I arrived back in Flint in October of 2013. The Flint Water Crisis began six months later on April 21, 2014. That’s the date, under the state’s supervision and guidance, the city switched from the Detroit water source to the Flint River. So nearly my entire time in Flint, the citizens of Flint have been living with the effects, the blaming, the promises, the back and forth accusations, the lawsuits, the anger, the distrust that flowed along with the leaded water in the Flint Water Crisis.
Most common sense thinking people look at what happened in Flint and say, “How can that happen in America? How can the richest country in the world allow for a contaminated water supply?” Some people have been held accountable for their actions (or inactions) that resulted in this crisis. Some court cases are still on going. Probably more are yet to come.
Water has always been a vital commodity. In Jesus’ story about the end times when God is separating people like a shepherd separates sheep and goats (you want to be a sheep not a goat); Jesus commends those sheep who followed his example of compassion and concern for others. Jesus said, “I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink”(Matthew 25:35). The implication is that He was given something good to drink. Not poison to drink; not contaminated water to drink, but rather He was given something good to quench his thirst.
Trying to live out Jesus words, a lot of money and water donations have come to Flint from many different sources from all over the country. Some inspired by the words of Jesus, some not. Some private. Some governmental. Our church worked with the Convoy of Hope to bring a lot of bottled water into the city. We helped our inner-city partner Joy Tabernacle receive a total church filtration system. We gave funds to purchase healthy foods to be given away that would help mitigate the lead contamination affects in people. We gave out water and filters to our church folks and anyone in need. We tried to do our part, in other words.
Citing improvements made to the water system since the crisis began (90% of the residents now show acceptable levels of lead), recently the state stopped the water bottle distribution sites and the home delivery to the elderly and infirmed that could not get the bottled water on their own. Now I was not a math major (I was a psychology major) in college, but it seems to me that still leaves 10% of the residents with water that is still leaded. That doesn’t seem like a good percentage.
There’s another story involving a shepherd that Jesus once told– in that one, the shepherd has exactly 100 sheep but he leaves 99 sheep to find one lost sheep. In other words, 99% safe sheep was not an acceptable number. Jesus is not called “the good enough shepherd,” he’s the Good Shepherd who looks for the lost 1%. Given that story, I think Jesus would say 10% of folks without safe drinking water is not good enough.
Without getting into the politics of the situation (I know, I know…everything becomes political these days), still I think we should expect that all of our residents have access to clean, safe water. Until all of our people can drink clean, safe water we cannot stop advocating for those who need it. The church behaves as God’s representative on earth. As such, we need to speak for those silenced and cry with those whose tears have been ignored. And let us never forget Jesus words (in that same story about the sheep and goats), “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”(Matthew 25:40).
Keep praying for God’s Kingdom to Come and God’s will to be done in Flint as it is in heaven!