This story is from the Summer 2015 Issue of Shattered Magazine! Subscribe to read more powerful stories that break down barriers to Christian belief and action.
They often would beat him. They would break him down—body and spirit—casting him out of the village. He didn’t belong, and they despised him and his teachings.
For Pastor Thomas in India, this was his story: He would tell people about Jesus. They would cast him aside. It was a cycle he couldn’t break.
Yet today, Pastor Thomas is a leader in his community. No, he didn’t move. He is in the same village with the same people. And no, they haven’t all decided to give their lives to Christ. But they respect him. They serve alongside him in unity for the common good of their community in an effort to make sure their families and children have clean water.
Jennifer thought God was a joke, and not the funny kind. Living in South Sudan, she knew great suffering. War and famine was a way of life—or more accurately, the way of death. If there really was a God and He was simply standing by while she and her people were caught in such misery, then she wanted nothing to do with Him. Her heart was cold and her face expressionless. How could there be joy in a life like that?
Yet today, Jennifer radiates. She has seen the Lord’s faithfulness, and her joy overflows. Why such a change? If you were to ask her yourself, she would tell you of the prayers she would hear the pastor and members of the local church pray. They were prayers for better health and provision of clean water. Words that seemed hopeless and empty to Jennifer, until she saw them answered.
Moving Beyond Statistics
Every minute of the day, a child dies from a preventable waterborne illness.
If you are like me, you read that statement and are hardly disturbed by its magnitude. You may have just skimmed through Pastor Thomas’ and Jennifer’s stories, hardly blinking an eye at the circumstances they’ve faced.
You aren’t alone. In a world full of heartbreaking statistics, it seems we have grown numb to the pain of an aching world around us. It hurts too much to let all the pain touch our hearts deeply, doesn’t it? Besides, what can we even do about it? How are we supposed to fix it? It’s overwhelming. So we shut our eyes, close our ears and forget.
The same was once the case for Brandon Gossett, director of development for Neverthirst. It wasn’t until 2010 when he found himself in Mundri, South Sudan, standing with a woman who had recently lost her 18-month-old child to diarrhea, that the statistics and stories began to mean something to him.
“It was the first time that I walked the miles, saw the people suffering from waterborne illnesses, met the parents who had lost children from things our kids don’t die of here in the US, saw the grave of the one-and-a-half year old, and it no longer was a statistic. Those statistics had names and faces and stories. I knew I couldn’t leave there and go home and live the same, knowing people suffer like that daily around the world.”
As I listened to Brandon share story after story, I felt my eyes opening to the severity of the water crisis and to the life-altering significance found in the solution.
He told me of a woman in South Sudan who was walking 12 miles to get clean water from a well for her family. There had been a water source closer to her home, but she had seen a difference in her children’s health when drinking the clean water, so it was worth the walk. Now, because of those who have partnered with Neverthirst, there is a well in her community and the health of her children continues to improve without the burden of extra hours and miles.
Addressing The Ultimate Disconnect
Neverthirst is an international nonprofit Christian organization whose mission is to advance the Gospel by providing clean water worldwide. It all started in 2006 when three men heard David Platt preach a sermon called “The Ultimate Disconnect.” The message came from Psalm 67:1-2, and the question raised was this: Have we disconnected our blessings from God’s purposes for them?
For Mark Whitehead, Forrest Walden, and Spencer Sutton, the answer was clear. There was a disconnect between the two, and they wanted to do something about it. On December 8, 2008, the first well was drilled in Witto, South Sudan. Today, Neverthirst has completed over 2,500 water projects in Cambodia, India, and South Sudan, helping over 325,000 people.
Each water project undertaken has the support of the surrounding community prior to breaking ground. The community is invested in the project, providing leaders and financially committing to maintain the water source as a priority in the village or town. This allows their efforts to be sustainable, creating a long-lasting impact that will reach the people of the village long after Neverthirst representatives have gone.
The goal for Neverthirst is to meet the physical needs of each participating community and allow the spiritual needs to be met through the efforts of the local pastors and faithbased partners in the communities Neverthirst is serving.
This approach was key in Pastor Thomas’ story. The work Pastor Thomas has done to aid the availability of clean water in their community has given him credibility in the eyes of the people, which opens the door to their ears as well. And Jennifer was able to see the true character of God as she saw her local church praise Him for His provision. She didn’t mistake Neverthirst as the savior, but instead came in contact with Jesus.
How Can I Help?
How can you be a part of this work? How can you help change lives and even save them? Through the efforts of organizations like Neverthirst, it isn’t as overwhelming as you might think.
First, go to neverthirstwater.org to learn more about the water projects. Donations are always welcome, but Neverthirst is also looking for volunteers who are willing to help tell stories to raise awareness and gain support.
You can also rally together with your own local community and raise funds to sponsor a water project. Fund-raise with a yard sale, car wash, or your own LemonAID stand! Neverthirst’s annual LemonAID campaign is underway, and it’s a great way to get the whole family and maybe even your entire neighborhood involved. Free LemonAID stand kits are available by emailing Brandon Gossett at [email protected]
There truly is no shortage of ways you can help. The important thing is that you go and do. Because you really can make a difference.