"A new well would make a great Christmas present." -- Rev. Boo Hankins
Did you realize this morning that you took a few steps to get clean water?
In the community surrounding Kupera United Methodist Church, people walk four miles to get water from a dirty stream. They carry it back to their homes -- as much as they can carry at one time -- in big yellow jugs.
Here in the United States, it's possible to leave the shower running, turn on the bathroom faucet, and wash your clothes and dishes, all at once. Without ever feeling thirsty.
As Holston welcomes its eighth mission team back from Sudan, the Holston Conference Foundation is leading an effort to respond to the disparity -- by raising money to dig 15 to 19 wells in south Sudan.
"Many people get sick and die because of the bad water," the Rev. Boo Hankins said in a recent e-mail from Yei, Sudan. "Water is life, and Jesus is the Water of Life ... A new well would make a great Christmas present."
Hankins and his wife, the Rev. Phyllis Hankins, are Holston clergy overseeing mission work in Sudan through 2011.
At a cost of $10,000 per well, the Foundation is matching $1 for every $2 donated to bring water to south Sudan. Funds have already been donated to begin three or four new wells, according to Foundation Executive Director Roger Redding. The first well will be dug near Kupera UMC.
"We have established a fund to accept gifts of all sizes," Redding said, "but individuals and churches may also be able to completely fund an individual well."
A pleasing gift
On Saturday, Nov. 13, Holston's latest mission team to Sudan will return at McGhee-Tyson Airport near Knoxville. According to Hankins' e-mail, the 16-member team brought water filters to Sudan "to help out the children, sick and elderly until we can get the wells drilled."
The team also visited future sites for the wells -- Lutaya and Kupera -- where people begged for clean water.
"All I could do was promise that we would pray for them, and if God provided the funds, we would help them," Hankins said.
Some Holston groups have already responded to the need. The United Methodist Women of First Marion UMC first heard about Yei's desperate need for water from teams that went to Sudan in 2008, according to the Rev. Jonathan Jonas.
"Our UMW president, Jane Weaver, took the ball and ran with it," Jonas said. "Our UMW ladies began planning a big yard sale to raise money for the effort. In two days of September, they raised over $6,000."
At its charge conference on Nov. 5, the Abingdon District church voted to add $4,000 designated for a mission trip to the UMW funds for a total $10,000 to dig the well in Kupera.
"I pray that it will be a pleasing gift to Jesus Christ, whose love binds people in Marion and Kupera together," Jonas said. "It is definitely a great gift to our congregation. We feel very blessed that God used us for this purpose."
First Maryville UMC has committed its Christmas offering to new wells. A couple from Concord UMC, Ivan Beltz and Donna Davis, donated $10,000 on Nov. 9, and the Holston Conference United Methodist Women raised about $6,800 through its School of Christian Mission.
Other groups from other conferences are also participating in the effort, including the United Methodist Women from the Virginia Conference. The Red Bird Missionary Conference committed its 2010 Annual Conference offering for a new well, according to Anne Travis, director of connectional ministries.
"These people who have so little want to help those who have nothing," she said.
Holston has already completed three wells and three deep water springs since forming its covenant partnership with the East Africa Conference in February 2008. Others are soon to follow, Holston leaders say.
"Our desire is that each cup of water that is ultimately provided will be offered in Jesus' name, in gratitude for what God has so richly blessed us with here in the Holston Conference," Redding said. "The funds ... will come because people understand that you cannot offer health or hope, or even have a home, without having clean water."
Write checks to: Holston Conference Foundation, P.O. Box 900, Alcoa, TN 37701. Questions: Call the Foundation toll-free at (866) 690-4080.
By Annette Spence, editor of The Call, the newspaper of the Holston Annual Conference
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newsletter.