ENID, Okla. —
Jesus offered the Samaritan woman at the well a drink of living water, saying, “Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Proclaiming the promise of that living water is one of the goals of Emmanuel Baptist Church’s mission in Niger, west Africa, but so is providing sources for good, clean H2O.
John Stam, Emmanuel’s missions’ pastor, has made a number of trips to Niger as part of the church’s ongoing mission there.
Emmanuel’s ties to Niger began more than a decade ago when Yacouba Seydou, and his wife, Renate, visited the church and asked for help in his efforts to improve life in his native country through their ministry, Hosanna Institute of the Sahel.
“Pastor Wade (Burleson) asked me into his office, and I met the two of them,” said Stam. “It was just one of those amazing visits. You don’t realize it’s going to be life-changing, but you know you’ve never run into something like this before.”
Emmanuel committed to helping Yacouba and Renate with their ministry. The first medical mission team from the church traveled to Niger in January 2004.
During that trip, Stam was confronted by Niger’s desperate need for clean water.
“We were waiting for a ferry, this archaic old ferry over the Niger river,” Stam said. “This young woman, probably 16 or 17, went out into the Niger river, squatted down, did her business in the water, then washed her face and then drank out of the river.”
When he returned to his office, he found on his desk an alumni magazine from his alma mater, Wheaton (Ill.) College, which contained an article about one of the school’s professors drilling water wells in Africa.
Stam spoke to the professor, Jim Clark, who referred him to an organization called Living Water International, based in Houston.
“We ended up buying a small, portable drilling rig they had helped design,” Stam said.
After sending several people to Houston to be trained to use the rig, Stam negotiated to purchase everything the church would need for two 100-foot wells. With the help of other churches, including Enid Mennonite Brethren, Emmanuel raised the money.
“We brought it here and practiced with it up on Bill Ward’s land,” said Stam. “Of course, none of us knew anything about drilling. We shipped it to Africa, and it was there waiting for us. We got two wells done on that first trip.”
That was in 2005. Since then a new drilling rig has been sent to Niger, and the church is in the process of completing “our 35th or 36th well,” said Stam.
“Some of those wells are really the primary water source for between 1,000 and 2,000 people,” Stam said.
The wells are communal affairs at which the water is drawn by simple hand pumps, which are easily repaired by in-country technicians.
Four drilling teams have been sent to Niger in the past year, and every year at least one medical team travels to the country.
“We’ll treat somewhere around a thousand people each year,” Stam said. “We’ve probably treated over 10,000 people in the past 10 years.”