County native supports clean drinking water efforts in Peru

Published 3:48 pm Thursday, November 16, 2023

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By BARTON PERKINS | Staff Writer

NORTH SHELBY – Thousands of people in the Peruvian Amazon do not have access to safe, clean drinking water, but Kingdom Ventures International plans to change that with their 50/50 Water Challenge.

“It’s going to be taking place in Jacksonville, North Carolina on Saturday, Dec. 9,” Pastor James Grayson Jr. said. “Basically, what I’ll be doing is that I’ll be walking, running and biking 50 miles and our goal is to raise $25,000.”

Grayson has been a pastor for the past 22 years, and during that time he has served on mission trips all around the world. But it wasn’t until a fateful trip to Mexico that Grayson became aware of the critical need for clean drinking water in many parts of South America.

“We heard about this group of Indians called Tzotzil Indians that had actually been kicked out of their village because they were following Christ and the Mexican government gave them land on the backside of this lake about 25 acres in a really arid area and so we went out to meet them,” Grayson said. “Their kids had really distended stomachs, and they were really sick. I had been in the Amazon, and I thought they had parasites, so we gave some money for them to take the kids to the doctor. The next day, though, we found out that it wasn’t parasites. It was their livers.  Their livers were inflamed from drinking directly from the lake where they get their water.”

In the United States, waterborne illnesses and diseases are thought to cause roughly 120,000 hospitalizations and 7,000 deaths each year according to the CDC. Both of these numbers are thought to be much higher in countries where healthcare resources are less readily available. 

“It’s estimated that there are 500,000 people in the area of the Amazon we work in,” Grayson said. “I would say that about 90 percent of them don’t have access to clean drinking water.”

A little while after discovering the need for clean drinking water in South America, Grayson and his wife Crystal founded Kingdom Ventures International, a nonprofit with a mission to provide clean water filtration systems to communities in the Peruvian Amazon.

“Iquitos, Peru is the largest city in the world that’s only accessible by boat or plane,” Grayson said. “There are no roads connecting it to the outside world. It’s basically only accessible by the stretch of the Amazon river, and in the next 15 years we want to see that every single family in that area has clean exit access to clean water.”

Kingdom Ventures International provides clean water to the people of the Peruvian Amazon in several different manners. Mostly though, it is by giving families a water filtration system for their homes, or by building a solar-powered well for a village. Either way, what sets Kingdom Ventures apart from many other nonprofits is that members regularly return to help maintain the water filtration systems and to teach locals how to do the same.

“The thing about their ministry doing this is that they don’t just go and give it to them and leave,” said Christy Kelley of Focus Church. “And then here it is, they go back and check off. They go back and see them and see how they’re doing and make sure it’s working properly.”

While Grayson and his wife may only spend a few months out of the year in Shelby County now, with the rest of their time split between North Carolina and their work in Peru, local churches like Focus Church in Shelby still actively support Kingdom Ventures’ humanitarian efforts and participate in mission trips.

“One thing that I really appreciate and love about Kingdom Ventures is that they really get to know the people and love them,” Kelley said. “They make sure that those people are going to have clean water for 20 years down the line.”

Kingdom Ventures International will have its 50/50 Clean Water Challenge on Saturday, Dec. 9. Donations can be given at