Pivotal People

Ep. 57: Chris Beth: The Bucket Ministry--Bringing Clean Water to the World

August 02, 2023 Stephanie Nelson Season 2 Episode 57
Pivotal People
Ep. 57: Chris Beth: The Bucket Ministry--Bringing Clean Water to the World
Show Notes Transcript

Chris Beth is the Executive Director of The Bucket Ministry. It is an innovative and practical approach to providing clean water to impoverished communities in developing countries, while ministering to residents to share Christ's love. 

I am fascinated with Chris' story, the technology he uses, and am touched by his sincere love for this cause. I will be a supporter of his ministry after meeting him and learning about his exciting organization.  

Their website www.thebucketministry.org describes their appproach:
"We share God’s love through the gift of clean, safe, drinking water. We provide under-resourced communities around the world with long-lasting water filters, forge and nurture new relationships with Jesus Christ, and inspire systemic, Christ-centered change through discipleship training."

Chris started this ministry after a mission trip to the Brazilian Amazon with his daughter.  His personal story is inspiring and encouraging, and motivates the rest of us to help in very simple ways.

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Stephanie Nelson, Host (00:00):

I'd like to welcome Chris Beth to the Pivotal People Podcast, and I'm really excited about this conversation because he is the director of the Bucket Ministry, which is a ministry that provides a solution to providing safe drinking water to people around the world. It's a water filter, it's a fabulous invention, and it's not about just the filter, it's about his ministry. And so I'd like him to tell us more about it. And I just wanna thank you, Chris, for being with us today.

Chris Beth, Guest (00:34):
Well, Stephanie, thank you so much.

Stephanie Nelson, Host (00:36):
Oh, it's great to have you. And before we get started, could you tell us just, you know, top line, tell us what the Bucket Ministry is and what it does, and then I'd really love to discuss what happened to you to start this ministry. I always think that's so fascinating.

Chris Beth, Guest (00:52):
Sure. Well, thank you for allowing me to tell this story. And before we get started, obviously I just wanna state that I'm only the storyteller, right? Somebody else has been writing the story for quite some time. So at the Bucket Ministry, we focus really on one thing in that is introducing people to Jesus, but we use a tool to be able to do that. And the tool that we use is a small water filter that attaches to any bucket or any receptacle. And that water filter is made from kidney dialysis technology, which it's a very efficient, very effective way to filter water. And it filters down to an absolute 0.1 micron. What that means to non-science people is that it takes out everything down to the bacterial level. So the World Health Organization sites, it 785 million people lack access to clean water. And this filter can address most, if not all of those 785 million people that don't have something that you and I probably take for granted on a daily basis. We focus very narrowly. Our lane is very narrow and it's clean water. It's Jesus and it's discipleship. So that's what we do. <laugh>.

Stephanie Nelson, Host (02:19):
Well, you make it sound simple. I've spent some time on your website, which by the way is very well done. I would encourage anyone to look at the Bucket Ministry website because it has a couple very short videos that make the mission and the methodology very clear. What hit me, Chris, was that first of all, these filters can be attached to any five gallon bucket, and they last 20 years and it literally removes 99.9% of bacteria and parasites. So when we talk about the crisis of the 785 million people who don't have access to clean water, we know what that leads to. That leads to disease. And how in the world can we expect people to live, to be educated if they are not even able to get away from disease? Your program isn't just about delivering water filters, though. I'd love for you to talk about your methodology in getting these filters into the homes who need it.

