I think I’ve witnessed a little miracle lately. I mean, I’ve definitely seen God do something pretty incredible when I thought the situation was pretty much impossible. In less than a year the little church I go to in Kentucky has raised enough money to build four wells in Africa. I’m still not sure how it happened. That’s my problem: of course I believe in miracles, but I’m far too realistic too hope for them most of the time.
This all began about a year ago when the church I go to out here in Kentucky announced that we were going to raise money to build a well in Africa for a village that has no clean drinking water. It sounded like a great idea; I knew that clean drinking water is a huge need in Africa right now. It seems unfathomable to me that people will walk miles each day to bring home dirty river water to drink since I have had clean water from the tap my whole life. (Some Americans even refuse to drink tap water these days unless it has been purified by a Britta filter. We don’t know how lucky we are.) Then my church announced the details: We needed to raise about $5,000 dollars to build one well, and our goal was to raise the money in a year so the village in Africa could have the clean water by Christmas 2011. I was playing guitar in church that Sunday and I was up on stage when they presented this goal. I remember looking out at the congregation of about 30 people (predominately made up of seminary students, retired pastors, and elderly people) and thinking to myself, “Um, I really don’t think there is any way we are going to pull that off.” Oh, me of little faith…
Things didn’t look very bright through the first weeks of the project either. Our first fundraiser was selling bracelets made by a woman who owned her own small business in Africa. I don’t remember how much they cost, but I know I didn’t think they were worth it. And so I quietly did not participate in the fundraiser. I never stopped to remember the reason we were selling the silly little bracelets or that people might want to buy them simply to support both the woman who made them and our build-a-well project. Most of the rest of the congregation bought several and gave them as Christmas presents. I bought a dose of realism and prepared myself for the disappointment the project would surely become.
Around this time the people who were heading up the project were put in touch with Rotary International, which just happened to be looking for churches to partner with in building African wells. They made an incredible offer to our church: if we could raise the money to build one well, they would match that money, not once, not twice, but three times! Suddenly we were working not for the possibility of just one village having clean water by next Christmas, but four villages with clean drinking water! At this point even I began to get excited. But, of course I balanced this joy with another healthy dose of realism. This all sounded pretty cool, but we still had to raise that $5,000 dollars, and so far the red bar on the poster in the foyer that marked our progress had not gone up very far at all.
We still had not made much progress by the time I left Kentucky for the summer in May. I had been very little help and was pretty pessimistic about the whole thing. I remember that my church had a car wash the day after I left, but I have no idea if it was a success or not. I spent my summer in Oklahoma and Utah, and by the time I got back to little New Life Church Lexington in September I had forgotten all about our big project. One of the first things I noticed when I got back was that the red line had risen quite a bit while I was gone. We had now raised over $2,000, which was pretty good, but we still had a ways to go. There was a wooden well sitting up on the stage into which people had been pouring their loose change every week. I brought mine the next week and dropped it in with a “There, I helped” mentality. I’m awful sometimes.
The big day of our project came on the first cold morning in Saturday. The church had been planning a community garage sale for several months, and we were hoping to have a big turnout that would finally put us over the top. I thought it looked like the back corner of our sanctuary was full of donated junk that no one would want. Since worship practice was cancelled, I slept in through the coldest part of the morning and showed up for the afternoon shift. I was surprised to find our church yard full of customers, and our business did not slow down for the next four hours. People were stopping in to donate more items to sell, and we were still selling junk as we were trying to tear down. I was even more amazed to hear that we had raised over $1,000 before I arrived, and we doubled that figure in the afternoon. In the church service the next day, we were able to announce that we now had a total of over $4,500. The wells were going to be built by Christmas after all!
This morning they announced that our check had been sent, Rotary had made good on their end of the deal, and construction on the wells had already begun. By Christmas we will have the GPS coordinates of the villages we have helped. We even had a little money left over, and the plan is to use the remainder to buy livestock or food for our village. I am still amazed at what my little church accomplished! And today when they announced a new goal, I didn’t doubt one bit that God could accomplish it through us.
Now, what happened at my church certainly wasn’t a miracle of supernatural quality, but I still consider it a miracle of God nonetheless. Our church still doesn’t appear to have the resources to accomplish what we did. Those things didn’t matter to God, however, and he gave New Life the provisions and the generous spirit to make it happen. The moral of this story is that God is not a realist. He excels at doing things that don’t seem possible. I don’t realize this near often enough; I’m too quick to take stock of the situation and decide that it is not humanly possible to do this or that. But God desires everyone to have clean drinking water and to be healthy, and God works against reality when some people are willing to become passionate for the things that burn in the heart of God and forget about what can realistically happen. I’m thankful that I get to be a part of a church with such people, and I hope they keep rubbing off on me. I know that for now this student has a lot more faith in what God can do and a much bigger hope for what is possible with God. Reality can be redefined when you work with God.
“I’m a doubting Thomas,
I’ll take your promise,
Though I know nothin’s safe,
Oh me of little faith.”
-Nickel Creek, Doubting Thomas