My son-in-law, Kendall, gulped down a cup of water the other day, freshly drawn from Ches’s well. Deep. Sweet. Pure. It flowed to the surface from a stream oceans away from Canada and hundreds of feet down. Under the churchyard of a humble Kenyan village.
Kendall smiled. Ches Patzer would have smiled too. Perhaps he did, up in heaven. But the villagers danced.
Kenya is classified as a “water-scarce” nation. Only 57 percent of the population has access to potable water — a privilege most people rarely consider, though over a billion people world-wide have no access.
Before Ches’s well, villagers drank from muddy streams as far as five miles away. Kids bathed there. Women washed clothes. Cattle guzzled that water too, before it re-entered the streams from their southern end.
It took much money to dig Ches’s well. Kendall’s travel partner, a man named Vic, knows that better than anyone. He counted every shilling. He knows every hour of digging time, every foot the drill descended (350). He knows what machines were used, which company owned them, and likely who the operators were. If you asked, he could elaborate on local drilling regulations. Yes, Vic knows. Well.
Vic works for no government — at least no earthly one. A Christ-follower, he takes literally Jesus’ call to help those in need. He uses what God has placed in his hands: technical knowledge, organizational, financial and administration abilities. And he supplies clean water to the thirsty.
Spending two months in Africa each year, living in village homes, Vic works with well-builders and local organizations directly. He plans and contracts, administers and oversees the well-building work. To keep a vital sense of ownership in local hands, he requires that each community raise half the cost of their well. He provides the other half from money he has raised single-handedly back home in the West.
That’s how Ches’s well came to be. Cancer took our friend a few years ago, far too soon. He and his wife, Barb, supported Vic’s ministry. When Ches graduated to heaven, Barb wanted to honor her husband’s memory. The well in that Kenyan churchyard flows today because of donations made in Ches’s name. From death, life.
Gratitude flows there too. Months ago, the Kenyan church asked Ches’s pastor, my son-in-law, if he’d represent his own church at the well’s dedication. In vibrant African song and rhythm, the villagers praised God for using Vic and Ches, and Ches’s friends, family, and fellow congregation members to make their well possible.
When Kendall recovers from jet lag, he’ll tell his own stories from Africa. Stories that began in the heart of Jesus, who said, “I am the Living Water,” and, “whoever gives a cup of water in my name… has given it to me.” Stories that marry a little congregation in Kenya with another in Canada. Stories that show what God does with ordinary people who resolve to make a difference. I can’t wait to hear them.