wells in India, a development that will bring about aid and development work and their clean water to some 40,000 people. intersection with religion are sprinkled with Well drilling may sound like an easy busi- references to sustainability, broad change ness, but try carrying it out in this part of and social justice. David Platt’s urging his Africa and you’ll begin to see how difficult parishioners to go out into the world and it can be. Importing the parts, arranging help others was, Mark Whitehead says, for the drilling equipment, finding spare “ideas we were not used to hearing. But parts, even getting to some remote villages, really it was a return to radicalism, to the can be daunting. So, from the beginning kind of radicalism that Jesus first taught.” Whitehead, Walden, and Sutton wanted There is, he says, a lot of foundation in the their approach to be as simple and effecBible for working beyond charity. He’ll cite tive as possible. Their research led them to you passages from the Gospel of John to strategic partnerships with other aid groups already operating in the areas, groups that had already settled on a low-maintenance, deep-water pump called the India Mark II. Partnering especially has allowed Neverthirst to leverage money raised, mostly in Alabama. Working with the Swedish organization International Aid Services (IAS), for example, Whitehead and the others found they could cut the cost of drilling a well in half. “IAS is already on the ground,” said Whitehead. “They have the crew, the well-drilling equipment and the expertise. For every $5,000 we raise, they match it and drill a well. Together we’re making twice the impact.” The journey that has led Whitehead to stand beside this desolate airstrip started with his desire to help others, a longing that springs from his deep faith. He, Walden, and Sutton have long been devout, regular A bamboo fence shades the newly installed pump at attendees at The Church at Brook Kidu-Makaraka, Sudan Hills, a large Baptist-affiliated congregation in Birmingham, the same conand the books of James and Romans as well gregation that has gotten behind the most as Psalm 67:1-2 —“May God be gracious to recent effort to build 100 wells in India. But us and bless us and make his face to shine something was ignited in all three of them upon us, that thy way may be known upon when, in 2006, a young new pastor named earth, thy saving power among all nations.” David Platt begin to speak to his congregaOne of Whitehead’s partners, Spencer Suttion about its responsibilities to those less ton, who now lives in India, says the potenfortunate. “That first time I heard David tial impact of Neverthirst and other groups speak,” said Whitehead, “I think he was 28. trying to bring clean water to that nation is And the way he gave his sermon the way immense. “India has approximately 120 milhe spoke to us, it was like I was hearing the lion people living without access to clean Gospel for the first time.” Now this kind of water,” he wrote in a recent email. “This ministering to others, Mark Whitehead will year almost 400,000 children will die there tell you, is not charity, this is bringing about because of that.” He went on to say he and lasting change. Conversations with him the others are passionate about serving the
24 Longleaf Style Summer 2010
poor in India. Some 900 million of India’s 1.1 billion people, he said, live on less than $2 a day. He also echoes Whitehead about the importance of clean water. “You can have NO development without clean water,” he wrote. “Without clean water, women spend hours each day collecting water instead of contributing to the well being of their home or community – children become ill and cannot attend school ... children also spend hours each day collecting dirty water. So there’s another reason they cannot attend school – without education, they will more than likely be kept in this cycle of poverty.” It is, he continued, “an endless cycle of sickness, lack of education and lack of community contribution. So Mark was right – forget development without clean water.” Forrest Walden feels the same. He explained that when we first went to Sudan the situation seemed hopeless and overwhelming. “We talked for months about what we could do and what we should focus on to bring about the most change,” he wrote in an email. He wrote that he and the others wanted to build a school for a group of displaced or find a way to help a local hospital. “However,” he continued, “we kept coming back to clean water as the primary thing they needed before any of the other things would even matter.” For Mark Whitehead, it all became pretty simple when he arrived in Sudan a couple of years ago for the first time. After landing at this same airstrip, he looked around and saw the suffering and needs around him and knew where he was going to put his energy. “Being a true Christian follower, how can you come here and not respond?” he asked. “We as individuals and the church as a body have a responsibility to relieve human suffering.” And that is something, he argues, we have gotten away from in recent years in this country. “For far too long,” he said, “the church in the United States has been focused on itself.” Watching the three girls with the containers on their heads walk past in a line, he said, “It’s time we start making a difference for others.” John Fleming visited Sudan as part of a Neverthirst delegation.
Published on Aug 11, 2010