The Bucket Ministry: Changing lives one glass of water at a time

Where the story started. the home where God breathed TBM into life - and showed me why I was created
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 (Courtesy Photo: “Where the story started. The home where God breathed The Bucket Ministry into life and showed me why I was created.” Christopher Beth, founder of The Bucket Ministry)

By Sandy Jones 

After having being a regular attender at church for most of his life, Christopher Beth finally asked Jesus into his heart in 2007 after he and his daughter, Savannah, had been in a horrific head-on collision. Sitting with Savannah in the corridor of a hospital that didn’t have any rooms available, Christopher couldn’t take what she was going through, had no capacity to deal with it, and in that hallway invited Jesus into his heart, surrendering fully to Him. 

This was just the beginning of the call God was placing on Christopher’s heart. Here he shares, in his own words, how that fateful night lead to impacting hundreds of lives, both physically and eternally: 

Professionally, I spent 35 years as a business consultant in the pet industry. 

My wife is my high school sweetheart, my best friend, the love of my life, and a registered nurse. 

After I prayed to invite Christ into my heart that night, my wife arrived at the hospital and was able to take charge. Soon after, they decided to move our daughter to Children’s in Downtown Dallas. When we arrived, there was a team of nine people waiting just to take care of Savannah. So we left the hospital that had us in a hallway because they didn’t have enough room for us, to this hospital where they had nine people waiting for us. (After several months Savannah healed completely.) 

I came to Christ in 2007; slowly I learned more about the Character of Jesus. I wasn’t actively discipled, so I learned much on my own; much of my early journey was a childlike faith. I am certainly not a theologian, and while I’m now a licensed pastor, I still believe that my understanding of Jesus is best as childlike faith. 

In 2012 my daughter came home from high school and said, “I want to go to the Brazilian Amazon on a mission trip.” 

It was quickly decided that I’d go with her. The most relevant part of this decision is that I decided to go, not because I had a love or compassion for the Brazilian people; I didn’t even fully understand my relationship with Jesus at that point, all I knew is I needed Him. I went solely to bring my kid home. 

 We flew into Manaus, Brazil and boarded an open-air riverboat with 15 other people. It was like 90 degrees with a billion percent humidity, and Savannah and I are wondering what we’ve gotten ourselves into. 

It took 18 hours to get to the first village deep in the Amazon. We had multiple ministries on the boat: Men’s Ministry, Women’s Ministry, VBS, a doctor, a dentist and a Faith Team. 

Ironically the team leader assigned me to the Faith Team, which is crazy because I had no idea of my own faith just yet, and I’d never verbally spoken that much about Jesus or my relationship with Him. 

The first two days we went door to door, explaining what our team was doing, then praying over people. On these visits, I went with our pastor, Ricky, and if he was talking to the family, I was on the opposite side of the house praying that no one would talk to me, because I did not have any capacity to join in this conversation. I felt so out of place. 

On the third day we were going to go visit a home across the river. I joined Pastor Ricky; Nelson, our interpreter; and our boat driver in a small boat. Then Pastor Ricky left the boat. 

He said, “Well, you’ve got this.” 

I looked at him and said, “What do you mean I’ve got this?” 

He gets out of the boat, repeating that I’ve got this and he leaves. 

I remember vividly thinking….“Had he not seen the previous two days, that I didn’t say two words?” I thought I was going to throw up. 

Crossing the river I’m trying to recall everything Pastor Ricky had said the prior two days; I figured I could just copy him. 

We arrived at this partially flooded home, with a little tiny, rickety plank going across from the bank to the home, and are welcomed in by this Brazilian couple. This little Brazilian woman looked at me and she said, “Are you thirsty?” through my interpreter. 

Yes. I’m thirsty. I’m sweating like crazy. I half expected her to go in a refrigerator, that didn’t exist, and grab a bottle of water, that didn’t exist, and bring it back to me. Instead she walks out to the front of her home on to that tiny rickety little plank that I had walked across, and she dipped two mismatched, cracked glasses drawing water out of the river! 

There are some points in life where you have to make some pretty quick decisions: on one hand if I drink this glass of water, I’m going to spend the rest of the trip in the bathroom. On the other hand, if I don’t, this lady, who I just told that I was thirsty, is going to be upset and think I’m rude. 

I look over at my interpreter and he’s shaking his finger “no.” 

I’m standing there with this glass of water staring at it. This is the first time I heard the audible voice of God. I’d never heard God’s voice in the past — or I should say, I’d never listened? I think the two things are dramatically different. 

Clearly He said, “Help them.” 

I remember thinking, “What am I supposed to do to ‘help them’?” His instruction of “help them” did not come with a manual. It did not come with further instruction. In the end we left after praying over them. 

Upon our return home all I could focus on was “help them.” What does “help them” mean? 

I called the doctor who had accompanied us and asked, “Can you tell me, of all the people that you treated on this trip, how many of them were treated for some sort of water-borne disease?” 

His response was basically, “Oh, that’s easy. All of them.” He went on to explain that they drink out of the river. They have no improved sources of water, and that river water contains countless bacteria and parasites. He said the Amazon River is the biggest septic system in the world; they’re consuming that and they’re all sick. He explained they give them a blanket treatment that’s going to treat the symptoms, although it’s unknown if they have E.coli infections, amoebic dysentery, giardia, typhoid, salmonella, or cholera. It could be all these things. It could be a combination, so the doctor treated them with a blanket prophylactic treatment that will last a month, maybe two at most, then they’re going to get sick again. It’s a never-ending process. 

At this point, I’m really starting to try to understand this “help them.” 

