Last June, the Holston Annual Conference rejoiced at raising $170,000 for Sudan – about $45,000 over the annual missions offering goal.
The Rev. Joe Barber remembers thinking, "Seems like we could do better than that, with 900 churches."
Two months later, Barber heard the Rev. Beth Tipton speak at a district ministers' meeting about the desperate need for clean water in Sudan. When Tipton said that Sudanese children die from illnesses caused by drinking dirty water, Barber was ready to take a swing at doing something about it.
A "Wells for Sudan" fundraising golf tournament on May 27 in Kingsport not only gives golfers a chance to help south Sudan, church groups can also help by sponsoring a hole, providing prizes, or offering other services.
An avid golfer who helped organize fundraising tournaments for Camp Fort Blackmore, Barber is letting his longtime passion for the game drive his new passion to dig wells.
"Last fall, the conference set a goal to dig 19 wells in south Sudan," the pastor says. "Some of those wells have already been funded, but there's no reason why we can't fund the rest of them through this tournament."
Each well costs $10,000, according to the Sudan Action Team. The Holston Conference Foundation has promised to match $1 for every $2 donated. In March, Holston sent $50,000 to Sudan for the first five of the 19 new wells. Previously, Holston funded three wells in Yei. The Virginia Conference funded a fourth.
"Don't let the fact that it's a golf event throw you off," Barber says of the May 27 fundraiser. "There's strength in numbers, and lots of other things you can do to help."
Salem UMC and Crossroads UMC are providing lunch for the tournament. A United Methodist who owns the course is providing the course at no charge, Barber said. Prizes have already been donated, and Bishop James Swanson will host the tournament.
"There's no cost for meals, the course, or prizes," Barber said, "so every dollar raised will go for the wells."
The tournament is sponsored by Kingsley UMC and Hermon UMC in Kingsport District, where Barber is pastor. The two churches organized their own fundraising project: "Jacob's Well." It's named after the Biblical Jacob as well as the 12-year-old boy who made a big impression on his pastor and congregation.
It was shortly after Tipton's presentation, Barber remembers, when he made an appeal to his churches about helping to bring fresh water to south Sudan. "I told them I sensed God wanted us to do something about it."
Twelve-year-old Jacob walked up to his preacher and gave him $20 of his birthday money to get the effort started.
"I still have that $20 bill," Barber says. "I plan on keeping it as a reminder that God does do big things.
"Don't worry," he adds. "I replaced the $20 in the offering."
The two churches have since designated the second Sunday of each month as "Wells Sunday." Between offerings and yard sales, Kingsley and Hermon have already raised $8,500. Their goal is to fund at least one well.
To learn more about the tournament or to register online, visit WellsforSudan.holston.org
- See also: Wells for Sudan auction: April 25 in Greeneville