For her birthday in 2017, Jesus' Economy volunteer, Rachel Thompson, took on an ambitious task: to raise $500, half the value of a water well in Bihar, India.
When the donations came pouring in and Rachel's campaign surpassed its goal, she went one step further. During the Christmas season of the same year, she asked friends and family to donate in order to raise the full $1,000 value of a water well, providing thousands of people with clean water. We interviewed Rachel about her campaign journey and the stories of God's faithfulness she saw along the way.
Q: Rachel, tell us a bit about yourself, your family, and your involvement with Jesus' Economy.
My husband and I both work in church ministry in Ithaca, New York. We have two beautiful young children. I've volunteered with Jesus' Economy for several years. I started out throwing house parties for products and more recently have served as the executive assistant. I enjoy being part of a driven and talented team.
Q: Why did the idea of a birthday campaign appeal to you?
There is such a disparity of wealth and resources in our world. When I think about accumulating more stuff, it just strikes me as ridiculous. Especially after moving all of that stuff recently! Fundraising through Jesus' Economy is really attractive and easy. I think people are looking for meaningful gifts to give their loved ones. I thought I could leverage that to shine some light in the world. Many of us want to help people in need, and are looking for the way to do so. While I was thrilled about the generosity of my friends and family during this campaign, I wasn't surprised. Good people are looking for ways to help others, and organizations like Jesus' Economy are offering streamlined ways to do so.
Q: Why did you choose to raise money for clean water in Bihar?
Especially since becoming a parent, I have refocused my priorities. The most important thing to me is that my family's needs are met. When my husband comes home to a peaceful sanctuary, my kids know love, they have food to eat, and a warm bed to sleep in, I can also thrive. My heart aches for parents who do not have access to basic needs like clean water for their children. I don't understand how people can be dying from water-borne illnesses in 2017. We live in such an interconnected world, and organizations like Jesus' Economy are connecting Western prosperity with third world needs. Jesus' Economy's Renew Bihar project is promoting a holistic approach to empowering the impoverished. I love that the church planters we partner with in the area will have the opportunity to share the love of Christ, the Living Water, through this well.
Q: Please share with us some stories from your campaign. How did you see God working through your efforts?
It was really beautiful to witness God inspiring the people who donated to this campaign. Donors included people from all walks of life—farmers, missionaries, teachers, nurses, stay-at-home moms, ivy league grads and PhDs, teenagers, and children. A student from our youth group made a large donation. There was one story in particular that was really special. My sweet friend and fellow pastor's wife shared the well project with her children [and invited them to participate]. She recounted the story below.
"'So you know Mrs Thompson? For her birthday sometime in the summer, she was asking people to donate money to build a well in India instead of giving her presents. She was hoping to raise money for half the well which costs $500, but she ended up raising more than that. So for Christmas, she decided to ask more people to donate money instead of giving her Christmas gifts to see if she could get enough to build a whole well. She has raised [at the time], $911. She only has $89 left to getting a full well built. You don’t have to, but would you like to give some money to help her get her well built?' James had a lot of questions about the well. We talked about how not every child has access to running water like we do. I did emphasize that giving was optional and the amount was optional. No sibling had to know what the other gave. Adam and Sophia gave generously but what touched me most was James (who is 7). He jumped up and ran upstairs for his piggy bank. He had $2 in it and he took out a dollar and gave it to me for 'Mrs Thompson’s well.'"
If you would like to start a campaign for clean water, empowering women, church planting or another aspect of the vision of Jesus' Economy to create jobs and churches in the developing world, start here.
Meet Advik, our newest church planter. He's working hard to tell unreached people in Bihar, India about Jesus.
As a child, Advik heard about Jesus Christ from the Roman Catholic Church. However, it wasn’t enough to quench his thirst to know more about Jesus Christ. And like others in his village, he continued to follow the customs and prevailing traditions. He also developed an addiction for alcohol; he spent his money on it and traded time with his friends for it.
As an adult, Advik was a man with no great hope or aim in life. One day, a pastor came to his remote village in Northeast India. As the pastor shared about Jesus Christ, Advik realized that the gospel is what he had longed for. When the pastor spoke the words, "Jesus loves you," he felt peace in his mind. Advik chose to believe in Jesus. He was baptized in 2008.
After committing his life fully to Jesus, Advik heard about some people from his village who were going to a Bible training session. With his newfound passion for Jesus in place, he found a way to attend the training. Advik attended Bible training for three years, after which his family also came to know Jesus as their Savior. Training made him realize he wanted to dedicate his life to telling others about Jesus.
