“We must never see poverty or justice as “issues” that need solutions; rather we must see the human beings at the heart of those issues as people who need and deserve our love and respect. I believe that we really can alter the world, but we can only do it one person at a time. And when enough people choose to do this, even a crisis on a global scale can change.” –Richard Stearns, The Hole in our Gospel
I love this quote from Richard Stearns because a lot of the time we see poverty as an “issue” rather than looking beyond the poverty to the people who simply just need our love. Poverty is a way of life for many people around the world BUT it does not take any value away from each person that is trapped by it. They are just like you and me. Their hearts are so full of life, love, and HOPE. Just because they don’t have much doesn’t disqualify them or place them in a category of “less than.” Because if you ask me, these people have some of the greatest FAITH I have ever seen. No matter how hungry or thirsty they are or how much pain they feel in their bodies or if they have a roof over their head or not, they still have such life in their hearts and on their faces. They laugh and sing and dance. They don’t dwell on their conditions but press on knowing that God has everything under control. We can learn a lot from these beautiful people.
Two days ago I returned from a life-changing trip to Nigeria, Africa. My body obviously thinks I am still there because I keep waking up at 4am unable to go back to sleep. Lol!! There is a 6 hour time difference which makes this jet lag difficult to get over. This morning, I went ahead and got up and had some quiet time, trying to process through all my thoughts. There is so much in my heart that I want to share and write down I don’t even know where to begin. Over these next couple of weeks I want to share some of the incredible stories through words and pictures of what God did in a city called Benin, Nigeria and a village called Osula. And I want those of you to know who are reading this what a support you have been to my life and to Empty Bucket Ministries. Whether you have donated or prayed for my team and I, it is because of you that Empty Buckets is able to do what it is doing. Thank you from the bottom of my heart and I love each of you. May God richly bless you.
Let me start by telling you a little bit about Osula. Osula is a remote village in Benin City, Nigeria. In order to get to this village you have to travel on an unpaved, dirt road for miles. The ride is uncomfortable, hot, and often times makes one car sick. In Osula, there is no electricity, their only water source is a stream that requires a 3 mile walk through the jungle, no bathroom facility, no phone service, no access to a hospital or health clinic, the houses are made of mud and have dirt floors and no transportation. Most of the children don’t go to school because their parents can’t financially afford it (to send a child to public school in Africa for an entire year would cost us just $35 a year). As I played and held these children in my arms, I realized how much malnutrition and dehydration was robbing them of life. I held them a little tighter as tears fell from eyes knowing that malnutrition could so easily be treated back in the United States. I rummaged through my backpack to find my protein bars to feed these children hoping and praying their little stomachs could hold down the bar. The main meal these children eat is one plate of rice a day, normally around 4pm after mom has walked to fetch water and then made her way back to fix rice. This is life here every single day in Osula. Their whole purpose for the day is to make the journey to get water and find food to eat. No schedules, no agenda.
When I arrived in Osula for the first time I didn’t even know what to do with myself. I felt like a celebrity. I could barely get out of the van because the village people had surrounded it with singing and dancing. They were playing little handmade instruments and joy burst forth from their beautiful faces. They wanted to make sure I felt welcomed and how grateful they were that I and my team were there. They ushered us over to one of their open huts and a 75 year old man (one of the village leaders) said with tears running down his face, “I have only dreamed of clean water. When someone told me you were coming, I didn’t believe. I had lost all faith in ever having clean drinking water. But then I saw you beautiful people, something leaped within me and now I believe. My faith is back. What was once a dream is now a reality.” Another 40 year old man said, “In all my life I have never seen generosity like this before. And I am grateful you would do it for us.” As I sat there and listened to these men speak I had to fight tears; I was so humbled and honored and the love of this village changed something within me. These people may not have much but they are human and they matter. They have value and worth and God has a purpose for their life. Their dreams CAN become a reality and I want to make sure they know that, even if it is just for ONE, I will give all I have. I know that God has blessed my life more than I could ever ask for and has placed his favor on Empty Buckets that as an organization we want to do everything we can to see this community come back to life.
The rest of that day we started the process of building our first water well. I really couldn’t believe it was happening. For me, one year ago, Empty Bucket Ministries was just a dream. I knew the value of clean water and I thought it would be incredible to build a water well one day. To be honest, at that point in my life, my circumstances told me that was never going to be possible but I held on to the promises of God and kept praying BOLD prayers. I wasn’t really sure how it was all going to come together because starting a non-profit was way bigger than myself and I had no idea what to do. But all it took was one small step of faith and with every step after that, God has grown a faith within me that believes “All things are possible!” And there I was that day, standing in the middle of a remote village, watching the people break ground for our first water well. The very next day we hit water!! Praise the Lord!!
Below is a beautiful picture of the very first time we turned on the water. It was life-changing. What I saw I have never seen before or ever imagined. That day I realized how much I take clean water for granted. The people fell on their faces with tears running down their cheeks in thanksgiving.The children played, laughed, and drank from the water as if they have never seen it before. I stood at a distance and watched life be returned to these people. Now they were finally free from the daily struggle to find water. They wouldn’t have to use the same water to cook, clean, bathe, and drink with. They had more than enough; they will thirst no more.