I felt so lost.
I was carrying such pain. I was living in a haze of it. In May of that year, my wife and I experienced a miscarriage. I was in the room next to her when it happened. The hurt ran deeply through both of us. Earlier that same spring, we learned that her sister and our brother-in-law, along with our two nieces, were moving to Europe, which felt a world away. My brother-in-law had attained his dream job. At my own workplace, things were falling apart. Day by day, I was given new tasks for which I was not equipped and in which I was not interested. The workdays felt longer and harder. These other events compounded their weight.
So I prayed. A great deal. I prayed for help. Direction. I prayed for a nugget of something to which I could cling regarding our future. I asked the Lord time and again, “What would you have me do, Father? What would you have me do?”
It’s a dangerous prayer.
And like times before this, I felt the still, calm yet inaudible voice speaking to my soul, saying, “Build a well”. It wasn’t the answer I wanted, so I kept praying. And I received the same answer: Build a well. Build a well. Build a well.
When I get a leading like this, I tend to test it against Scripture. “Does this seem like something the Lord would ask of one of his followers?” I ask. “Does this align with the goals of his kingdom?” I’ll confess that sometimes I ask these questions because I’m looking for an out; but when it came to the command to build a well, the more I wanted to dismiss it, the more clear it became.
Fast forward to December 2015, my job at the time continued to decay, but my wife and I had announced that we were pregnant once again. Life was looking better by the day, and my favorite podcast, The Sci-fi Christian announced that they were going to be doing a water fundraiser in 2016. At the time it seemed obvious: this was why the Lord had told me to “build a well”, and why I hadn’t started. He knew that this podcast would be doing their fundraiser, and I could partner with them to help them meet their goal and mine at the same time. They were not specifically aiming to build a well; but hey, it was all in the same ballpark, right? Water is water. I wrestled with this for more than a month, and every time I prayed about it I knew the truth: that’s not what the Lord intended. I knew because the motivation was clouded; I knew because I wanted to defer the responsibility of starting my own campaign; I knew that it was going to be easier if I wasn’t leading the endeavor. Coming alongside people I respect and admire to help them achieve their goal is a valuable thing, but it’s not what the still calm leading of Lord had asked of me.
The new year came; their water fund was off the ground, and my wife’s pregnancy was going well. My job continued to deteriorate, and I knew that I had been avoiding what I felt I needed to do. But I had also learned something over the holiday. World Vision, an organization that my wife and I have supported for years, offers donors the ability to fund a deep water well; it’s something they tout in their holiday catalog and online programs. A generous donor who has $15,000.00 to give can designate that money for a new well.
I certainly didn’t have that money available personally, but I knew I could earn a portion of it, and I felt confident that the Lord could find the rest. So I did some comparisons with other organizations and determined that World Vision really offered the only opportunity for what it is I was called to do: build a well. That was what I believe the Lord asked me to do.
So the baby was due in late May, and by the end of April I was confident in moving forward with World Vision’s Gift Registry option, which allows you to give to an ongoing goal and invites others to come alongside you and donate to the same end. My understanding is that it would be “live” for a year, and I believed the goal would be met.
On May 3, 2016, The Gift of Water project was launched, as a collective registry toward which people could give, in hopes of reaching a $15,000 total, representing funds for a new water well. I made an initial donation, and I sent out the link. Over those first few days, I also realized that the registry option, while available, was not the optimal fundraising platform at World Vision. I was already $1,100 or so toward my goal when I was informed that their fundraising pages are much more versatile and useful for this sort of thing than the registry was. Well, no quest is without its obstacles, so I told my account manager we would continue with the registry, and I had faith that the Lord was still going to get it done.
11 days later my son was born.
All efforts had to be put on hold.
But not entirely.
Friends and family members were able to give throughout the summer, and I was able to earn a little income extra income and give towards the goal. By fall of 2016, we reached the $5000 mark, and I decided to make The Gift of Water tracking poster to track our progress toward the remaining $10,000.
If there was ever any doubt about my artistic prowess, let it now be put to rest: I am not much of a drawer (or is it draw-ist? Well, a “drawing guy”, anyway). I’m also not adept at coloring. The poster was crude, but it served its function, and donation after donation, I was able to post the pictures on social media of the hypothetical well gradually getting full, and the ground around it changing from a dull gray to a deep rich brown soil, to a light green and then to tall darker grass. It was no masterpiece, but it was a fun way to track progress.
And progress continued. Slowly but surely—-in fits and starts, as it often does. My wife will attest that on more than one occasion I was in something of a desperate state, wondering if this was going to be yet another endeavor that I undertook but could not finish yet another area of failure in my life. She steadfastly held that this was the Lord’s well, and not mine; and that he was in charge, and I had to be prepared for whatever outcome the Lord saw fit. Additionally, I was getting different fundraising ideas for goods and or services that I could offer in an attempt to raise funds, but all of them would have required time, effort, and energy that I simply did not have.