I start researching water filtration, thinking maybe I’m supposed to bring clean water down there, giving it out in kind of a humanitarian manner. I look at different filters. I buy different filters. I start researching bio-sand filters. I research wells, and different types of filtration. I try to make myself an expert in all these things. I learn the Amazon water rises and falls 30 feet throughout the year, so whatever we use has to be portable; has to be inexpensive; and has to be long-lasting. 

I researched more about the water crisis and went to organizations like the World Health Organization. I found that 844 million people don’t have access to clean water, then realized that there’s 350 million people in the United States, which means more than twice the population of the United States around the world has to drink dirty, horrible water. 

I found the Sawyer water filters, manufactured in Florida, and started using them at the lake near my house in Dallas. I made my family drink out of lake water for a week and everybody did fine — well, everyone lived! 

The Sawyer filters yield 350 to 500 gallons per day and have been lab tested up to a million gallons. The average home in the Amazon will use 20 to 30 liters per day, roughly eight gallons, which means that this filter is going to last 20 to 22 years. 

In 2014 I guilted friends and family into donating the $5,000 for our next trip down to the Amazon where we were taking 80 filters. 

This is where God showed us really what this filter was. 

At the first village there were 20 to 30 homes, and we invited all the villagers to come sit down and learn about the water filter. We explained why they were getting sick from the drinking water. We taught them how to use, how to care for, and how to share this gift. 

At the end a Brazilian man stands up and he said, “Can you tell me how you made your way to our village?” 

I joked and said, “Well that boat and that captain got me here.” 

He’s like, “No of all the villages, how did you come to ours?” 

I had to think about this. I told this man, “I’m a follower of Jesus Christ and we were called to be in your village.” 

Then he asks “Well, who is this Jesus?” 

At that point I thought, “Wow, now I understand what this water filter is!” It’s a tool to be able to introduce people to Jesus. We told him who Jesus is, basically giving my testimony. 

The villager asked, “How can I do that?” 

Then the rest of the villagers were saying, “Yeah, we want that too.” 

Not only will this water filter save lives physically, it’s also a great tool to introduce people to The Living Water. 

In 2016 we were blessed to distributed 750 filters in only one country; in 2017 we distributed 3,300 filters in 15 countries; and in 2018 we distributed 8,300 filters in 20 countries. 

Clearly the Lord showed me that this was all His plan. It really comes back to that I understood what my role was: simply to say…yes. 

In Acts 4:13 Peter and John were pulled before a council, and they were having to testify at whose authority they performed these miracles (healed a man). The council saw that Peter and John were ordinary, untrained, uneducated men. Keyword “ordinary.” I really relate to that verse because I think I’m very ordinary; I was not equipped with any skills other than saying ‘yes.’ 

Acts 4:13 (NIV): When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 

The Bucket Ministry 

The Bucket Ministry works in two different ways. We take our own trips into a few countries where we have been called to work specifically. We also train other teams, other churches / denominations, other organizations to use this bucket filter as a tool to reach people for Christ. For instance, we are working with Sophia Fleming and the General Council of the Church of God Seventh Day here in Idaho. 

When we give the bucket filter to the recipients, it comes with more than just that, it also includes anti-parasitic medicines that we give the entire family that will treat the parasites that they have. We also teach them sanitation and hygiene lessons because if you have clean water, but you’re still not washing your hands, it’s not going to be a total solution. We also collect recipient information from every person that receives a bucket filter for follow-up visits. 

A common belief is that when missionaries give things away without any sustainability it can actually hurt more than it’s helping. We learned that when we gave away a filter and did not go back to follow up on it, half the people would stop using it. 

We then started a follow-up program. We found that with one follow-up after they receive their filter, it increased the use of the bucket from 50% to 83%. If there were two follow-ups, it went from 83% to 85%. Three follow-up visits increased bucket use from 85% to 88%. We have been able to prove that the sustainability of The Bucket Ministry is in the follow-up; it’s vitally important. 

At the follow-ups we work with local pastors, missionaries, and other church groups. We like to identify a local pastor to train, equip, and support, so that the local pastor becomes the hero with the villagers, and then he will make Jesus the hero! 

We don’t have a licensed Bucket Ministry entity in any other country because we exist to work through that local partner and that local partner is the one that does the follow-ups. 

 Each bucket filter that we distribute comes with basic terms and conditions. The recipient has to agree to clean the filter and agree to let us check on them to make sure they are cleaning the filter. 

 During the follow-up visit we verify the filter is working properly; troubleshoot problems, if they’re having any; then we transition into spiritual conversations, where if they’re not believers we continue to share the gospel, and, if they are believers we’ll teach some discipleship lessons. The bucket filter allows that local partner unfettered access to the families to build relationships — no matter where and how they live. 

The average filter in most countries costs about $50 for the bucket, the filter, the anti-parasitic medicines and follow-up visits. The package also includes either a written Bible or a solar-powered audio-Bible, based on where they are in their own faith journey. 

The bucket filter will yield 350 to 500 gallons per day — more than any one family needs. This one bucket filter will provide enough water to change their lifestyle. With this water they can brush their teeth, wash their pots and pans, and wash their hands. With the medicines that we give at the same time, we give those for the entire family whether there’s two people in the family or 22. 

At The Bucket Ministry we work from a very simple engagement model that I “stole” from my own church. It’s: “Pray. Give. Go.” What we do doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that. 

Pray: We need additional prayer warriors for intercessory prayer over the ministry. We have an intercessory prayer team of almost 100 people that pray over the ministry and its needs every day — and we want to grow this team. 

Give: We can give clean water to the average family for about $50 and that gives them at least 20 years’ worth of clean water. 

Go: On our website there’s a trip calendar; anyone who’s called to go, and is ready to say yes, can join us on a trip. It will change your life remarkably forever. 

Go to www.thebucketministry.org for more information or to get involved. 

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