Loaves and Fishes
HI. My name is Michael and I was a part of the team that accompanied Kim to Soweto this summer. I want to tell you a story. Part of this story many of you know already. You know because you were part of making it happen. A couple of thousand people each played a part in making it happen. The story starts last year when it came to our attention that feeding our kids at the Provision Educational Center was no longer the most pressing issue. The water situation in Kenya was growing more and more critical with the deepening drought. Grace, this angel of a women, who happens to be the cook for our school was walking 3 to 5 miles each day just to find a source that would sell some water. She would walk back to school with the few gallons of water she could carry to cover the needs of 130 kids. About a third of the time, she would stand in line for 2 or 3 hours only to find that the water had run out before it came her turn. And the water was not clean water very often. In other schools we had relationships with, kids were dying from bad water and the lack of water. We had to do something. We began to reach out to you, our friends, our churches, our families. We held our first golf tournament. In November we had the funds necessary and a well was drilled on the land at the school. Our goal of supplying 130 children with clean water was met. But God had much bigger plans in mind for our small investments. What I learned when I arrived in Soweto, Kenya blew my mind.
In this land where “nothing good comes from”, (that is what Soweto literally means); and the people are taught to think like this from when they are born; from this place, from this well, the cleanest water in the Nairobi District was flowing, certified by the government. So clean in fact, they asked if they could use it as the standard to judge all other wells by. We were told that it was the only well in the district with water clean enough to bottle for sale in grocery stores, if we desired. How do you think the neighbors from “the land where nothing good comes from” felt when they heard about this?
The school had begun to bless the community by making clean water available for the neighbors. Anyone could bring a large jug and fill it up for 3 Kenyan Shillings. I asked how many women were coming for water each day. The answer was about 300. Then I was told that each woman took that water home to about 10-20 relatives. 3000-4000 people were getting clean water each day from The Well. One neighbor told us that her family had not been sick since November when the well was built. In fact, she said none of neighbors had been ill since the well went in. Water and health for 4000.
Pastor Samuel was allowing people to resell the water for up to 5KSH. Not only could they supply water for their families, but they could also make some money to buy food for those in their homes. In addition, the people coming to buy water during the week, were now coming back on Sunday for church. But we’re just getting started.
While in Soweto, we learned that the main road leading in to where the school sits was almost impassable. When it rains, it becomes very hard for the kids to get to school. But even more important, it is impossible for the men who pull carts each day to use this road. You see if they could get carts to the school, they could each take away 30-50 large jugs of water. This would provide clean water to many more people, far deeper into the Soweto Community. As we looked at the road, we asked what it would take. All they would need is the material. They could rally the young men in the community to provide the labor to build this road.
So, in our last couple of days in Soweto, I took part in building my first road. My son Matt and I labored side by side with Pastor Samuel and the young men that live in the community surrounding the school as we placed heavy rocks, then placed smaller rocks, then crushed them into gravel with heavy weights. You see, they don’t build roads like we do here in the US. The day we finished, carts began coming in right away to purchase water and take it to parts of Soweto that could not have been reached otherwise. In our most conservative estimates 25000 – 30000 people a day would now get clean water from the well. Water and health for 30,000! But that’s not all.
On our last night at the school, as we were all piled into the station wagon heading out to the airport, a very excited woman came up to our car and began speaking very fast to Pastor Samuel in Swahili. When she finally finished, I asked Samuel what she was so excited about. He told me that she kept talking about hope. She told of how she and all the neighborhood was so excited because that for the first time ever the young men’s league, whom the government pays to collect trash, could now bring their carts to this part of Soweto and carry the trash away from their homes. As I looked down the street, I saw white bags of trash all the way down this poor dirt road waiting to be picked up. The woman kept saying to us, “now they know that we are here!” All this from a block-and-a-half road, that came from a well, that came from our small gifts for the kids.
As we drove away toward the airport, Samuel told me that he had been receiving calls from all over the community for the last 24 hours, with people excited about the road and saying how amazed they were that the two “Mzungu” (white people) worked side by side with their young men to build a road for their community. (In this land where nothing good could come.)
You and I gave to bring water to our thirsty 130 kids, but God had so much more in mind than our small plans for this gift. He multiplied our loaves and fishes literally by thousands. Samuel told us that we would be hearing new stories about how God would use the well and this road for a long time. And he was right. We just talked to him this week. He said that in the past few weeks since we left, his church is now running over with new young adults from Soweto who came to learn what would cause someone to give so selflessly to their community. And who have now met Jesus and are giving their lives to Him.