One year into his work of spreading the gospel, Advik felt he was still ill-equipped. As a result, he left the remote villages he was serving to further study the Bible. Once he finished his studies, he joined Transformation India Movement, the partner of Jesus’ Economy for the Renew Bihar project. He is now working among the unreached people of Bihar, India.
Advik currently serves in five different remote villages, one of which is where a water well sponsored by Jesus’ Economy was recently drilled. Advik regularly speaks to three small groups in house churches. Through his efforts, 15 people have believed in Jesus and four are ready to be baptized.
Advik is in the first year of his planned three-year sponsorship and fundraising for his sponsorship is just beginning. Support him today to help him reach the unreached of Bihar, India.
Imagine having to fight for water that isn’t even safe enough to drink. That was the reality for people in a remote village in Bihar, India. Before Jesus' Economy stepped in, many of the water wells located in the village were contaminated with high concentrations of iron ore, and a majority of the wells were privately owned. The poorest people in the community were denied access to this privately held clean water.
Through your donations, we were able to drill a water well in the heart of the village that provides everyone with clean, drinkable water. Drilling the well transformed the lives of hundreds of people and gave this village of 5,000 access to clean water. The well is directly benefiting 200 to 400 villagers who are drinking from it regularly. In addition, many of the villagers learned about Jesus when the well was dedicated. Without your help, these villagers would still be drinking dirty water.
The efforts in this remote village in northeast India are part of our Renew Bihar project, which is providing access to the gospel and clean water, as well as empowering women through business. Together, we're renewing hearts, homes, and hope. Thank you for joining us in this most important effort.
After realizing that the Indian government would not be able to assist them, the people in a small remote village in Bihar, India had to settle with drinking dirty water. The majority of the villagers are laborers, primarily fishermen. A constant supply of clean water was out of their reach; they simply could not pull enough resources together to pay for a well. Our newest church planter, Rahul, told us about this village and the struggles the villagers face every day, and we felt compelled to help.
Due to your generous donations, over 300 people now have access to clean water. Nearly 60 people gathered for the well’s inauguration, and chose to thank God for providing one of their most basic needs.
Bihar, India is one of the most impoverished places in the world and together we're lifting people out of poverty. Our efforts to bring clean water to the impoverished are part of our Renew Bihar project.
Our Renew Bihar project is bringing the gospel to the unreached, empowering women through job training and microloans, and supplying clean water. With your support, we're renewing hope, hearts, and homes. We're renewing entire communities. Thank you.
More than 700 villagers in Northeast India, many of whom have never heard of Jesus, now will hear about the gospel due to the efforts of our newest church planter: Rahul.
During his childhood, Rahul lost all of his male siblings and had to quickly learn how to provide for his family. He also spent his young adult years spiritually searching. He was looking for a solution to his pain but kept coming up empty handed and frustrated. He didn’t find true peace until he found Jesus. Jesus changed everything, setting Rahul on a life altering path.
This year, Rahul has gone to six different villages to spread the gospel. In one village, there had been water quarrels as there was no easy way for most villagers to get access to clean water. After Rahul facilitated the drilling of a public water well for the village, many of the villagers were eager to learn more about Jesus who is the Living Water. This well was sponsored by Jesus’ Economy.
Rahul hosts prayer meetings in six different unreached villages with about 100 people regularly attending these meetings. Rahul also oversees a literacy training school for the local children, who previously had to walk miles to school. This walk endangered the young girls in the village and thus prevented them from attending school altogether. In order to empower women, Rahul has also initiated a tailoring training school.
Jesus' Economy plans to sponsor Rahul but we need your help. Help get Rahul sponsored so he can continue helping others find the same peace that he found through Jesus.
In this video, CEO John D. Barry discusses the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus overcame racial, religious, and cultural barriers to reveal the true, loving, and living God. What would it look like if we were to do the same?
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The Samaritan woman has made the familiar journey to this well countless times before. She's made the journey so many times she could walk there in her sleep.
And here, on this particular morning, her reason for making the journey is the same as it has always been. She's come to this familiar place because of her familiar need: water.
This woman's need is a real need, just as it was for so many. Just as it is for so many.
And it is here, in this familiar spot at the well, that she's struck by something quite unfamiliar. When she arrives, she's taken aback to find sitting there a Man who she does not recognize, but who, quite mysteriously, seems to know her all too well. And it is somewhere in the midst of their conversation that she comes to understand him as “the solution” for her need.
