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.
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.
In a remote village in Bihar, India, there is a group of people who lack access to the basics and are living in extreme poverty. This situation is repeated in village after village, but this year, we had an opportunity to do something about it. Thanks to one generous donor, a village of 500 people now have access to clean water.
On October 4, 2014, in partnership with a local organization, we drilled a 180-foot bore well in Bihar. This well provides clean water, year-round, to the 500 residents of the village. Prior to this well being drilled, the people of this village were often forced to drink out of an open well that was contaminated. The village's poor water and sanitation situation was brought to the attention of our partner in Bihar and thus brought to our attention. Now, this group of impoverished people has access to clean water.
It only costs $1,000 to give a village clean water. In this instance, that cost breaks down to $2 per person; that's the price of the joy of clean water. And that's a price all of us can afford.
A Little Girl Drinks from the New Well
Two Women Draw Water from the New Well for Their Households
Every last dollar you donate to Jesus' Economy goes exactly where you designate. That means that if you give $100 to a water well in India, we only spend your $100 in India drilling a water well.
Consider contributing to another well project in Bihar.
Remember the water well you helped us drill earlier this year? In partnership with a local organization, and thanks to the funding you provided, we drilled a 180-foot deep water well in a village in Bihar, India in May 2014.
1,300 people live in this village and most of them didn't have access to clean water before May 2014. There is so much we could say and so many wonderful stories to tell, but for now, a picture says 1,000 words.
A boy drinks clean water from the new well
A woman obtains a bucket of clean water from the new well
Another woman obtains clean water for her household, as other villagers watch with joy
A young woman laughs as she obtains clean water for her household
Consider contributing to another well in Bihar, India.