In the Ndop Plain, Northwestern Cameroon, a Wycliffe Associates team led by Mick Toolan supervised the construction and installation of BioSand filters by local trainees in various villages. While there, the team witnessed a neighboring village, that was desperate for food and land, attack another village, leaving six dead and 300 homes destroyed. The Wycliffe Associates team was asked to assist in repairing the damage, and the team was able to arrange for work to begin immediately on three new, hand-dug wells and repair three wells that were broken during the attack. Once a new well is dug and operational, then the local trainees can install a BioSand filter when necessary. Over the past year, 10 wells and numerous BioSand filters have been installed in this area of Cameroon.

Wycliffe Associates first became involved in water projects in 2008, starting in Asia. In addition to installing water purification equipment and training locals in the use of the clean water systems, the organization is also considering rainwater harvesting projects in Paraguay, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia.

The organization is hopeful that its involvement in clean water community development projects will result in opportunities for Bible translators to carry out their work in areas where visas are difficult for missionaries to obtain, but are granted to those whose work will directly benefit communities.

Currently, Wycliffe Associates supports eight clean water projects around the world, with each project training the local population on clean water standards and employing the engineering of BioSand filters.

Wycliffe Associates, an international organization that involves people in the acceleration of Bible translation efforts, has been installing BioSand water filters and disinfection equipment in remote areas of Africa in a campaign to improve health and living standards and to support the work of Bible translation. Since March 2011, teams of volunteers and technicians from the United States, Canada and Ireland have been installing equipment that will save lives from water-borne diseases in two locations in Cameroon, Africa.

“Preventing diarrheal disease and sanitation so villages can thrive is what these projects are all about,” said Bart Maley, Operation Clean Water program manager.

An estimated 1.7 million deaths each year are attributed to unsafe water. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 1.2 billion people, or one-fifth of the world’s population, live in areas where water is scarce, causing reliance on unsafe sources for drinking water and an increased risk of disease. One in three people around the globe is affected by water scarcity. In addition, 2.5 billion people live without adequate sanitation.

Even sufficient rainfall or fresh water in a community does not guarantee that water won’t be scarce, according to the WHO. An adequate supply of safe, clean water depends on how communities conserve, use, and distribute water.

BioSand water filters use a slow sand filtration process to remove contaminants from water, including pathogens, particulate material, manganese, fluoride, and in some cases, iron and arsenic. According to a 2007 study by the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, BioSand filters can reduce diarrheal disease by as much as 40 percent. The BioSand technology, developed and patented by Dr. David Manz, has been endorsed by the World Health Organization. The filters are an inexpensive way to provide clean water to villages that are close to a water source that is dirty. It is a faster and more economical alternative to hand-dug wells.

In addition to installing water purification systems, teams train the villagers in how to use the systems, which are then monitored through a local contact.

In Moloko, another region of Cameroon, a Wycliffe Associates team has finished installing drinking water disinfection equipment and implemented an extensive training program for local villagers. During their trip, team members work with locally formed “water committee representatives” in each community as they teach them how to use the equipment.

“As we work to install equipment that will improve health, we want to make sure that villagers see the value of having clean water and how it impacts everything they do,” said Maley.

After sending three teams to Cameroon in 2011, Wycliffe Associates is sending teams in March, August, and November 2012 that will provide hand pump training to villages.

Cameroon is the most active site for volunteers to go and train locals in the use of water purification equipment, but teams are also working in other parts of the world.

In Paraguay for example, a team of volunteers was able to repair an unstable, 10-year-old water system that supplies the community of Cerro Moroti, which had been without clean water for more than a year. Bible Translator Victor Gomez lives in Cerro Moroti and is working to translate the Scriptures into their mother tongue with the assistance of indigenous translation helpers.

In 2010, Wycliffe Associates mobilized 4,381 volunteer and staff members to accelerate Bible translation in some 59 countries. Because millions of people around the world are still waiting to read the Scriptures in their own language, Wycliffe Associates is working as quickly as they can to translate every verse of the Bible into every tongue to change every heart. The organization partners with nationals, mother tongue translators, staff, volunteers, and supporters to direct and fund these efforts, as well as provide logistics, networking, and technical support. Through a growing global network, Wycliffe Associates is striving to overcome local limitations of time and resources to achieve the goal of beginning the translation of God’s Word in every remaining language that needs it by 2025.

From its Volunteer Mobilization Center in Orlando, Florida, Wycliffe Associates recruits, trains, and mobilizes the service contributions of what is expected to be a continued influx of mature, skilled volunteers, as Baby Boomers represent one-quarter of the population in the U.S.

“In their teens and 20s, [Baby Boomers] redefined pop culture,” according to John Hall of Texas Baptist Communications. “In their 30s and 40s, they challenged the traditional role of women. Now in their 50s and 60s, Baby
Boomers are poised to change American culture again.”

Although Boomers are sometimes branded as a very self-centered and individualistic generation, many are experiencing a deepening desire to give back—not only by volunteering domestically, but also by doing volunteer work abroad. Studies show they are coming to realize that significance is found in looking beyond oneself.

Dr. Todd Johnson, a research fellow and director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, confirms that Boomers are more interested in being active than just giving money. “Many retirees’ post-retirement plans are being built around missions,” Johnson said.

It is cheaper these days to go overseas. The entire world is more accessible. Today’s 60-year-old is mature and needs far less training in living skills than his or her younger counterpart. Traditionally, mission organizations send new missionaries in their 20s and 30s through an orientation process, like a jungle camp, to learn how to survive the harsh living conditions in the field. But a person in his or her 50s and above has triumphed through their productive years and has built-in strategies for success.

Recognizing that on average, one Baby Boomer retires every seven seconds, Wycliffe Associates is tailoring its programs toward this group. The organization believes it has a great opportunity to match mature, highly honed skills with ministry opportunities in missions that allow them to do volunteer work abroad.

The benefit to adults who feel God’s call to ministry in the second half of life is an enriching experience as they use the skills and knowledge gained in their younger years for eternal purposes. Free from the pressures of youth and middle age, the older adult can do exciting, meaningful things never dreamed of before.

As hundreds of thousands of new volunteer missionaries rise from the ranks of retiring Baby Boomers, they will challenge the status quo of missions and how organizations will respond to them. Wycliffe Associates is positioned to usher in a new era of evangelism, Christian service, and missions by involving thousands of Boomers in the acceleration of Bible translation worldwide.