Chris Beth, Guest (03:23):
Sure. Well, like anything you tend to get better as the longer that you do it. And I have no background in ministry and in, in fact, I spent most of my life as a business consultant, and I've only been walking with Jesus now for about 15 years. I got saved at the age of 40. So all of this is fairly new to me, but our methodology in the beginning was, let's hand out a filter to as many people as we can. And then we found out that there was some, there were some holes in that, and one of the holes was the sustainability and the follow-up of this. So we basically have a four-part process now, and the first step is assessing do people actually need this tool? Will this tool work for them? So we do localized water testing to know is this filter gonna be an a solution for them, number one.
And then we're also identifying the sources of water. So are these sources that we would recommend that people use, even if it is a groundwater source, like a river, a lake, or a stream, or is there potential industrial contamination? Then we assess local medical clinics. We try to find out what's going on, but we want to hear from the clinicians. We want to hear is there problem with waterborne disease here? And then lastly, we assess local churches to find out if they can become partners with this in this initiative, because our program and the bucket ministry is a faith-based organization, we do this to introduce people into a relationship with Jesus, if that's something that they desire and they want and need. So we want to know are there local churches that would like to join us in this work? So first step is assessment.
Second step is distribution of filters. And on an average week, we distribute right now between eight and 900 filters per week, which means that eight to 900 families or somewhere around 35 to 3,800 people are getting clean water per week. And then seven to 10 days after distribution, we focus on our third step, which is the followups. And this is the part of the process that honestly, for us is the sweet spot. It's where the good stuff happens. Because when we give a filter away, and yes, we give it away just like the, the gift of the gospel of Jesus is free we give this filter away, but it comes with two rules. Rule number one is you have to promise to clean the filter. And rule number two is you have to promise to let us in your home and not us as in Americans, us as in local indigenous missionaries or pastors, you have to promise to let us in your home to check on your filter to make sure that it's working properly.
And so at that point that we distribute filters, we also have an invitation to start a relationship with people and the privacy and security of their own home. And so in the process of follow-ups, we build relationships that could not be built any other way other than being in someone's home. And we earn the right to share the gospel with them. We earn the right to start discipling them if that is a path that they are on. And at the same time, we're identifying is the filter working properly? And we can report back to donors through a technology that we have called mission mapping. So again, step one, assessment, step two, distribution, step three follow-ups. And we do three follow-ups on every filter. And then step four is discipleship and connecting people to local like-minded churches. Or if there's not a church in the area, we will often start a Bible study in a home that may end up being a local plant church at some point. So that's kind of the process, but it took 11 years to get to this point, Stephanie, because again, I have no background in this. I'm just really good at failing in learning from those mistakes.

Stephanie Nelson, Host (07:50):
Well, I was fascinated in your story. I have so many questions, but I'm gonna back up a little bit and talk. Sure. We're gonna come back to mission mapping listeners, put a pin in that because this is absolutely fascinating. So many times, Chris, when we try to help, now let's be clear, you are in many third world countries, some European countries, you're all over the world. So when you talk about true mission work and true discipleship, it's so easy to drop in and leave and you never have any follow up. So I wanna hear your backstory because anyone who was saved at 40 and started this unbelievable ministry with such practical applications, there's so much behind that. But before we move ahead, could you explain this mission mapping, which I think is fascinating and brilliant by the way.

Chris Beth, Guest (08:41):
Every single filter that's distributed has a barcode on it. It's a unique barcode to that filter. And at the point of distribution, we scan that barcode and collect baseline information from the recipient family information like how many people in the family, what's the predominant language, how many kids in school, how many days have they missed for a condition linked to waterborne disease? What other symptoms of medical issues do you have in the home? Do you attend church? If so, what's the denomination? And then every time we go back to do a follow-up, we also scan that barcode and we put a G p s pinpoint on the home. So what this allows us to do is to create report cards that show us are people getting better physically first, and then are they growing closer to the Lord in this process of gospel share and discipleship?
And all that data is collected daily and then uploaded to us here. And then every single morning I get a report that shows me all the filters that were distributed yesterday, all the homes that were visited, and how much time each missionary spent in a home, and what topics did they teach. And the importance of that is, is multifaceted, but the biggest one is it allows us to report back to the donor where their money has gone to work. And many donors want to know it's important to them. And and Stephanie, I I, I probably need to explain this, but we work with O P m, <laugh>, other People's Money <laugh> <laugh>. So it's important to us that they know where their money is going and many donors wanna know. There's also several donors. They, they don't care. They trust us. But we're able to produce daily, weekly, monthly reports and show them exactly where their money is gone.
We can show them pictures of the family, g p s, latitude, longitude, and what in the process of these four interactions that we had with them to distribute this filter. So we're using a technology that most people in ministry don't use, but we're using it as a way to be transparent and be able to communicate with donors, partners. And then even it allows us to hold our field partners accountable because I can tell who worked yesterday, what it did by the barcodes that were scanned in the homes. And it's just a new tool that allows us to do ministry better, I guess is the right way to say that.

