Anne French, director of global mission for the Peachtree Road United Methodist Church, shares a light moment with children on Kenya’s Lake Victoria, where waterborne diseases are major causes of death. The church recently launched a campaign to raise $480,000, enough to purchase and deliver 12,000 UZima filters. To help, text filter to 91999 or make a donation at CONTRIBUTED
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Life with Gracie: Church launches campaign for Christmas miracle

This being the Christmas season, there’s plenty of talk about miracles, starting with the birth of Jesus Christ to the Virgin Mary.

Indeed, Scripture is full of miraculous stories of seas parting, the sick being healed and the dead being raised. Because those were such spectacular events, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that miracles happen in our lives every day. Every breath we take. Healing from cancer. And yes, the birth of a child.

The very thought can leave us with goosebumps.

It’s how I felt the other day, listening to Anne French, director of global mission for the Peachtree Road United Methodist Church, talk about the miracle the church wrought a year ago in Kenya.

But let me back up.

In 2009, according to French, members of PRUMC were focused on education and farming in the African nation, but they realized pretty quickly that residents faced a more pressing issue — no clean water.

Students, sick from drinking contaminated water, couldn’t attend school. Farmers couldn’t tend their fields. The water was just that dirty.

French said she and the other missionaries quickly discovered that over 2 billion people in the world don’t have access to clean water and that every 20 seconds a child dies. Dies.

In Africa, she said, waterborne diseases are three of the top five killers on the continent.

Knowing this, there was no way they could just do nothing.

And so last Christmas, the church partnered with Start With One, an international nonprofit founded by Bill and Chat Coble, members of PRUMC who for nine months out of the year call Kenya home, to provide UZima water filters to the estimated 50,000 residents of Lanet, a mostly residential area in the country’s southwestern region.

When they appealed to the congregation to help make it happen, members gladly opened their pocketbooks. So did other churches and individuals.

“Last Christmas, we made a miracle happen,” French said. “We brought the gift of life to an entire region of Kenya.”

Bill Coble gives a little girl a drink of pure drinking water cleaned by the UZima water filter. The filter costs $40 to manufacture and deliver to families in Kenya who wouldn’t otherwise have access to clean drinking water. CONTRIBUTED
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

News of the miracle soon reached the Kenyan government, French said. Could the church provide filters to the people on the islands of Lake Victoria, where three to five children die each month for lack of clean water to drink?

Last Sunday, the church made a second appeal, launching a campaign that ends New Year’s Eve.

“Our big calling will be for members to give on Christmas Eve, but you don’t have to be a member to give,” French said.

This time, they hope to raise $480,000, enough to purchase and deliver 12,000 UZima filters, a product Bill Coble helped design.

You can help, too, by texting filter to 91999 or making a donation at

Forty dollars will purchase one filter. Forty dollars to spare a life.

If you’re wondering how that could be, Coble tested the filter early on, and there’s no doubt it’s making a big difference. The filter can last for up to 10 years.

The UZima water filter removes 99.9 percent of bacteria and protozoa from water drawn from Lake Victoria. Those are the leading causes of waterborne diseases in Kenya. CONTRIBUTED
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“No matter how dirty, the water comes out cleaner than the water we buy in our grocery stores,” French said. “This filtration is so powerful it takes out 99.9 percent of all bacteria.”

When you’ve looked into the eyes of a mother who has lost a child because of a lack of clean water, a filter is the breath of life. But when you look into the eyes of a mother who has lost all 10 of her children, well …

French has seen both.

Each week, Gracie Bonds Staples will bring you a perspective on life in the Atlanta area. Life with Gracie runs online Tuesday, Thursday and alternating Fridays.
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Lake Victoria is the second-largest natural lake in the world, the size of West Virginia, and every drop of water in it is unclean, she said.

“It’s just deadly,” she said.

It’s French’s conviction that the church has been called to do this, to corral the power of one plus the power of many into the making of yet another Christmas miracle.

I hope the rest of us will help.

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