Church raises funds for Malawi wells

By ED HOWELL
Posted 10/9/18

The Saragossa Church of the Nazarene has raised thousands of dollars and is closing in on a goal to put in 10 wells in Africa, with a number of wells are already operational and leading to greater …

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Church raises funds for Malawi wells

Posted

The Saragossa Church of the Nazarene has raised thousands of dollars and is closing in on a goal to put in 10 wells in Africa, with a number of wells are already operational and leading to greater faith in Christ. 

Greg Tinker, who became pastor of the church 18 years ago, noted the Saragossa church only had 12 people when he came in 2000 (today it averages 75) and had $1,000 in the bank (which has improved since then). As he was teaching and coaching at the time, he asked what would have been his salary be given to others. 

"Our goal became from the very beginning to give away half of whatever came in — to be mission minded and give to others," he said. The church and the missions have grown; the missions for this area include home renovations needs, as well as mission work in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina. Tinker said the church also regularly gives to a number of local organizations, such as Hope for Women, the Walker County Coalition for the Homeless and Life is Hope. 

"We're heavily involved in Haiti" on missions, he said, with church members going there and giving to support three orphanages and two schools in Haiti, through local mission organization Life is Hope. Giving was also given for African projects as well. 

A Nazarene missionary meeting in Alabama in May 2017 introduced Tinker to African missionary Wellington Obotte, and his wife Hellen. The Kenyan-born couple work across the nation of Malawi in southeastern Africa, as well as Zambia and Zimbabwe, and the Alabamians helped them purchase a vehicle to cover the ground. 

With some building needs concerning a three-building conference center in Malawi, Saragossa sent a seven-person team to Malawi in July 5-21 this year to join other Nazarenes in work on the second building. The church later sent more funding to help complete the work. 

Word came on Oct. 2 it has been completed, and $40,000 will be raised in November and December by the church for constructing a third conference building to give African ministers a Bible college education, as most don't have transportation and have to walk.

While working there in July, a well was used by locals that had been built by the Nazarene church, he said. Traveling through the country, they noted Christians there have been told they can only use some wells if they joined other non-Christian faiths. 

"So it is water through coercion," Tinker said. "The Christians have been basically  marginalized, pushed out."

Moreover, the infant mortality rate in Malawi is "off the charts," he said. "The life expectancy there is much less than in other parts of the world because they drink dirty water," as rivers and lakes are contaminated. People also walk miles to get water. 

He said having wells give the people clean water to cook, drink and clean with, something Americans take for granted when they turn the water faucet on. 

"So as we thought about it and prayed about it, God impressed upon us we needed to be involved in drilling wells where water is free and people are not coerced in any way," Tinker said. "They can co me to the well, they can receive water for free, but we would drill them by a church, so that when they come to get the physical water, they can also receive the living water of Christ. So it had a dual need." 

Tinker asked Obotte how many wells were needed, and he responded with the number 200. Tinker asked then for a "Top 10 list," and Obotte  quickly came up with a list that would still affect thousands of people. 

With presentations starting in late July, Tinker spoke to his own church and to fellow members of a diverse Bible study group that he meets with at Warehouse 319 on Tuesdays at 6:45 a.m. Both groups enthusiastically joined in to help. 

While the wells were going to cost $8,000 per well, supporters prayed for favor that the cost would be less. After a long discussion between Obotte  and the driller, the cost came down to $6,000 per well. A couple of individuals gave $8,000 each to add to an already established account, and three wells were drilled immediately. Another man discussed the situation with Tinker, and the man "took out his checkbook and wrote a $5,000 check." 

Tinker "envisioned taking until next May of 2019, raising maybe one well per month" on the project. Now, in the span of roughly two months, almost $50,000 has been raised. 

"Six wells have been drilled and are functional," he said. "The money has been sent for wells Numbers 7 and 8. And we are on our way to well Number 9, but wells 7 and 8 will be drilled soon. ... We will be 80 percent complete within two months. What I had envisioned would take 10 months we now, through God's generous grace and mercy, and the overwhelming generosity of his servants, has provided $50,000 and we've drilled those wells.

"Out of that already, there are people coming to Christ. One church as been planted as a result of that. What has happened already is miraculous."

Technically, $10,000 more is needed for the current project, "what we hope is that this will keep going, that 10 won't be the ending point." 

All the money raised goes to drill the wells, as there is no overhead on either side of the world, he said, pointing out the church is paying the transaction fees. 

Tinker noted he had received one video from Obotte of a crowd, with one child apparently about 8 or 9 years old. 

"When they really hit water, and it gushes out of a well, he starts doing a happy dance," Tinker said. "I told my church, that one scene makes it all worthwhile to see how excited that boy was. He's not going to have to walk to the river. He's not going to have to walk to the lake. He won't get tainted water." 

He said the church hopes to continue working with the Obottes, who are coming for the first couple of weeks in April to Alabama. Tinker suggested that other churches could work through Tinker to invite them to speak to their congregations at that time. His email is tinkerg@bellsouth.net. 

The church continues to be invested into the project. When weekly update numbers are announced it church, the congregation claps and celebrates the news, he said.

Denise Clements, one of the seven who traveled to Malawi on the mission trip in July, emailed, “It was an unforgettable, life-changing journey for me. I will never again take for granted the simple things like clean drinking water. The people of Malawi are some of the poorest people on earth, but yet they are so grateful for what they do have.

"Their needs are many but the two most important needs, ones that we can certainly help with, are clean drinking water and support for the Christians there that are spreading the Good News about Jesus Christ. They are hungry for the Word. The children are starving for hope. If we gave them even a small thread of hope during our short trip, and I believe we did, then everything we went through to get there and back was all worth it.”

Angela Myers, who went on the trip, emailed, "My idea of going to Malawi, Africa was to share God's love and work on a building project.  I expected to see depression and sadness among those I would meet. I was already aware of what I may see, such as, lack of clean water, hunger and poverty. I definitely witnessed those  conditions, but with the people, I saw peace in their eyes, strength from their hearts, and joy in their smiles.

"They, without reservation, explained it was because of Jesus and His unmistakable love for them. Little did I realize,  that the hearts of strangers in a land far away, in a culture unlike mine, would teach me about the unfailing love of God. God really does love the world!"

Tinker and church leaders are hoping to raise money for the wells and the conference building, and for the church to go back to Malawi to conclude the construction and celebrate the grand opening. 

The Facebook for the church's project, which shows the mission trip to Malawi, is SNC7: Malawi 2018, which has a number of photos from the area.