Stephanie Nelson, Host (11:25):
I'm fascinated, I'm a donor to different things. And to be honest with you, I appreciate your accountability to donors, but I think the major benefit of what you just described is unless we have data, we really can't pinpoint problems and opportunities and we can't celebrate successes. So as I would think, wow, you have this data that shows, you know, perhaps in an area you see no improvement in physical results, you might be able to help a community surface an issue they weren't aware of. How about in one area you might see incredible results in the ministry. Well, my gosh, maybe that ministry partner would have some best practices they could share with other missionaries. So I do have friends who are involved in administration in ministries, and one of the greatest challenges is tracking productivity. I mean, how do you track productivity?

Chris Beth, Guest (12:20):
You are so cool that you get this because not very many people get the magnitude of this. But I'll give you a really quick story. So we distributed filters to an area in Asia several years ago, and we could not understand why in the world these people weren't getting healthier. And, and because they claim to be using the filters, they could clean 'em, they could show the local missionary how they were using them, but they still had sickness. But by going through and being a bit of a detective and collecting data, we were able to identify, they didn't know how to wash their hands after they went to the bathroom.

Stephanie Nelson, Host (12:58):

Chris Beth, Guest (13:00):
So we taught sanitation and hygiene lessons on how to use the clean water from the filter to wash their hands with soap. And in a period of about seven to 10 days, every single one of these homes was diarrhea free. And so the technology allows you to dig in deeper as you have already identified, and it does create best practices. And that's where this gets good, is you don't have to be the smartest guy in the room, you just have to have the best data

Stephanie Nelson, Host (13:31):
<laugh>. Right, exactly. And so I love it, you said, you know, you didn't have a background in ministry. You were bringing your experience, I'm sure as a business consultant to this with your heart for Christ. So here's my question, Chris, you talked about in your background, you talked about taking a trip with your daughter to the Brazilian Amazon, and that was maybe the beginning. I'm fascinated, it's very unusual as you know this, for a man to come to Christ at the age of 40 mm-hmm. <affirmative>, okay, so you just didn't say, okay, that's nice. You said, okay, for whatever reason what happened in your heart. So would you mind sharing that personal side of your story? Sure.

Chris Beth, Guest (14:13):
And I, I, I love that part of the story. Anyway, so my daughter and I, one day were coming back from soccer practice, and this is in 2007, and she's in the backseat of the car. I'm driving. We get in a head-on intersection or we get in a head-on accident in an intersection outside of Dallas. And like happens, you know, around the world thousands of times daily, except for it was us this time. And I was in a environment I've never been in, my wife wasn't with my son, wasn't with, it was just me and my daughter. And we're in a hospital and she's to a backboard because they thought she might have a back injury. And she's screaming in pain, Stephanie, and we're in a hospital that didn't have room for us in a room. They were so full and she's in a hallway screaming in pain.
And they come in and they say, well, we need to do this, this, and this, and we're gonna have to put a catheter in her. And I am like, full on. I, I don't know what to do. And literally in that room, in that moment, I decided I needed to have a friend with me that would never, ever leave me in a situation like this. And I invited Jesus to take control of my life. I knelt down in that hallway, in that emergency room and received Christ at that point. And because I hadn't been discipled or anything, I, I, you know, I wasn't really sure next steps after that. So about two weeks later, I went to church and I made it official. I thought that's how, how, how this had to happen, <laugh>. But that's, that's at the point at the age of 40 where I invited Jesus to take control of my life.
And fast forward in that story, my my daughter obviously survived. She got better. She's had a couple back surgeries in the process, but she is functional with that. But from that point on, I felt like I was behind, I was behind for where I should be with this relationship with Jesus. And I tried to learn as much as I could. And in the process, my daughter comes home from school in 2012 and she said she wanted to go on this mission trip to the Brazilian Amazon. And she's Stephanie, she said this to my wife and I, and we're looking at each other like, what <laugh>,

