Volunteers distribute drinking water at Harbor of Hope Adventist Church in Benton Harbor, Michigan. | photo credit: Rayno Victor
In 2018, health officials in Benton Harbor began noticing an alarming rise in lead poisoning cases. After performing multiple tests, the city discovered that the water system was tainted due to corrosion in the original lead water pipes.
The city reached out to partner with local agencies immediately—one of which was the Adventist Community Services Center (CSC): Harbor of Hope. Once a month, says Terri Trecartin, director of Adventist Community Services (ACS), in Benton Harbor, residents came to designated places such as the health department, library, and the Harbor of Hope CSC, to receive water filters and information on how to use them. When the filters turned yellow, a replacement was available.
Harbor of Hope immediately enlisted volunteers, partnering with United Way so that anyone, even if they weren’t part of the church, could volunteer. The state delivered the water bottles and they arranged for any leftovers to be picked up.
On October 30, 2021, in just one day, the church and their volunteers handed out 1,500 cases of water. Trecartin remembers how thankful people were. Some told him they were on their last case of water and were wondering what they were going to do when it ran out.
Harbor of Hope went above and beyond their required duties, ensuring that everyone who needed water received it. Some people were homebound. Trecartin stated that “if people couldn’t get out and get the water, we… took it to them.”
Over the last three years, the city has realized how challenging it is for residents to figure out which location to get their supplies, so they picked a centralized location: the local high school. All citizens go to the high school to get what they need on specified days, and local charities (including Harbor of Hope), assist them.
Harbor of Hope has established itself in the community—an important and trusted Adventist presence. ACS director, Chelli Ringstaff, also adds that one connection can lead to another. At first, it’s just a water filter, distributed at the CSC. Afterward, it’s 1,500 cases of delivered water. The city has come to trust Harbor of Hope because they have proven themselves.
But it’s not just the city officials that can depend upon the Adventist church. Trecartin explains that over the summer of 2021, student literature evangelists worked in the Benton Harbor area. Every time the colporteurs identified themselves as Adventists, people lit up with recognition, “because they knew where the church was,” Trecartin says. The church and its organizations have been so influential in the community that “Adventist” isn’t just a name: it’s associated with a positive experience. Would your community be able to say the same?
Judy Klein, Michigan Conference Communication Staff