The Bible says that faith without works is dead. Last week, a large group of Detroit pastors, led by Bishop Edgar Vann of Second Ebenezer Baptist Church, put scripture to work when they delivered 500,000 bottles of water to Flint residents.
Ultimately, Flint will need much more than even a huge donation such as this. Much more. But the astronomical needs of Flint in no way diminish not only the size of the gift, but the heart behind it. Sensitive to the perception among some that the church doesn’t do much of anything for anyone except church members, not to mention the heightened publicity being received by so many generous celebrities who have stepped up to do something for Flint, it is important to the Bishop that people recognize that the church is still there, and is still in the business of caring for those in distress – including those who may not be members of their own congregations.
“A lot of churches get bad raps, and they do a lot of things all the time to help people. They just aren’t reported necessarily. If a person is not in church, then they don’t know anything about it. This is such a huge effort, a major effort that needs to be exposed, because I think there are those who believe that churches don’t do anything for people and that they’re only concerned about themselves. And for so many of us who are in ministry, that is just not the truth. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are always causes like this for which we are activated an energized.
“And in this particular instance, not just doing something individually, but doing it together. I just felt it was important for other pastors – and it didn’t matter how many bottles they had – but other pastors to get involved as well.”
But more important than that is the very real possibility that unless Flint’s rapidly escalating dilemma is brought under control and rectified quickly, as in a matter of months, then the City of Flint just might fade into the past tense. Because this is about so much more than poisoned water at this point, even though the water is at the root of the crisis.
“It’s obvious that there has been a problem there for quite some time. And the people are angry. That’s one emotion. Their hope is lost. Because now their property is not worth anything. You can’t sell a house in Flint. You can’t buy a house in Flint. Nobody’s going to lend money in Flint. I have a gentleman in my church who owns four restaurants, fast food restaurants, in Flint. And he’s trying to figure out now whether he should close them. Business has gone down over 50 percent because nobody wants to sit in a restaurant in Flint. “Nobody wants to come where you have cleaned the salad with water or anything like that. So the economy is suffering. People are losing their jobs in Flint. They still have water bills that they’re being asked to pay.
“And now, even with the money that’s trying to go through Lansing to be allocated now, the $30 million, it’s still not for the full water bill. It’s only for water. They still have a sewerage bill on top of it, which means that the only thing the $30 million is going to pay for is between 47-60 percent of their water bill. The whole idea is that they’re just gonna give you a credit on your water bill. Now, you paid cash, right? If I’m getting a refund it ought to be cash back.
“What would really stimulate the economy, and really give people a good feeling about themselves, is if they were able to get a check back that’s a refund for water they couldn’t use through no fault of their own. So a lot of anger there.
“They’re going to need a lot of money in Flint, and there’s no way to do this without replacing the pipes. And to replace the pipes in Flint is going to be a herculean task. We’re talking maybe a billion dollars there. Where does that money come from? And digging up the whole city, and it’ll take years to do that. And I don’t know if there’s enough time to bring the solution to it. …To be perfectly honest, the conditions there are just really despicable. I mean, when you look at what people are up against and what they have to deal with. It’s really bad. And so with the caravan of water we were able to take up there, I think we made a tremendous impact.”
Vann said the idea for the collaborative effort came when several other pastors heard about the drive Vann’s church was already conducting throughout January and thought it would be a good idea to do a joint effort. Vann agreed.
“We sort of captioned the initiative under ‘Revive Matthew:25.’ Matthew 25, in scripture, it is a scripture that says, ‘I was sick and you visited me, I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty you gave me water to drink.’ That’s where the inspiration came from. And Pastor Welton Smith, of New Life Family Church, helped to put a lot of the logistics in bringing together a lot of the other pastors to join the effort collectively with us. That’s the genesis of it. … We had a caravan of about 60 vehicles that went to Flint on Monday (Feb. 1). About four or five of them were 18-wheeler semis” which left Second Ebenezer at 10 am.
Other participating Detroit churches include:Triumph Church, Pastor Solomon Kinloch; Greater Emmanuel Institutional COGIC, Bishop J. Drew Sheard; Pastor Ryan Johnson, First Baptist Institutional Church; Pastor Larry Smith, New St. Mark Baptist Church; Pastor Kenneth Brock, New Welcome Missionary Baptist Church, and a number of other pastors.
“In Flint, we were working with seven different churches, and five different senior villages,” he said.
“A lot of the seniors have not had the chance to get access to water because of their lack of mobility. So seniors and some of the immigrants had a hard time. Well first of all, you know they were asking people for their drivers license and ID in order to get water. When the National Guard came in? They were asking people for ID. And, you know, for those who are immigrants or foreign born individuals, they were really not for that, of course because it put them under a different light of scrutiny. So we were trying to reach some of the unreachables with all the water that we were bringing.
“And then again, the government was only giving them one case per day. They only give one case per household. Per day. And there are about 24-32 bottles included per case.”
So do the math; each bottle averages about 16 ounces, and there are 128 ounces in a gallon. If there are 32 bottles in a case, then that equals 512 ounces per case, which equals about 4 gallons of water per household per day. Multiply that by 30 for a month and that’s 120 gallons per month per household from the state.
The United Nations says that the minimal amount of water needed for a household of four is 3,000 gallons.
The list of churches involved includes the following:
New Life Family Church – Pastor Welton Smith IV
Second Ebenezer Church – Bishop Edgar Vann II
Greater Emmanuel Institutional Church of God in Christ – Bishop J. Drew Sheard
Triumph Church – Pastor Solomon Kinloch
Kingdom Culture Church – Pastors Tony & Clarita Jackson
Central Baptist Church – Pastor Robert Bolden
St. John the Great Missionary Baptist Church – Bishop Victor Sharp
First Baptist Institutional Church – Pastor Ryan Johnson
Harvest Temple Church of God in Christ – Pastor Elder
Pure Faith Ministries – Bishop Sandy Robinson
Victorious Living Church – Pastor Dana Berry
Judah Tabernacle Church – Pastor Cedric Robinson
The Life Church – Pastor Marlon Ector
Gordy Memorial Church of God in Christ – Pastor Daniel Grandberry
Dedicated to Christ Church – Pastor Dr. Aaron Chapman
Total Life Christian Ministries – Bishop Daryl Harris
New Welcome Baptist Church – Pastor Kenneth Brock
New St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church – Pastor Larry Smith
Chapel Hill Missionary Baptist Church – Pastor R. Lamont Smith
New Prospect Missionary Baptist Church – Pastor Wilma Johnson
Lomax Temple AME Church – Pastor Relford
Transparent Outreach Ministries – Pastor Reginald Hill
People Community Church – Pastor Dr. Charles Clark