Stephanie Nelson, Host (16:36):
What's wrong with Florida? Okay, yeah,

Chris Beth, Guest (16:38):
Exactly. Because she'd been to south Texas before, right? But Brazil, I mean, that's a lot further, a lot more remote. And so Sherry and I quickly decide that if she's gonna go, one of us has to go with her. And so I drew that card and I end up going to the Brazilian Amazon with her. And I saw things i, i never expected to see because if I'm being honest, in 2012 when I went, my only job was to bring my kid home. That was it. And I was newly saved. I really didn't even understand my own relationship with Christ yet. So my only job and the job that my wife gave me is make sure she comes home. And so we go there and I see things I wasn't expected to see. I, I mean, I saw people that were drinking directly from a river and they thought that was normal.
I saw people that were so far from God, they had no hope. And on the third day of that trip, we go across the river from this big boat and we take a smaller boat to this home and we're gonna be telling people we're gonna do in their village that day. And this Brazilian couple welcomed me into their home very warmly. And I'm all sweaty, right? I'm just this giant sweaty American <laugh> and this, this Brazilian woman who literally was like four feet tall. She looks up at me and she, she asked me in Portuguese through my translator, she said, are you thirsty? And I'm like, <laugh>, yes, I'm thirsty. And I looked around the room and I'm looking for a refrigerator. 'cause I'm, I'm thinking, yeah, I'll take a bottle of bottled water. I mean, 'cause really at this point I know nothing about the world water crisis.
So what she does in turn is she takes two cups and she goes out into the river in front of her house and dips two cups of water out of the river. And she's bringing these two cups in. And I'm standing the doorway thinking, whew, I the world is this woman doing. There's no way I'm drinking that. And sure enough, she hints one cup to me, one cup to my interpreter. So I didn't know what to do. And so as I'm sitting here pondering this decision, do I drink this and get sick the rest of the trip or do I just hold it? And I offend her because I'm not gonna drink the water she gave me. I look over at my interpreter and he's going like this, okay. In fact, he did like this. Underneath this he's saying,

Stephanie Nelson, Host (19:14):
He's saying, no, he's wagging his hand. No. Yeah, yeah,

Chris Beth, Guest (19:16):
Yeah. He's saying, no, don't do that. And so now I realize I can't drink it, but at the same time I'm holding this glass of water that's got stuff swimming in it. Oh my gosh. I heard something that I'd never heard before. And I would say prior to this day, I've never been in the business of hearing the Lord's voice. Or maybe I should say I didn't listen 'cause I'm sure those are two separate things. But I clearly heard two words when I was holding this glass of water. And he said, help them. Wow. Very clearly said, help them. Wow. But it came with no instruction. And those two words are what propelled me to come back with this burden on my heart, find a solution, and a year later take this solution back down and start to systematize a process by which we could use these filters to reach people in the name of Jesus.

Stephanie Nelson, Host (20:12):
Oh, well you made that sound easy. So I'm gonna dig a little deeper, Chris, because I believe, you know, so many people have gifts and talents that they don't recognize as being applicable to ministry if ministry is important to them. And when you talk about, okay, you came back and said, I need to figure this out. Could you tell me exactly what did you do?

Chris Beth, Guest (20:34):
The very next day I got back, I called a doctor that was on the trip with us that did local clinics in the villages we were working with. And I said, Dr. Casey, can you tell me of all the people treated how many were treated from an issue with water? And he goes, oh, that's easy, all of them. And I'm like, how can that be all of them? And he goes, Chris, they're drinking from the river. What would you expect? And he said, I treated all of them for symptoms related to waterborne disease. And so I start researching waterborne disease and I find out that the main culprits are cholera, typhoid, e coli, maybe dysentery and giardia and salmonella. And these are all waterborne conditions that people experience with drinking unclean surface water. I start researching a little deeper and I try to make myself an expert on what's a solution here.
And I thought, well, why don't we just drill a water? Well, that will fix it. But in the Amazon basin, water rises and falls 40 feet throughout the year. And because of that, if you drill a well in the wrong place, it's gonna get flooded and thus contaminated. So you're starting with the same problem. So I start researching and try to make myself an expert in all these other filters, Stephanie, and there's literally a zillion, but what I knew it had to be cost effective, portable, and very easy to use because I need to teach six year olds and 96 year olds how to use it and take care of it. So one day my wife and I are shopping in a camping supply store here in Dallas called r e i. And we come across this filter Sawyer products, and I read the package, I hadn't seen them in any of my research, and I read the package, I bought two of them, brought 'em home and start researching them.
And I find out that this, this little filter is made from kidney dialysis technology and if it's clean daily, it will yield 350 to 500 gallons per day of clean, safe drinking water. And they head lab tests to back this up. So I thought, hey, let's have an experiment in the Beth House. So I told Sherry, my wife, who's a nurse, I said, Hey, we're gonna drink outta the lake for a few days through this filter and see how it works. And she goes, what? And I go, we're gonna have everybody drink out of this to see how it, how it tastes and what, what we think. So after we did this for almost a week, by the end of this time, we couldn't tell the difference between filtered water through the Sawyer filter and a bottle of Zaca that we had delivered to our house if it was cold, which is crazy, right?
And we all lived, so experiment passed. So that's how we found the Sawyer filter. And it attaches to any bucket of receptacle, which makes it very easy, very portable, very cost effective. So for roughly $50 we can provide a family, one of these filters, a bucket into parasitic meds for their family, a bible in three follow-up visitations in most of the countries where we work. So less for less than can take our families to Applebee's and, and basically eat air. We can provide a family hope for over 20 years. And that's just the physical aspect of the filter doesn't even discuss in them hearing about the gospel. So that's kind of the process it took once we got back in researching this to find this tool. But we went through several water filters to get to this point. But the Sawyer filter was the longest lasting, the most durable and quite frankly the easiest for a six year old or a 96 year old to use.

