Find Your Johnsonville

To put down thoughts regarding our mission trip to Liberia resembles telling people of a great painting by only showing them one square inch of that painting. But words and stories are all I have to hopefully inspire and drum up more interest in what God is doing in Liberia. It is in this feeble attempt to express what God did that I hope His Spirit intermingles with our souls and brings vitality and passion where our souls too often slumber.

I'm going to deal with the biggest achievement of the trip. But in doing this, I realize that God often turns what we thought was an insignificant moment into the most significant event, while the things we thought were great and amazing become a passing footnote to our lives.

Don Winters (left) and John Bennett (right)
Last year, our small Hope 2 Liberia team of four people, traveled to the Heart of Grace school in Lower Johnsonville, outside of the capital city of Monrovia. What we saw there was amazing. This place was different. It was kept up. It was clean. We are part of Hope 2 Liberia, but this place, on the outskirts of Monrovia, was really a place of hope for Liberia. Something was happening here. It was a city on a hill. It was a beacon of hope in the darkness.

But there was also a great problem. A problem we wouldn't have known about except for a random, divine encounter in the airport that eventually led us to Heart of Grace. The school and the surrounding community lacked water. The school had been given a well by a Rotary Club out of Lafayette, Louisianna, but the well had dried up. A man in the neighborhood had spent days hand digging a new well, only to never hit water. The only water they could get was down a steep cliffside. A journey they would make every day, bucket after bucket, because water is life.  

So we saw the situation, but we did not have the pumps and equipment to do something incredible. I remember the feeling in that small group that something would be done. And one of our group members, Jon Bennett, said, "I'm going to come back here and fix this problem." So he went home, 5,000 miles away from Lower Johnsonville and the Heart of Grace school, but that community stayed on his heart. He worked out a plan. His passion to help Johnsonville and his commitment to work hard to meet the needs of those who did not have the ability to meet their own needs, combined with the engineering know-how of John Pierce, brought eventual change. As you are reading this, someone from the community in Lower Johnsonville is probably filling her bucket with safe, purified water. Water that was unsafe to drink at the bottom of the cliff, that traveled through lines laid, and was filtered prior to reaching a spigot at the top of the hill.

Eric Wowoh
Eric Wowoh, a Liberian, founder of the Heart of Grace school, the executive director of Change Agent Network, and a servant of God of the sort I have never before encountered had this to say:

"We now have plenty of water flowing through our school and community here in City View, Lower Johnsonville. Water has always been a major problem for us in this community, especially during the dry season or summer months. We have never had a public system for running water, which has meant everyone had to travel many miles for their water.  In our case, this has meant walking up and down a very challenging, rocky hill to get to a well. Heavily pregnant mothers journeying up and down to fetch water each day has been very normal since people have lived here."

"This is now history as God sent twenty-four members of the Hope 2 Liberia team to help bring an abundance of fresh, safe, clean drinking water to the thirsty in this 17,000 strong community of Lower Johnsonville, including all of the students and staff that use our school, the Heart of Grace."

"Thanks for your continual support and prayers! We are very grateful to all who have helped. This is a huge moment for us - real development and real change. Water is, indeed, life. May God water and refresh your life as you have helped to water the lives of others in such need."

All of this challenges me. And I hope it challenges you. All too often we see the world off kilter from what God has designed it to be, but we just turn a blind eye and unleash our apathy. We say it's a fallen world and things will be this way until Jesus returns. But those teachings weren't given to us so that we could be complacent. They are an acknowledgment that we will always have a mission to accomplish.

People from the Johnsonville community
waiting in line for water.
But do you see what happened here? Thousands of people now have clean drinking water because of the passion of one man. John Bennett - not a pastor, not a plumber, not an engineer - founder and owner of Cool Cayenne Authentic Printed Shirt Co. in Muncie, Indiana. He made a difference. He would be the first to say that he couldn't have done it by himself, but what is happening in Johnsonville right now, as we sit in the comfort of our own homes, wouldn't have been accomplished without his faithfulness to Jesus. When John stands before Jesus and Jesus says, "I was thirsty and you gave me a drink." John will humbly say, "When did I see you thirsty? When did I give you a drink?" And Jesus will say, "Johnsonville."

May we each find our Johnsonvilles. May we each strive to make a difference. Instead of pretending we don't have to do anything and that God's plan will magically get done, may we take seriously God's call to be His hands and feet. We have to get busy being faithful. We are surrounded by the hungry, the thirsty, the immigrant, the naked, the sick, and imprisoned. And in loving them, we love Jesus. Let's love Jesus. Let's love our fellow man.