This was our first year with a child, and my wife had complications and a surgery, thereafter. I was fortunate to change jobs to a much better fit, and I was hustling on eBay to make that extra little bit of money that I could put towards the well. And I kept asking others to help me. I asked for others to pray. I told strangers or people I barely knew what I was hoping to do. I was desperate to see this thing accomplished, to see the well get funded, to obey that leading I felt almost a year prior. People kept giving. And praying. And encouraging me to persevere.
I’m known for being overly dramatic, so it shouldn’t come to anyone’s surprise when I say this came to feel like a “Noah Moment”: a moment when God asked you to do something that feels and seems impossible, something that sounds strange when you tell others the full story, but you feel led to do it, so you do. The Lord asks you to do something that feels insurmountable, but you obey out of nothing but faith that it is the right thing and he will do it in spite of you.
Of course, we all know that this was far more of a Jonah Moment, a moment wherein the Lord asks something of you, but you hem and haw and try to find a reason and way to avoid it. I don’t have delusions of “Here am I, send me” level obedience here. I had prayed in 2015 for direction, and it was half a year before I started to follow it.
But like Jonah, the Lord corrected my course and got me started, and he was faithful. This entire time. I wavered. I delayed. I tried to rationalize not doing what I felt led, and I lost faith and complained while trying to obey. But the Lord remained faithful, and the Lord showed that faithfulness again and again and again, through a number of fellow believers who came alongside of me, through kind emails or words of encouragement, through simple conversations and unexpected donations.
Be assured, the “Gift of Water” Project was not something I did; it’s something God and his people did. I don’t believe it was my crude poster, my social posts, or my requests for help that moved people. I believe it was something more—-maybe that same still, calm voice speaking to or showing them a place to serve and give where they did not expect. I do not know what motivated every person who contributed, but I know that my efforts alone could not have been the source.
Nevertheless, I’ve been moved by the individuals who have revealed themselves as partners in this. Their willingness to come alongside of me in this project has been an encouragement and a testament of the Lord’s faithfulness. The generosity that they showed, with words and prayers and funds, has been an example to me. It makes me want to give to others the same way they did. It makes me see the Lord’s faithfulness. Maybe that was part of the Lord’s plan from the start.
So as of April 26, 2016, the “Gift of Water” deep water well was fully funded. In fact, it was overfunded for an end total of $15,100. The Lord did his work, but I think the most wonderful aspect of this is that he’s only just begun. Yes, funds of been collected by an organization, and that organization is going to go out and they are going to build a new well (but unfortunately, they cannot tell me where that will be). And people will drink from it. And the workers to complete it will speak with those people, and they’ll teach them how to manage it and how to clean it and maintain it. And in that process, my hope and prayer is that they cultivate disciples and that those individuals to pray, and they hear that still quiet whisper that they don’t want to obey but they cannot shake—-a command that requires they go beyond and above themselves, that they rely on the Lord’s goodness and the goodness of his people rather than their own achievements and their abilities. My hope and prayer is that they get wonderful fresh water—not just a physical water but a deep-running spiritual water.
If you’re reading this, chances are that you’ve been following this project for some time and that you’ve likely supported it. To those readers, I want to say thank you again and to those new to this shindig, I hope the story shows you a very real truth: God calls and uses lost, broken, hurting people and gives them something to do that they don’t want to, so that the Lord can pour out living water to them and through them.
Thanks to the gifts and generosity of family and friends, a new Deep Water Well in a developing nation was FULLY FUNDED WITH $15,000.00 through WORLD VISION in 2017. The registry is gone now, but World Vision continues their wonderful work.
The original “Pitch” / Call for funds on the registry page:
“Many of us pray for the Lord’s leading. We long to know what the Author of Life would have us do in his eternal story of infinite significance.
For the last several months, I have felt the Lord’s leading me to raise funds for a deep water well project in a foreign country. I’m a strong proponent of water’s presence in a healthy lifestyle, but my household alone cannot fund this gift of sustainable water access for an overseas community. Sometimes the Lord asks us to do things we never could on our own so that we learn to work alongside others to accomplish what we never thought possible.
With this in mind, I am beginning a deep water well project registry through World Vision, an organization that my wife and I have supported for years. Their timetable for a given registry is one full calendar year, and I believe that the Lord can and will accomplish what he has asked me to do in that time.
But, I cannot do it alone.
I need your help. Please join me in the Lord’s work over the next twelve months by praying that the Lord will meet this goal, by giving as you feel led, and by emailing me to tell me you’ve done so. I don’t know who of you the Lord will bring to partner alongside me in this, but I know he can and will bring those he sees fit. Together, we can provide those in need with an amazing gift that will keep on giving.
Looking forward to hearing from you,
For more details, e-mail me at [email protected] or visit my blog at www.cjstunkard.com”
The original Text here on this page while the fundraising effort was happening:
“You go to a restaurant. You’re thirsty but don’t realize it. Just for sitting at your table, a waiter brings you a glass, ice floats at the top and cracks. You take your first sip, not thinking of it really, but then the cold, clear fluid hits your lips, runs through your mouth, and down your throat. Discomfort you didn’t even realize you had disappears. You are getting hydrated.
We love it; we need it.”