Some organizations are thick, and some are thin. Some leave a mark on you, and some you pass through with scarcely a memory.
David Brooks, NY Times Columnist
American culture provides an overwhelming array of opportunities for delights that fade as quickly as they arrive. They leave us seeking the next experience, the next thrill. They are, in the words of David Brooks, “thin.” Living Waters for the World (LWW), offers an alternative experience, one that strives to be “thick” from first encounter.
For many, the first encounter with LWW occurs at Camp Hopewell in Oxford, Miss., which is a “thick” organization in its own right. It traces its roots back to the 1830’s when First Presbyterian Church in Oxford founded Hopewell Presbyterian Church to serve the nearby rural communities. The congregation thrived up until the early 1900’s when the proliferation of the automobile enabled members to travel to Oxford for worship. This set the stage for the congregation and Presbytery to re-envision Hopewell as a youth camp.
Today, Hopewell’s nearly 300 acres host youth and conference groups throughout the year. Hopewell also boasts a unique, immersive training facility built by Living Waters for the World for its Clean Water U (CWU) training program. The specialized training facilities at Hopewell came about during a turning point for LWW. Over the course of ten years, Wil Howie and a small group of dedicated volunteers managed to launch a new ministry and install 15 water purification systems. They were encouraged by what they had built, but they knew more could be done if more people were involved. That’s when the idea for Clean Water U was born.
Wil recalls his first thought as, “We’re taking it to Camp Hopewell.” He found a willing partner in his friend and camp director, Robert Allen. With the support of Robert, St. Andrew Presbytery, and the Synod of Living Waters, LWW soon started construction on a specialized facility at Camp Hopewell.
They raised $95,000 to grade and fill an old logging road to access the back 40 acres of the property, build a pier from which to pump water from Lake Andrew, construct a facility to resemble water buildings in Mexico, and create a training curriculum. Fifteen years later, the building stands as an enduring, and expanded, simulation of the mission field in which LWW water teams work.
Camp Hopewell is still home to Clean Water U and has been the place where over 2,000 volunteers have trained to share in the ministry of Living Waters for the World. Hopewell’s current camp director, Allyson Ashmore, says, “We are extremely proud of being the home of Clean Water U. It has given us a positive partnership that we have appreciated and loved.”
The feeling is mutual. Wil Howie describes the relationship with Hopewell as “solid, reliable and completely trustworthy. We’re family.” Kendall Cox, LWW’s Director of Education and head of Clean Water U says, “At Hopewell, we have the beauty of the landscape in the northeast hills of Mississippi. We have Lake Andrew and space for our training buildings. Most of all, we have the people of Hopewell who are our partners in this unique venture to train and equip teams in water ministry and mission.”
Allyson and her husband Darren, Hopewell’s site director, also feel that sense of
family. After hosting CWU for several years, they decided to go through the training themselves and lead a water team with their church. Allyson says, “We always believed in the mission. We always loved it and loved hosting it. But, when we went through the classes ourselves, we became part of the Living Waters community. After that, I had a different feeling about it. It became more of a partnership. We fully understood how awesome it was.”
Allyson and Darren go to great lengths to help LWW make every CWU session a success. That have not only been key partners in providing students with a meaningful and memorable experience, but they have born witness to the evolution of CWU over the years. Allyson observes, “The ‘why’ of Living Waters has taken center stage more and more, and as that happens it becomes a stronger training event for everyone.” Kendall says, “At every CWU training we are working in something new that we've learned. The Hopewell staff is always on board to help us figure out how to make schedule changes work or how to accommodate a training need.”
People have traveled from across the United States and beyond to train with LWW in the woods of Mississippi. There they have encountered kindred spirits, able instructors, the beauty of nature, and an LWW/Hopewell team inviting them into an experience they will never forget. In the words of CWU graduate and volunteer Hardie Frankel, “There is no better feeling than being at home! Camp Hopewell, the birth place of CWU provides the perfect atmosphere to feel God’s presence and to learn the necessary skills to improve the health and welfare of water partners around the world.”
Trainings are offered at least twice per year and are open to all who feel called to share clean water and the love of Christ with communities in need. Find out how you can get involved and experience the lasting impact of Clean Water U by visiting livingwatersfortheworld.org/clean-water-u or calling Kendall Cox at (615) 261-4008.