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Lifegiving Water

A Letter from Jim McGill, serving in Niger and South Sudan

Spring 2023

Write to Jim McGill

Individuals: Give to E132192 in honor of Jim McGill’s ministry

Congregations: Give to D500115 in honor of Jim McGill’s ministry

Churches are asked to send donations through your congregation’s normal receiving site (this is usually your presbytery)


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Dear friends and family,

Before leaving for the U.S. to be with family for Christmas, I was able to go east to Maradi for about a month primarily to work on the “1 Evangelist/1 Well” programme for the EERN.  While there, we drilled two wells mechanically, and three more wells by hand.

Gangara, starting an irrigated garden in front of the tank and well that are within the Church compound

A mechanically drilled well at Gangara functions as the demonstration site for the “1 Evangelist / 1 Well” programme, displaying all of the benefits of having access to an ample water supply near the home. The Gangara church and manse now have water available that can be used to help improve the sanitation of the compound, while improving hygiene for the pastor’s family and families living nearby.  The church will now be able to support its pastor independently through fee collection and through year-round sales of produce from an irrigated garden while supplying the community with water at the nominal cost used throughout Niger. Collected funds will also maintain the pump and the irrigation system. Gangara was chosen to be the demonstration site as it is close to Maradi, an area where poverty is great, and also because Gangara is home to an agroforestry-trained person who can manage the trees and garden.  

While the well at Gangara is the model of what can be done through these wells, the other wells are being equipped with a smaller start-up package of a solar pump, a storage tank, and a tap for distribution. The EERN WASH department will be working with those communities in managing their systems so that income from the water can meet the immediate needs of the congregation, can cover all maintenance and repair costs, and so that profits can improve their systems, adding gardens if they desire.

Another of the programme started by EERN WASH is a “family well programme”, which is different from the usual community wells because they are family owned and managed. This means that the numbers of people getting water from each well is significantly lower than the average community well, and it also means that the family owning the well has access to water for small gardens, for livestock, for better cleanliness of their compounds. The family wells are made in areas where manual drilling can take place, so more wells can be drilled for similar expenditures, with more benefit to the users. Having more water available is a way to improve a family’s income, and a way to begin to step up the ladder to leave poverty behind.

Digging to place the lower pump

We contracted a manual driller to drill a well in his home area within the Goulbin Maradi (the Maradi River).  We surveyed families in the village to find out which families would be able to purchase the pump if the well was provided by the programme. When no one accepted this offer, we asked the village to pick two of the most needy families within the village to have wells in their compounds.  The other families will now be observing how much can be gained by owning a small family well. We will be monitoring how demand for family wells may increase in this area, while introducing family wells to other villages around Maradi.

A concern for EERN WASH related to the Goulbin Maradi is the overuse of groundwater. While Maradi gets an annual rainfall of 500mm or about 20 inches per year (an intermediate amount rainfall) we are observing that farmers are having to lower their pumps each year in order to pump water. We believe this may be happening due to very large electric submersible pumps throughout the area that provide “California” and “Flood” irrigation to fields, which provides great benefit to local farmers.  However, in our environment, most of the extracted water evaporates and is not able to return to the aquifer. The EERN plans to work with the Ministry of Water and other organizations to ensure there is a sustainable balance between what is being pumped out with what will go back into the aquifer.

Shortly after returning back to Niamey, I left to spend a wonderful month in the U.S. with family. I arrived in the U.S. on a Sunday afternoon, and the following Tuesday flew to Denver along with our son Jason and Hilda, who is from Malawi and has been close to the family for many years. We were able to stay for three days at Snow Mountain YMCA in the Rocky Mountains where our daughter Salome had been working for four months. This was a new experience for all of us. Hilda experienced snow for the first time, and Jason and I experienced colder temperatures and more snow than I have seen throughout my life. It was quite a change from Niger.

When all was set for Salome to leave, we began a three-day journey driving back to Mission Haven in Decatur GA, stopping to spend the night at Dr. Carrol and his daughter Dr. Becky Loomis’s house in Anna, Illinois. The first-generation Loomis family were PC(USA) co-workers in Ethiopia, and Becky later came to join us at Embangweni Hospital in Malawi after my parents had left their ministries there. Becky and Carrol have been wonderful friends throughout the years, and it was a great opportunity to be able to visit and catch up with them. It was interesting to see Carrol’s HAM radio set that was our source of communications to the U.S. before the days of cell phones.

Our immediate family celebrated Christmas together, and, afterward, we were able to go to Savannah, GA, and visit both the beach and the river waterfront for a few carefree family days.  It was a blessed time together.  

We are grateful to all of you as we pray for God’s blessings for all in this new year.


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