By: Emma Rider
I started going on mission trips because I was the little sister who always tagged along with her older brothers. This was before I realized that I had a heart for serving others. I have come to realize a lot since 2008, when I went on my first mission trip to just visit my brother, Nathan, who was working at WaterStep (www.waterstep.org).
WaterStep is a nonprofit organization committed to saving lives at risk from waterborne illness anywhere in the world. A couple of years later on another mission trip with WaterStep, I heard about the world water crisis. Startling statistics such as “a child dies every 15 seconds due to water borne illnesses” and “when adults are added to this number it’s like a 747 plane crashing every half an hour and every person on the plane dying” got my attention. These statistics are what started the conversation with WaterStep about how I could help.
WaterStep told me that one of their major forms of fundraising was collecting shoes. Funds are raised by selling the shoes to recyclers or exporters. The money is used for manufacturing water chlorinators and training ordinary people, like you and me, to install these chlorinators in third world countries. This is when I decided to go back to Delaware and do something.
I set a goal of collecting 4,000 pairs of shoes, which at the time was enough for one chlorinator. At that point it seemed like a hefty goal, maybe even unrealistic for a thirteen year old girl. But I was constantly encouraged by my family, friends, WaterStep, and my favorite Bible verse, 1Timothy 4:12 “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity.”
Here we are two and a half years later and over 60,000 pairs of shoes have been sent to WaterStep, this is the equivalent of about $30,000. WaterStep appreciated my work and allowed me to choose a missionary to receive the gift of a chlorinator. Since I had already formed a relationship with Philip, a native Kenyan who runs Grace Outreach Mission, a church, and an orphanage in partnership with Harvesters International, my family and church decided that it was time for a mission trip.
The big realization happened when our flight landed in Nairobi, a few days after Christmas in 2012. Philip greeted me with a hug and whispered in my ear “Emma… Welcome home.” Though I had never been to Kenya, I was made to feel like we had been best friends since birth.
One night after dinner while we were waiting for the chlorinator to finish its cycle, we decided to have some praise and worship in the courtyard. Immediately, Grace, one of the orphans that I had become close with, came up to me, put her arm around me and her worry-free smile that looked up at me was larger than ever. I was so touched to know that she trusted me. If there was any question she wouldn’t have come near me… those kids could read us like a book.
Later when we were all still hanging around outside and Grace was still leaning up against my chest, Tina, a daughter of one of the ladies cooking for us wanted me to hold her. I felt as though I was at home, that I fit in perfectly with those two Africans that were nestled by my sides. We were content and felt loved by each other without even speaking a word.
I had gone with the intentions of bringing clean water to an orphanage, but God was using me in bigger ways than I could have ever imagined. As the week progressed we taught the women and children about health and hygiene and we used our training from WaterStep to install the water chlorinators. It was exciting to hear all of the women teaching others what we had passed onto them. I was humbled as the African men approached me, an American teenage girl, with technical questions about the chlorinator. They were listening, our words were important to them, and they were praising God with every new piece of information they gained. Through their actions I was learning about how God can empower a whole community, whether in Delaware or Kenya, when just one person is willing to say “yes.”