Stephanie Nelson, Host (24:21):
You kind of had me at r e i like if R E i I live in Colorado where like r e I is where you go for everything. If R e I is selling it, you know, it's been seriously vetted. Yeah. And what I appreciate again is that you are just applying your business skills and saying, you did all that research, you became an expert. So when people say, I wanna help with a problem, but I don't know anything about it, I would say, let's look to you for inspiration and say, don't be deterred by that. We're all capable of learning, learn, ask questions, learn, ask questions. If nothing, but you're experiencing intellectual curiosity, which I think is good for all of us, but you may come up with this beautiful solution, which is, well I think the Sawyer water filter company likes you a lot, <laugh>. And you were able to have your own family test it. I don't know, I don't know if I said to my family, we actually live on a lake. It's like, okay, we're gonna drink Lake Water for a week. They'd be like, you first mom

Chris Beth, Guest (25:19):
In that light, Stephanie, I'm gonna send you one of these filters and let's, let's just take it, take it, take it a day at a time and say, okay, we're gonna test this for a day to see if this guy in Dallas is just all crazy or not.

Stephanie Nelson, Host (25:32):
I know you're not crazy because I've researched your website. I'm fascinated. You kind of got to the punchline. People by now are saying, Hey, I wanna help here. How can I help? You know, you can easily go to his website. It's only $50. As he said, you're not only providing a filter, but you're providing three visits and you're perhaps giving help to a family to understand Jesus, who they may have never even heard of. Amen. Probably

Chris Beth, Guest (25:57):
Haven't. It's just that easy. And it's the bucket ministry.org. And the key here, Stephanie, that I I, I hope to, and maybe speak into with a few of your subscribers would be God delights in using ordinary people. And in the beginning of this I kept on thinking, what can I do? I mean, I don't know anything about water. I don't know anything about ministry. I, I mean, I know about the business world, but that's about it. And I think if we go through God's word, we see a plethora of examples of him using ordinary, unqualified, untrained people. And so for anybody sitting at home or sitting at their desk listening to this, what you need to hear is that's who he uses. And I'm just, you know, an untrained ordinary guy that figured something out, but I figured something out because I know God is with me.

Stephanie Nelson, Host (26:55):
That is so beautiful and I just love this. I'm absolutely ordering my filter. You don't have to send me a free one by the way. I'd rather a family gets that. But I do know what we're gonna get from r e i if we ever do backcountry backpacking. I wanna thank you so much for what you are doing for all those people and thank you for spending time with us. And again, we will have the details in the show notes, but it is, is it the bucket ministry.org?

Chris Beth, Guest (27:20):
Correct. Stephanie, I'm so grateful to be able to tell this story and to share it with you and your listeners. So thank you.

Stephanie Nelson, Host (27:29):
Well thank you so much. It was great talking to you. Have a great week. Chris Beth, Guest (27:32):

Alright, thank you.