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During a medical mission trip to Honduras during the early 2000s, Sister Larraine Lauter was walking around a village with a local priest so she could familiarize herself with the people and places she would be serving. As they passed a particular home, the priest told her, “This family was going to host you for supper tonight, but they can’t. Their two-year-old daughter just died because of dirty water.”
Stunned by this news, it planted a seed in Sister Larraine’s mind. Several years later, she accompanied a Methodist medical mission group to the same area. One of its leaders told her that half the people waiting in line to see a doctor wouldn’t need one if they could clean up the dirty water, which was giving people stomach parasites. Determined to find a solution, Sister Larraine and the team learned a small approach would be more effective than one big filtration system for the entire community. They purchased 10 Sawyer 0.1 filters, each of which could clean the water for about four families. Sister Larraine then contacted a local Catholic church, with strong Franciscan-led lay leadership, and asked what the best solution was for distribution. Church leaders suggested offering the opportunity to those in the most humble of circumstances: mothers of young children.
Motivated by the idea that “blessings are for sharing,” even in the poorest of communities, a meeting was held where the names of all the mothers willing to serve were put in a bucket. Those in attendance then prayed for God’s will to guide the choices, after which a child picked names out of the bucket. Each “water woman” received training to set up the filter—and this approach was a huge success!
With the success of that initial project in which each water filter helped four families, Sister Larraine’s efforts kept growing and expanding, eventually becoming the nonprofit “Water with Blessings.” During a Christopher Closeup interview, Sister Larraine said, “We’re on track to train 30,000 women this year. We’ve got about 145,000 trained to date. A huge percentage of those are in Haiti and Honduras, but through a lot of other areas as well…You are changing health outcomes overnight…Dirty water causes…a lot of daily disease for people that compromises their ability to earn a living, to provide for their families, to go to school successfully. I think there’s nothing more important you can do if you want to help a community change and thrive than start with cleaning up the water.”
“Water with Blessings” is an ecumenical organization, helping people of all faiths or none. Sister Larraine notes, “God’s thirsty children are not interested in our boundaries or our borders between our different faiths.”
Working with the women who serve their communities by being in charge of the water filters has strengthened Sister Larraine’s own spiritual life. She said, “When we take these mission trips, we’re going to people who have great material poverty, and we’re sharing, honestly, a very small amount of what we have to alleviate that material poverty. In return, they are sharing with us from their spiritual wealth. Often, we do not recognize that as a church in the United States, we have to struggle with a lot of spiritual poverty ourselves. Ironically, our material wealth is something that threatens our spiritual well-being more than we realize. When we’re awake to that, God can work in our lives. Then we can receive abundantly from the spiritual wealth of those we are serving.”
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During a medical mission trip to Honduras during the early 2000s, Sister Larraine Lauter was walking around a village with a local priest so she could familiarize herself with the people and places she would be serving.