Water for Life Campaign Report

Leaders Network giving $5,000 to Water Filtration Project

In addition to the 12,000 cases of water transported with two trucks, one donated by WorldVision, and the $6,200 of bottled water purchased in Flint, the Leaders Network is making a $5,000 donation for a reverse osmosis water filtration system that will benefit the residents of the city until local pipes are replaced, which may take 10-15 years.

Woodside Church of Flint, a United Church of Christ and American Baptist affiliated congregation, is coordinating the construction of multiple reverse osmosis filtration systems in churches and community centers. The first one will be built on their premises and will have multiple filling stations, including two that are outside so that people can come and fill their bottles day or night. A second filtration system will be built at Vermont Christian Church, a Disciples of Christ congregation with the same accessibility. The funds, $30,000, have been raised for these first two filtration systems.

Reverse Osmosis is a technology that is used to remove a large majority of contaminants from water by pushing the water under pressure through a semi-permeable membrane.

A third will filtration system will be built at the Broome Center, a community center that focuses on empowerment and employment, works with and invests in at-risk youth, and supports those who have been incarcerated. The Broome Center serves an under-served area of Flint. Our donation will ensure this filtration system is built!

A fourth site likely will be built at the Hispanic Technological Center, amidst another under-served population filled with undocumented people. 

With the Water for Life Campaign with all the in-kind donations, gas, and rentals, the Leaders Network provided over $15,000 of support for the community of Flint.  

From Pastor Deb Conrad, Woodside Church of Flint MI

I shared on facebook an article that puts our water issue in a larger context: Democracy, Disposability, and the Flint Water Crisis. I recommend it. It got shared and immediately drew the comment of some folks, one in particular who thinks he knows more and who expressed a certain disdain for the people of Flint. Among other things, he said we should have used our property taxes to keep the infrastructure in good repair, and asked why people hadn’t just followed GM to wherever the jobs went. (Worth noting it’s a common theme in hard times: why didn’t they just move? People asked it a lot after Hurricane Katrina, as well.)

I’ve only been here two years, but I got a little defensive. Plus, I wasn’t in a mood to let such ignorance go unchallenged. So I responded, based on observations, conversations, and the many things I’ve been reading, including Karen Piper’s The Price of Thirst, and Andrew Highsmith’s Demolition Means Progress, both based on solid research. I wrote this: 

The problems in Flint now are the result of a century of racism, corporate self-absorption and political misdealing, private control of public assets, social engineering and exploitation by wealthy individuals, poor tax policy and unjust revenue sharing. When Flint (and Detroit and the other auto cities) were feeding the state quite well, the state loved them. When they couldn't do that anymore, the state quit loving them and refused to return the favor.

Folks couldn't just move when jobs left, because their homes suddenly had no resale value, though they had mortgages to pay. This also decimated the property tax base. In many, many cases, folks did follow the jobs, simply abandoning houses they couldn't sell, creating blight that further damaged property values, and adding more work for law enforcement, while decreasing yet again the property tax base. GM and associated industry also left behind more than 1000 acres of industrial brownfield inside the city limits, and a polluted river, neither of which is really helpful for redeveloping/reinventing a city. Then came the housing crisis. State law restricts what flint can assess from folks around us who work, play or do business in the city. Add "austerity" as the foundation of a misguided, unfounded and discredited political agenda, and the whole thing goes to hell. There is a bind here, which is in large part not the fault of the people of flint... None of this, of course, can possibly be considered apart from the political cancer metastasizing in the american psyche that has convinced us that all taxes are bad, all privatization is good, and anything resembling the “common good" is just damned socialism, and probably the fault of black people. 

Flint has made the international news. And if you’ve been reading the reports, you know how much nuance matters, and how often the story is getting told in the “80-90 percent correct” range. It matters to tell the whole story. And I’m telling you this, because I don’t like my own ignorance to go unchallenged either. Earlier, I got an email from Leah in Washington DC, with the Alliance of Baptists. She said she’d listened to my sermon from Sunday, and wanted to know how the Alliance could pray with and for Flint. Here’s what I wrote her in part, after a minor rant about how the news is giving me a headache (and you’ll hear some overlap, no doubt): 

So my prayer is for national and state leaders who value people, who are willing to embrace solutions that cost money and enrich the vast rest of us for a while — and for taxpayers who embrace taxes as a good thing, a way of being in community and providing things like roads and water and lights and health. Programs like the WPA — whereby we could employ people and rebuild infrastructure at the same time. My other prayers are that the governor who did this to us will have time in prison to ponder how to be a better neighbor. That democracy will be restored. That the political party of trickle-down, voter suppression, and income inequality will finally change its platform or be unelected. That water will be guaranteed as a human right and no one will be shut off from the means of life. That the church will shift charity to second place, and justice to first priority. That it will realize that generosity is rarely a long-term solution to anything, and begin to cry out for something more systemic and substantive. Meanwhile, it would be nice to see water arriving here in something other than 16 oz bottles, surely to end up in landfills, and generating massive profits for the bottled water industry — itself a pox on society. That probably isn’t what you wanted o hear, but it’s where I am at this moment. thanks for asking. 

The thing is, as Woodside has always known, charity doesn’t solve anything. Woodside has devoted its entire history of mission to changing minds, changing approaches, changing perspective, changing systems. In the name of God. In the Spirit of Jesus. In the interest of a vision of a shared and just world. People need to have fresh clean water now, but we also need to confront a system that let this happen.