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Being a Hands-On Christian: How LWW has Allowed Dan to "Do" His Christianity

Dan Terpstra is a member of First Presbyterian Church in Oak Ridge, TN. He is a 101 Instructor at Clean Water U (CWU), member of the LWW Education and Field Operations teams, and leads his water team at his church. Dan talks with us below about his why - why he chose Living Waters for the World and why he continues to serve.

Dan and his wife, Peggy, on the coast of Belize

Q: How did you first get involved with Living Waters for the World (LWW)? A: Wil Howie loves to tell the story about a visit he made to my church, First Presbyterian Church of Oak Ridge, TN, back in the early days. He was looking for scientists and engineers who might know something about water treatment. His notes clearly say “Dan Terpstra – not interested.” Wil did find his water engineer in Doug Allen, a member of our church who helped prototype and install the first system in Reynosa, Mexico. It was 15 years later, after I had led our church’s first international mission trip to Belize, that several in our congregation decided it was time to invest more than money in our support of LWW. We took a team of 6 to Clean Water U (CWU), including Doug Allen. He and I drew the short straws and attended 101. Mac Sterrett had to take a leave of absence after teaching that 101 class, and Katy BeDunnah asked if I’d step in as an instructor-in-training. I’ve been teaching ever since.

Q: Why have you stayed involved? A: The mission of Living Waters for the World is what first pulls you in. Back in the early days it was stated simply as “All God’s Children Deserve Clean Water.” That’s still true today, but it has morphed into the more nuanced “Clean Water for a Generation (and beyond!).” But even more than the mission, it’s the people who keep me involved. Every Clean Water U teaching opportunity; every Living Waters team meeting; every learning event I attend is another chance to surround myself with people who think the same way I do: about love, about justice, about God’s presence in the world, and about our call to respond. That fulfills and sustains and enriches me, and it deepens my commitment to my faith.

Dan (with backpack) tests the water in Belize

Q: In what roles do you volunteer and why did you choose to take on these responsibilities? A: Having been sucked into this family of volunteers early, and (as Kendall might say) having helium hands, I’ve been blessed with a wide variety of opportunities to volunteer that I never expected. I’m a 101 (Project Management) Lead Instructor and have been involved in a lot of 101 curriculum development over the years. I’ve represented 101 on both the Education and the Field Operations teams. Internationally, I attended the first (and so far only) network convention in Guatemala, and was involved in bringing the Clean Water U curriculum to Ghana. I’m also the team lead for our church’s Living Waters team, and have participated in a half dozen water partnerships in Belize over the last decade.

Dan leading a 101 session at the Initiating Partner Sharing Summit held in July

Q: How has your involvement with LWW impacted your life? A: I’m a hands-on Christian. I’m engaged - probably more than I should be - in doing rather than in being. In many ways the LWW family has become my meta-congregation. It has given me a chance to “do” my Christianity, and has greatly broadened my perspective of what church is and can be. LWW presents me with opportunities to meet and work with Presbyterians from across the country and even around the world. And that in turn gives me the determination to work within our denomination at the presbytery, synod and national levels.

Dan and Peggy with Beatriz (center), their scholarship student in Belize, at her high school graduation celebration.

Q: What's an experience or story from your time with LWW that stands out as one of the most affecting? A: Teaching a modified version of the 101 curriculum to two dozen energized Ghanaian Presbyterians stands out as one of the more powerful experiences of my tenure with LWW. The entire class was smart and engaged and eager to apply what they were learning. Developing and then delivering that content halfway across the world on a continent that I never imagined visiting was almost surreal. Starting our week with a 3 hour church service and capping it with visits to Elmina Castle, of slave trade infamy, and the headquarters of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, with their impressive RO bottling plant behind the building grounded me in both the past and the future of Ghana and the role we as global Presbyterians have in it.

Q: When you're not volunteering for LWW, where are we likely to find you and what would we find you doing? A: This spring, my wife, Peggy, and I picked up our new retirement toy. It’s a 10-foot long teardrop shaped camping trailer from “” in Wisconsin. It’s little more than a queen-sized bed attached to a gourmet outdoor kitchen, but we love it. We camped it home to Tennessee in April; camped it through July General Assembly in Louisville, KY, and more recently I camped it to Mammoth Caves for a rainy weekend. We don’t get to use it as much as we’d like – yet – but we have plans ...


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