW about the life-changing opportunity she had to bring clean water to a community in Sierra Leone, and gave tips on how to make small changes in our daily lives to help with a crisis that affects thousands of individuals every day.
What was it like to travel abroad with your family?
I've done a couple of other trips abroad, but I've not been able to be with my family. It's difficult to come home and try to explain to them what I've witnessed and the feeling of what I experienced. One of my prayers has been that I'd be able to share a trip like this with them. For God to answer that prayer in such a sweet way this year was an incredible blessing. Not only did I not have to explain things to them when I came back, but we were able to sit around every evening to debrief in Sierra Leone. We would talk about what we got out of the day, what we felt about the day, and how our days were going to be different when we got home because of what we experienced abroad. This particular trip was amazing because it was hands on, and we got to really see what happens in a village when you search for water, find water, begin to dig for water, then the reward when you see that fresh water come out. It was incredible to share that experience with my husband and six of our eight kids—to talk with our adult children about how this was going to transform our everyday was just amazing.
What was your experience with the people of Sierra Leone?
I had four daughters and one daughter-in-law with me on the trip, and when we came into a village, it was like they were magnets toward the children. Immediately they had the kids playing games, singing songs, and doing actions—it was so fun to watch.
I found my heart drawn to the other mothers in the village. Our boys—who are 25—began to ask the other men about the work of digging the well and what that looked like, and my husband would talk to other men in the village. It was amazing to see a real community among the people. Their warmth, hospitality, and tremendous gratitude and joy because they were in the process of getting a well were heartwarming. For hours and hours, the girls played with the kids, and the men worked. It was very hard work—all manual labor and all tools that can be found in Sierra Leone, and I was able to help with it all. I visited with the mothers; I worked with the men; I played with the kids—I did a little bit of everything. It was such a delight to spend the day with all the people in the village.
How did your life change upon your return to the U. S.?
Our trip guide was wise. He'd brief us before the day and debrief us after the day. He said, "You're going to come home, and you're going to feel dissatisfaction with your life, so pick one or two things you are going to change because of what you experienced." One of the things I have made a choice to do is to no longer buy bottled water, and to make use of our tap water by filling recycled water bottles with it. That felt like something tangible that would remind me every day of these women who have to walk four miles round trip to gather water at the river for their families. The least I can do is use a recyclable bottle and tap water.
One of the things my husband does is use a little cup to fill with water while he brushes his teeth. So instead of letting the water run every day, he'd turn the water off and use that cup as a way of saving an enormous amount of water. Having a shower was a luxury in Sierra Leone, and being able to clean up with a basin of water became a luxury. If there are moments in the day we can find that we are being conscious of the water that we use, I think awareness is the best place to begin.
How would you encourage Today's Christian Woman to help with the fight to bring clean water to communities around the world?
Go to Water4.org and listen to the stories, then get a group together to advocate for the cause. You don't have to do this by yourself. Gather your women's Bible study or Sunday school class and decide to do this together.
One of the things that prompted us to work with Water4 is their doable goal of constructing 7,000 wells in three years. This will give fresh, clean water to thousands. It was a blessing to be able to physically put in a well in Sierra Leone, and now my husband and I are passionate about raising money to get the rest of these wells in.
One well costs about $1,500 to build, and it provides a sustainable water source for a community for life. It's doable. There's a solution right before our eyes. That's where I'm finding my heart and passion. We can do this. This is our time, our generation, we can do this if we work together.