In the bush villages of Africa, getting clean water for your family can be a struggle. Women often have to walk two hours each way to a water source.
Sometimes, it’s a roughly hand-dug well with a simple rope pulley system. The women must jostle for a place in line until it is their turn to lower their bucket into the well and dredge up a small amount of dirty water. Other times, they gather at open pools of water, where they share the source with livestock and where the water is full of sludge. They do this because they have no other options.
Michael and Ann* are slowly changing that with their well drilling ministry. Along with a team of other Christian workers, they go to villages in need of a clean water supply and drill wells equipped with manual pumps parts that can be fixed easily. They purposely keep the project technologically simple so that the villages will have the parts on hand, and so the town’s people won’t have to learn a complicated skill set. They meet with village elders and ask them to form committees who will be put in charge of maintenance. Then they check on the well periodically to make sure things are running smoothly.
When their team gets the well up and running for the first time, there is a party atmosphere while people wait in line to fill their buckets with clean, clear water. Michael and Ann know that the well will change people’s lives. “We get a lot of satisfaction when we see the joy on people’s face when they see the well working, but the bigger burden for us is that they open their hearts to God,” said Michael. The well drilling projects offer many opportunities to share the Gospel. When they were building their first well, for the private Christian school in town, a man asked Michael if he had a goat to sacrifice in order to please God and bless the project. Michael explained that he believed God sent Jesus, the perfect, blameless sacrifice, and that to sacrifice an animal would be dishonoring to God’s sacrifice. It was a natural way to begin a conversation about Jesus.
Working on the well drilling projects is also a non-threatening way to visit new villages, start relationships with the town’s people, and then maintain those relationships. Michael and Ann consider this relationship building to be even more important than providing people with clean water. “We make sure the villagers know why we are building the wells,” said Michael. “We are not an NGO or some other charity organization. We are helping because we are followers of Christ.” They are ministering to people’s felt needs so that they have the chance to address people’s spiritual needs, as they seek to build the body of Christ in Africa.
*not their real names
-Written by Lisa H. Renninger
-Photos by Michael and Ann