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Jesus turned water into wine.  George “The Shoeman” Hutchings turns used shoes into water.  I’ll tell you more about The Shoeman and his not-so-magic act in a minute.  First, here are a few stark and sobering facts about water:

  • 884 million people lack access to safe water supplies; approximately one in eight people.
  • 3.575 million people die each year from water-related disease.
  • Every 20 seconds, a child dies from a water-related disease.
  • At any given time, half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by patients suffering from diseases associated with lack of access to safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene.

(These facts and more are available at Water.org.)

I’m writing this post as a participant in Blog Action Day 2010:

Blog Action Day is an annual event held every October 15 that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day with the aim of sparking a global discussion and driving collective action.

But I’m also writing because it’s easy—too easy—to ignore a problem like this when you’re not directly affected by it.  I know it’s easy because I’ve done it most of my life.  I’m guilty.  I never even bothered to look into the crisis until earlier this year.  That’s when I first heard about George Hutchings and the Shoeman Water Project.

The Shoeman doesn’t live too far from here.  I’ve never met him, but our church recently gave a couple hundred pairs of shoes to his water project.  They were donated by everyone from the children who attended our VBS this summer, to the members of our church and their acquaintances.

The shoes are given a second life when the Shoeman exports the donated shoes to retailers in the developing world. The resale of shoes provides jobs and affordable footware.  Funds generated from the export of  shoes provides well drilling rigs, water purification systems, and hand pump repair micro businesses bringing clean, fresh water to those who thirst.

And that’s how The Shoeman turns shoes into water.  No miracles, no magic.  Just a little compassion and a lot of hard work.  Most of us, myself included, could learn a lot from his example.  I realize, of course, that we’re not all called to do what The Shoeman did, but we are all called to have enough compassion to do something for those in need.  Getting rid of some old shoes might be a good place to start.

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?  (1 John 3:17)

Find out more about the Shoeman Water Project.