Several years ago, the Linwood Council of Christian Life – the summer church in Linwood Park in Vermilion, Ohio – was looking for an additional way to live in loving relationship with neighbors beyond those who visit the park every summer. They found their answer in their front yard. Lake Erie is the focal point of the community and one of the world’s greatest sources of fresh water. As council member Richard Slife said, “What better gift to give to others than the gift of clean, fresh water?”
Linwood Park cottages overlook Lake Erie
Linwood Park was founded in 1884 by the Evangelical Association as the “Camp Meeting Ground” for the churches in western Pennsylvania and Ohio. That first year a tabernacle was constructed along with 6 cottages. Today, there are 147 cottages in the park along with the Tabernacle within which the community has worshiped for 135 summers.
The Linwood Council of Christian Life is a non-profit with the mission of perpetuating the vision of the founders of Linwood through interdenominational worship in the Tabernacle, Bible study for adults, and youth and family ministry. According to council member Richard Slife, “A few years ago the Council decided it was time to expand the focus of our ministry and connect the families of Linwood with families well beyond the gate of Linwood Park.” So, they got involved with a Living Waters for the World (LWW) team at nearby Bay Presbyterian Church.
In 2015, three members of Linwood went with the Bay team, led by members who had trained at Clean Water U, to Santa Lucia, Guatemala, to install a system purchased by the Linwood Community. Since 2015, Linwood purchased an additional purification system and provided representatives to help with installations in two other Guatemalan communities. The most recent installation occurred in November of 2018 at the Mi Pequeno Refugio - an orphanage located in Cantel, Guatemala.
Mi Pequeno Refugio’s welcoming committee greet water team members from
Bay Presbyterian and Linwood Park
Bill Blackie, Linwood's representative at the installation, said of the town, “Cantel is a typical small town in the country’s Quetzeltenango highlands. As is sadly the case in this and most locations throughout Guatemala, the water was not safe to drink, use for cooking, for brushing teeth, etc. Yet many people, especially the underprivileged, were forced to use contaminated water every day. They either did not have the means to purchase clean water and/or did not understand the severe health consequences of using untreated water.”
The team’s mission, on the surface, was to provide the orphanage with a clean water source. And they did. But Bill acknowledged that they “most importantly, established powerful relationships with the wonderful people at the orphanage and in the community.” The primary partners at the orphanage were the directors, Dr. Lourdes and her sister Teresa. Bill described them as warm, energetic, and “deeply committed to the health and welfare of the girls and boys they serve.”
Bill Blackie presents Dr. Lourdes, director of the orphanage, with the dedication
plaque from Linwood
The children ranged in age from a few months old to late teens, and many had disabilities. Bill recalled one child with particular fondness. “Michaela, who was deaf and dumb, was an unbelievable inspiration and a reminder of what God’s love truly means. She never stopped smiling and expressing thanks for everything, not to mention giving hugs at every opportunity!” The overwhelming gratitude of all the children and the orphanage directors conveyed to Bill that “Linwood’s commitment to the orphanage was truly a godsend.”
The installation team celebrates the very first bottle of water produced.
Bill Blackie and Dr. Lourdes are on the right.
Shortly after the system was installed and the team left Guatemala, they learned that Dr. Lourdes and Teresa had begun marketing the water to people in the community who couldn’t afford it from commercial bottlers. Bill sang the sisters’ praises saying, “They are go getters, deeply spiritual and very inspiring. I am confident that when we visit them again in a year or so, they will have great success stories to tell.”
Linwood’s water ministry started as a co-partnership with Bay Presbyterian Church and Living Waters for the World. Today they hope to continue as an independent LWW partner by training at Clean Water U and involving more Linwood community members. Bill told his neighbors, “LWW is a fantastic organization and we are privileged to be one of their partners. I can tell you from my own experience, you will never be the same again after you have had an opportunity to serve.”