Fresh, clean water may be a given for most in the United States, but not so for nearly a billion people in the world.

Water for them can mean the difference between life and death. That’s why Living Waters for the World (LWW), a mission of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Synod of Living Waters, works tirelessly to bring fresh water systems to communities throughout the developing world and some areas of Appalachia in the United States.

It also is why the synod has joined forces with the Synod of the Pacific to increase training opportunities for volunteers eager to build sustainable systems to deliver clean water to those in need.

LWW already welcomes volunteer teams to its training center in Oxford, Miss., and now it also provides training in the construction and operation of its water systems on the West Coast at Calvin Crest Conference Center in Oakhurst, Calif.

A grant of $40,000 through the Heiserman Grant Program of the General Assembly Mission Council has provided funds to construct infrastructure for LWW training at Calvin Crest and has been used help purchase training equipment.

Funds for the Heiserman program came from a bequest made in 1966 by Geraldine Heiserman, who was the widow of a Yuma, Colo., farmer and landowner named Lemont Heiserman. The bulk of their estate was left in trust to the church.

The GAMC divided more than $990,000 of that gift among 16 synods to encourage mission projects that reflect partnership between or among two or more synods and-or the GAMC.

Now, at the California Calvin Crest, just like in Mississippi, mission teams are trained to teach people in communities around the world about water health and hygiene, and in building sustainable water systems.

“Our entire reason for being is to foster partnerships between the teams that we train and community leaders so that those community leaders can be empowered to keep their water clean in their communities,” said Steve Young, LWW’s director of development.

“Our ability to increase our training capacity by having another campus … has a direct impact on the number of water systems that can be installed,” he said.

Volunteer training includes guided simulation experiences that teach participants how to provide education, build clean water systems and care for the spiritual needs of the communities they will serve. 

Since establishing the campus at Calvin Crest, “we have noticed that the volunteers who train with us there almost entirely come from the West Coast states,” such as Washington, Idaho, and Oregon, Young said. “Those are definitely not states that we had highly represented ... in Oxford, Miss.”

Also, “many of the church volunteers we are training have an interest in parts of the world that other teams haven’t been interested in,” such as Asia and specifically Laos, he said. “That would not have happed had we not had the Calvin Crest campus open up.”

Toya Richards, a student at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, writes frequently for Presbyterian News Service.