Wells of Living Water

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

Spring 2022

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Dear friends and family,

We hope each of you has been able to have a blessed time of Lent and a great Easter celebration. While our family is apart, the internet has allowed us to be together virtually, in conversation, as well as to attend both Lenten and Easter services together, for which I have been very grateful.

This photo is taken from the EERN church in the village of Dan Magari. In the foreground is the enclosure for a 250-foot deep open well, with the mosque behind. This well can neither provide safe water, or enough water for the Dan Magari community, so the congregation is asking for a protected water source that will benefit all.

You have probably heard that this was the first time in 30 years that Ramadan, Passover and Easter coincided. In Niger, Christmas and Easter are days when the church doors are left wide open for all to come in and feast together. So having Easter during Ramadan made it hard to enjoy a mid-day Easter feast when you know that others cannot come to join you and that they are not even having a sip of water until the night falls.

Our church, the Eglise Evangelique de la Republique du Niger (EERN), is the oldest Protestant church in Niger, with four congregations within Niamey, a city with over a million people. While we worship at the Bobiel church on the west side of town this year, I joined Easter services with the Kobontafa Congregation, led by our good friend Rev. Usman. After the Easter service, I shared in the Easter feast, which was held in a nearby mango garden.

While we did not have our Muslim siblings sharing our feast, it was wonderful for me to be able to share Easter with Rev. Usman and our Kobontafa family.

In our last newsletter, I mentioned the EERN’s program for the WASH Department of “One Evangelist – One Well,” which supports the EERN’s goal of having at least one church, led by an evangelist or a pastor, in each of Niger’s 63 administrative divisions that are called “Departments.” The One Evangelist – One Well program is a tremendous vision that emphasizes the EERN’s understanding that having water available is essential to its holistic ministry.

The availability of water for the evangelist/pastor has many off shoots:

• Water is a welcomed asset that introduces the Evangelist and the Evangelist’s family into a Muslim community.

• Water is a welcomed asset that introduces the Evangelist and the Evangelist’s family into a Muslim community.

• Bringing access to water can break down barriers that exist when a Christian church is opened within a Muslim community – a good example is the village of Mailo, which is one of the few villages in Niger today with large numbers of Christians. Mailo sits on the main east-west road that traverses the country. The trend within Mailo was for the Christians to stay on the north side of the road and the Muslim community to center around their mosque on the south of the road. The introduction of a borehole at the Bible College now has the entire population coming together to get water for their households as well as watering livestock at the waterpoint.

• Having more water available means an opportunity for improved health, as water is necessary to improve sanitation and hygiene within the area.

• Increased access to water improves the financial situation of those with access to it not only because their health has improved, but more directly in that more water is available for livestock and growing small kitchen gardens.

• There is also a direct financial benefit for the church as water is sold at costs a little below what families already have to pay for water. Those funds go to support the income for the evangelist/pastor, which often is the responsibility of the EERN Bureau due to the extremely small numbers of congregants in these new churches around the country.

• Providing water opens opportunities for the evangelist/pastor to share what they have learned about improving WASH in their community while at Bible College.

Amos Moise at a private well with long queues of children awaiting their turn for water in the village of Kwadarouwa. The population of the community is much greater than the available water supply, so the Kwadarouwa EERN church is asking for a well within the “One Evangelist – One Well” programme.

Where wells can be drilled manually, a well may cost as little as $500. In some areas, both within and outside of the Sahara Desert, some wells are very deep and require the use of expensive rigs. The Church, therefore, is currently prioritizing the water needs of each congregation to determine the need against the cost of a well.

To assess the sites for the well-prioritizing process, I flew to Maradi in the south-central part of the country. I was joined by colleague Amos Moise, the newest member of our EERN WASH team, an engineer with vast experience in water supply. Maradi is where the headquarters of the EERN is located and had been the home for the previous PC(USA) Mission Co-Workers Rev. Michael and Racheal Ludwig with their four children for several years. Security issues around Niamey have not allowed me to travel out of the city by road. Still, I had an incredible experience on the flight as it stopped first in Agadez, a city within the Sahara. Although we did not disembark, it was a great experience to see the desert from much lower elevations.

Having just returned from “the field” today after visiting four rural churches, each with significant water needs, I am reminded of the blessing it has been to be a part of the work of a Church in Africa that cares for the holistic well-being of each person. Spending today with Amos and four evangelists who have been relatively newly introduced into communities where some community members are not welcoming has been yet another extraordinary experience for me.

I am grateful for the opportunity to be with these siblings who have the heart to live together with their new neighbors in spirit and work together to improve their communities’ mental and physical well-being.

We thank each one of you for your prayers and for all of your support that allows this kind of day to happen.

Jim


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