“If you knew the gift of God," He tells her, "and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” He is, she realizes, the one who can help satisfy her thirst in a real, permanent way.
"Sir, give me this water," she says in haste, "so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” But what she doesn’t quite get in their interaction is that there is a qualitative difference between what she thinks this Jewish man offers her and what he actually offers. And, in this way, this woman is a lot like you and I.
“Give me this living water,” she tells Jesus, not knowing the meaning of her words, even as they pour out of her mouth. And Jesus knows this. The look he gives her in response must be one of deepest sympathy. “Oh, child,” He must think. “If only You would let me.”
“Give me,” she says to Jesus, with her thoughts still on her thirst, with her need for water motivating her words. And even before she finishes her sentence, the Samaritan woman has already projected her own interests onto Jesus, with complete disregard for what Jesus is actually interested in offering her.
As for her, so, too, for all of us.
“Give me,” we say to Jesus in our prayers each morning or before bed at night. “If only You would just …” we say while rubbing shampoo into our hair, or while bowing over our cold cereal, eyes closed—all the while ignoring what Jesus actually desires for us.
The woman's need for water is a real need. Jesus understood that. But he knew her needs went beyond water. And we would be fools to think her needs end there.
"The Kingdom of God is what we, all of us, hunger for," Frederick Buechner once wrote (The Clown in the Belfry), "above all other things even when we don’t know its name or realize that it’s what we’re starving to death for."
"My heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee," St. Augustine put the same point, many hundreds of years earlier.
Both men are, of course, speaking of, pointing toward the same thing we find here in this familiar story of the thirsty woman at the well.
“If you knew who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water,” Jesus says to the woman at the well.
A blind hunger for the Kingdom of God. A restless heart. A woman fetching water that will never fully satisfy.
"Go, call your husband and come here," Jesus says to the woman at this point, which is Jesus' way of telling the woman, “I know you need more than water, and I know you know that you need more than water. And what's more, I know you've been filling that need with that which does not satisfy.”
As for her, so it is for all of us.
Before their conversation is through, the Samaritan woman tells this mysterious Jewish teacher she can see he is a prophet. Perhaps to prove her religious knowledge, she goes even further and tells him she knows the Messiah will, one day, come to tell her and everyone else all there is to know.
“I who speak to you am he,” Jesus says. And her life, we can assume, was never the same again.
Following her experience at the well, the woman rushes back to town to tell everyone she knows, everyone who will listen to her about this mysterious man she has just met.
“He told me all that I ever did,” she says, still struggling to catch her breath. Which is to say, “He knew all about me, even though I didn’t tell him.” Jesus understood this woman, just as he understands all of us. He understood her as a “Samaritan,” and he understood her as an “adulterer.” Even in the “Give me” of our prayers, Jesus understands each one of us, too.
Long before we come with lunging arms to grab what we imagine he has to offer, he understands us. He knows our needs. And it is only in our encounter with the Living Person of Jesus Christ that we, too, find our posture changed from one of “Give me” to one of “He understands me.” He can change our “give me” to “Thank you for understanding me.”
It is only in Jesus understanding us that we begin to understand ourselves. And it is only in our understanding ourselves that we begin to realize what Jesus truly offers us—something far better than our “Give me” posture.
What the Samaritan Women came to realize is that Jesus offers much more—not less—than the water she originally sought from the bottom of the all too familiar well.
What she sought is different even from what she understands by his words, “Living water,” because she is still hearing him speak to her out of her own “Give me” posture.
It is only after she sees Jesus as the one who knows her that she begins to see Jesus as someone who has something to say—not just to her, but to everyone. And it’s not long before she’s off in a flash, running to tell others—running to tell anyone who will listen.
“We know this is the Savior of the world,” the townspeople who hear the woman’s story say to one another, which is to say, “We know this is the One who understands each one of us.”
The woman at the well came that day seeking water, but she sought much more than just water. She was starving to death, even as she did her best to satisfy her thirst.
"If only you knew," Jesus says. If only you knew from whom you requested a drink, you would ask, and you would be satisfied. And in your satisfaction, you would tell the world.
Come, Lord Jesus, and change our posture from, “give me” to, “He understands me.”
This blog post is Ryan Pemberton's reflection on the story of Jesus' encounter with the woman at the well, from the fourth chapter of John's Gospel, verses 1 to 45.
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