LITTLE ROCK The members of Tumbling Shoals Baptist Church turned out their pockets and saved their pennies to raise $100,000 in six months to help deliver water to farmers in Ecuador.
The Southern Baptist church in Cleburne County, which draws about 80 worshippers a week, presented the money to International Church Planters based in Heber Springs. The organization is leading the effort to deliver muchneeded water to two villages in the Andes Mountains. The project will cost about $600,000, and the small church’s donation is the largest by far.
The congregation was inspired to help by member Bill Williams, who also serves as director of International Church Planters. Pastor Derek Westmoreland said that after Williams told him of the farmers’ need for water, he reflected on Scripture in the Gospel of Matthew and knew the church needed to help.
Matthew 25:35 states: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.”
“I just got a burden that we need to meet physical needs in order to share the love of Jesus, and here was an opportunity to do so,” Westmoreland said.
The church had already been giving to the organization, and they also regularly send mission teams to Ecuador.
“But it was $1,000 or $2,000 here or there,” the pastor said.
A goal of giving $100,000 was a huge one for a church of their size, but Westmoreland said he felt a big commitment was necessary.
The farmers in the small villages of Shushlicon and Pachacama Chico, near Alausi, rely on rainwater for their crops and for their household needs. There are no streams nearby so for the rainy season, which lasts three or fourmonths, they collect water and hope it will last through the long dry season.
“They collect all they can and when it’s gone they have to make other provisions,” Williams said.
The villagers can travel 40 minutes to a nearby town to buy water, but most don’t have the money, or they can walk four to six miles to a water hole, Williams said. That water source is used by others living closer to it and is often polluted with waste.
The water project will tap into three springs high in the mountains and pipe water to the two villages. Williams said the project will provide water for household use and also for overhead irrigation of crops.
To get his members fired up for the project, Westmoreland encouraged them to participate in a fast of sorts - they abstained from using running water for a three-dayperiod. That meant no more hot showers, no drinking water out of the tap and no washing clothes.
“If you were taking a shower or bath or cooking you had to have saved up bottles of water to use,” Westmoreland said.
Westmoreland filled gallon jugs with water to prepare.
“We bathed using those jugs of water just like theywould have to in Ecuador,” he said. “For those three days we lived like they live.”
The pastor said the experience was powerful.
“We could do it because we knew Wednesday night was coming [when they could use water again] but they don’t know when the water is coming again,” Westmoreland said. “It really opened our eyes to what they go through each day. It’s by grace we get to turn on the faucet.”
The entire church participated in the fundraising, from children collecting change to adults digging deep to make large donations of thousands of dollars.
“It has united our church and reminded them of the importance of sacrifice and giving,” Westmoreland said.
He said he hopes to one day establish a church for the villagers and spread the Gospel.
“We truly believe by providing running water to the villagers they will want to know ‘Why?’ and we can tellthem - ‘Jesus,’” Westmoreland said. “That’s our motivation, that they hear and believe the Gospel.”
International Church Planters will host a benefit concert for the water project featuring Southern Gospel singer Squire Parsons at 7 p.m. Nov. 5 at the Heber Springs Community Center, 201 Bobbie Jean Lane. Information about the project is available online at interna tionalchurchplanters.org or by calling Williams at (501) 362-4493.
Religion, Pages 12 on 10/16/2010
Print Headline: Church digs deep for Ecuador waterline