A 30th Anniversary “God Story” from West Africa
Our next “God Story” comes from Matt Durkee, who officially began as FIA’s Executive Director at the start of this anniversary year! Matt joined FIA in 2009 through our Water of Life well-drilling ministry in West Africa before gradually transitioning to his new role, freeing FIA’s previous director, Tim Johnston to pursue his passion for donor development. Listen as Matt unfolds a story that captures the relentless love of God through FIA’s ministry partner in West Africa, Pastor Jeremiah.
The terrain surrounding the village of Lougouri, Africa is relentless. Miles of reddish-brown, hard, compact dust and sand stretch on in every direction. The blistering sun and heat are equally unyielding. During the 3-month rainy season, it’s hard to imagine floods in the desert, but pounding rains slam the flat, hard crust collecting in depressions and shallow hand-dug wells. The torrential rains scour refuse, human and animal waste, and disease into these temporary water sources. The need for clean water is a perpetual struggle for the villagers of Lougouri.
Even bringing villagers the best sources of water from drilled wells is a challenge requiring unflinching grit, passioned prayer, and heavy machinery. Located deep below the surface (on average 75 meters or 82 yards) under surface soils and heavy clay, even to the depths of rock aquifers, there is available water—sometimes with flow rates up to 5,000–10,000 L/hr (1,320–2,640 gal/hr)!
Sharing The Truth
Friends in Action was first introduced to Lougouri by a man named Pastor Jeremiah. Pastor Jeremiah came from the city with his family to this remote community because somehow, he felt connected to the people and sensed God calling him to share the love of Christ with them. Yet, the villagers were relentless in their commitment to the Islamic faith. They worshipped Allah and feared the powers of the spirits and the Muslim clerics. The people had a fierce allegiance to their beliefs, merging traditional and ancestor worship with Islamic traditions, and viewed Pastor Jeremiah’s presence as a threat.
At first, the people tried to drive Jeremiah away. They pushed him out, kicked and beat him, even stoning him and whipping him with sticks! But each time he would return and keep asking for the opportunity to share with them about God Most High and his Son Jesus. After three years of mistreatment, the pastor’s persistence won out, and he was allowed to reside on the far side of the village—the farthest point from the people—and the farthest point from water.
The Trek For Water
The process of getting water from the village well required a great deal of tenacity too. Usually, village women or children were tasked with drawing water into 20–25 L (5.25–6.5 gal) old fuel or oil jugs which they would load into a wheelbarrow or cart to haul back to their huts.
In Lougouri there was only one well. According to the law of the land, wells and water are available to anyone who has a need, but the reality was that outsiders or outcasts (such as Pastor Jeremiah and his family) had to wait until everyone else used the well before drawing themselves. With the well on the far side of the village (at least 2 km or 1.25 mi away), and needing to always be the last to use the well, Pastor Jeremiah sometimes missed out on getting any water at all. And yet, he persisted.
After two years of the villagers’ unrelenting persecution, Friends In Action heard about this faithful man of God and his fevered commitment to reach the people for Christ. Drilling a well near Pastor Jeremiah’s family promised to alleviate his long-term suffering and maybe encourage a relational approach to reaching the community as he could interact with those coming to draw water.
Never Give up
Typically, in two weeks, a drilling team can provide 3-4 wells, and on one occasion, we were able to complete 7 wells! But after 11 days of dogged toil, the unyielding earth offered no water for Pastor Jeremiah and his family. Everyone was so incredibly discouraged because we were convinced that God was going to do a great work through this well. On the final day of trying, as we were saying our goodbyes, a tearful Pastor Jeremiah thanked God for the faithfulness of the FIA workers who labored so hard on his behalf. Convinced that God wanted us to see this through, my colleague and I decided to return a week later to try again.
After we left, we learned the villagers began their relentless taunts of Pastor Jeremiah again. “See, your god is not strong – he’s weak. You said that in the name of Jesus water would come – nothing good comes from the name of Jesus,” they mocked. He assured them that the team had not given up and God was not done. They replied, “Keep dreaming. They worked very hard for nothing. No one is coming back.” The team did not give up. They returned to begin drilling at 6:00 a.m. one morning, worked through the day and into the night, until finally at 2:00 a.m., Pastor Jeremiah
had a completed well in the name of Jesus in Lougouri!
The Lord Provides
But our God story doesn’t end there. Just a few short weeks later, the other well in the village went dry. The only water source left was Pastor Jeremiah’s well! The people came to ask if they could use the water. With open arms, he freely offered water as he told them about the free gift of eternal life found through Jesus.
* Names have been changed for security reasons.