Give the gift of clean water this Christmas

Deborah Wheeler | The Walton Sun

As the Christmas spirit moves during this time of year, many search for charities to which they can donate.

The Chapel at the Beach at Rosemary Beach can help with that.

The Chapel is accepting donations for their efforts to help provide clean drinking water to indigent villagers in central Dominican Republic. They are working in conjunction with the national organization Global Effects, which is headquartered in Panama City Beach.

Lee Sage, an elder in the church and a leader in the effort, said on the whole, the Chapel donates more than 50 percent of the money it takes in to missions, and they searched for a mission to support that would make a lasting impact.

"We seek to do things that help change communities, that change economics, social aspects, and their faith," he said.

Sage said there are 4,000 children under age 5 who die from water-borne diseases each day across the world.

"The people there cook over open campfires and their water is from mosquito-infested rivers or rain water which results in dysentery. Mothers try to combat it by pouring bleach into the water, which erodes the lining of their stomachs," said Sage.

On Jan. 3, 20 members of his congregation will join five members of Global Effect and fly to Santiago to distribute the water filters that will enable clean drinking and cooking water that will help about 3,000 people in four villages who have no electricity or running water.

On this trip, the group will help spread the Christmas spirit by also distributing toys, candy, and hot meals to 750 children.

Sage said candy is one thing that gets the young ones excited, not to mention the Polaroid pictures the visitors take of them.

"They don't know what they look like as they have no mirrors," said Sage.

Sage said the group seeks to meet the people's basic needs before witnessing to them. But on the back of each picture they place a Bible verse, and when the photos are handed out, the gospel is shared.

"We share with them the gospel of the birth of the baby Jesus, why he came, his teachings, and his resurrection," he said.

After four years and nine to 10 trips down for this ministry and becoming sick many times while there, Sage said it is all worth it.

"My sickness is temporary. I get encouraged by seeing how happy and excited the children get over a rubber ball instead of watching a 16 year old getting a new car here. They are so grateful. Their faces remind me of Jesus. It's heart warming and an encouragement to my faith."

Sage goes down to the Dominican Republic several times a year and has helped start 41 businesses there, giving counseling and being a mentor. He meets with the villagers and gets their ideas for businesses and comes back here to raise money or help secure loans.

For more information about how to donate or help, call 850-890-2589. Sage said 100 percent of money donated and earmarked for the water filtration system will go toward that.

"I can't think of a more worthwhile cause to donate to right now," said Joan Luchese, who attends the church.