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Mears, Shively committed to mission in Swaziland

April 16, 2009
By Michael Tidemann - Staff Writer


Just turn on the faucet and let it run until it's cold then fill up your glass. There's plenty of it, so you don't need to worry about wasting it.

In the U.S. anyway.

Article Photos

Terry Shively of Spencer and Mike Mears of Spirit Lake told Estherville Rotarians Thursday about the Safe Water International Ministries mission to Swaziland.
EDN photo by Michael Tidemann

In Swaziland, though, it's far different.

Landlocked between South Africa and Mozambique not far from the southeast African coast, Swaziland is a land of stark contrasts where the ruling monarch lives in profligate elegance while 80-90 percent of the populace lives on $1 or less a day. Like many African countries, Swaziland has a severe shortage of potable water.

Mike Mears of Spirit Lake and Terry Shively of Spencer, members of St. Alban's Episcopal Church in Spirit Lake, traveled to Swaziland as part of a mission sponsored by Safe Water International Ministries under the auspices of the Episcopal Church of America, in Swaziland known as the Anglican Church. Joining them were the archbishop of the Episcopal Church of Iowa and 14 other missionaries. It was the second trip for Shively who had gone to Swaziland in 2006.

Mears and Shively Thursday told Estherville Rotarians about their Swaziland mission to bring safe drinking water to people in remote villages.

In Swaziland, Mears and Shively distributed water purifiers to villagers. The purifiers used solar-power batteries to convert salt to chlorine which was then added at the rate of five ounces for every 200 gallons of water, or about 10 drops a gallon.

Perhaps one of the greatest tragedies they saw while in Swaziland was the number of orphans whose parents were claimed by AIDS. Many families, with both parents dead from AIDS, were headed by children 11-14. What was left was a nation of poverty.

Vast poverty.

"To me it was like visiting America back in the 19th century," Mears said. Villages had no water, no electricity, and for many children, no clothing.

And yet they seemed contented and happy.

Shively, who practices dentistry in Spencer, found himself called to work on patients under an acacia tree in a lounge chair.

Most church congregations met in the open. There were no organs or pianos. Then none were needed.

"Everywhere we went they sang for us," Mears said.

Their main mission, though, was to show the villagers how to use the electrolysis purifiers to make chlorine from salt and water. Each unit, which costs about $300, can make the difference in increasing the life expectancy of Swazilanders who now die at an average age of 32. As it continues, Safe Water International Ministries hopes to do nothing less than significantly extend the average age of Swazilanders.

Then maybe even more people can sing.

More people can thrive.

More people can live.



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