SOUTH BEND, Ind. – In 2009, Clay Church, A United Methodist Community of God’s Love, identified “clean water for the world” as one of our goals for the annual Christmas Eve “Love Offering for a World in Need,” designed to meet the requirements of Matthew 25. One of those goals was to respond to the cry, “I am thirsty.”

That offering was wildly successful and that year Clay Church provided funds for 11 wells in Africa. Since then, Clay Church has provided funding for a total of 69 wells in 69 villages in Burkina Faso, Africa. It has been a transforming experience to be a part of God’s love in action in the “third most miserable place to live on earth” according to the Feb. 21 issue of Business Insider magazine.

In February, 2012, a small team of four from Clay Church went to Burkina Faso on a “Vision Tour” to see the need and to discover what more we could do in addition to providing water. We established a partnership with “Engage Burkina” out of Dallas, Ga., and quickly learned of many opportunities to serve our Matthew 25 goals: water, agriculture, hygiene training, morenga trees (to combat malnutrition), handicapped bicycles, grain grinding mills, schools, churches, evangelism, and much more.

We came home sensing a call to return with other United Methodist pastors representing other Indiana United Methodist congregations to spread the word and create more partners for this life-saving work in this tiny, poor, desperate place.

In February, 2013, I returned with ten others for a similar Vision Tour of the country, visiting many of the same villages where we had provided clean water, and many new ones where these new partner churches were now engaged in helping “love the world” in tangible and faithful ways.

There were eleven of us who went together, representing eight UM congregations in Indiana. There also were two other congregations whose pastors could not go along for personal reasons who, nevertheless, joined the movement to provide sacrificial gifts for new wells in new villages.

In a country where one-in-three children die of malnutrition and waterborne disease before the age of 10 years. These congregations are literally saving lives by giving sacrificially, supporting this
clean water initiative in Burkina Faso, and have now returned to keep it up, and do even more.

The eleven who went on this year’s Vision Tour were: the Rev. Herb and Kelly Buwalda, Karen Grant (Clay UM Church), the Rev. Kathy Miller (Centerville UM Church), the Rev. Vickie Van Nevel and Rachel
Parks (Northwest UM Church), the Rev. Jeff Smith (Bremen UM Church), the Rev. Matthew Stultz (North Madison UM Church), the Rev. Bob Vale (Osceola UM Church), the Rev. Larry Whitehead (Mishawaka
First UM Church), and the Rev. Jill Wright (Robinson Chapel UM Church).

In addition, Steve Conner of Taylor Chapel UMC and Scott Pattison of Kendallville Trinity UMC also supported the trip by leading their congregations to connect financially, prayerfully and with other
donations to help us reach some world-changing goals. All together, these congregations raised more than $75,000 for 37 new wells in 37 new villages. The funds are still coming in.

We would like to thank the United Methodist Foundation of Indiana for scholarship help that made this trip more manageable for each traveler who was responsible for his/her own expenses. That was a
great blessing.

We expect to take future trips with lay members of our congregations, and of course, hope other congregations and pastors will join us in this life-saving mission in this little country.

Herb Buwalda serves as senior pastor of Clay Church, a UMC Community of God’s Love in South Bend, Ind.

Photos courtesy of Clay Church

Members of the of the 2013 Vision Tour of Burkina Faso, Africa pause from their mission of placing wells that provide fresh water to villages.


Clay Church has provided funding for a total of 69 wells in 69 villages in Burkina Faso, West Africa.


The Rev. Larry Whitehead and an African District Superintendent.