High school and college were somewhat directionless, never really knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. After High School I went off to school because that is what was expected but the problem was I didn’t know what to pursue so I went undeclared.
One Sunday morning during my sophomore year at New Mexico State, I had this thought that I should probably go to church. I made some calls and found a ride, and after the singing, the pastor moved to the microphone and began to share about 2 people in the audience who God had been speaking to him about since 6 that morning. He describes the two people and what they were wearing and then looks over the crowd and points at me. There I was, sitting towards the back amongst 500 or 600 strangers, and he’s calling me out. As I am walking forward he begins to describe events in my life that have transpired over the past 10 years and how these events have shaped my thinking and have left me on the verge of hopelessness. He says a bunch of things but what I heard the most was God loves you, He hasn’t forgotten you and He is now going to set you free. With that I felt something lift off me which made me stand up on my toes like I was at the gym doing calf raises. It was truly freeing; the cloud that I was living under was no more! The downside was I still didn’t have a clue about who I wanted to be.
Fast forward 15 years, I had just ended a 4 year relationship and figured it was time to get serious with my life. Another 6 months pass and once again it’s a Sunday morning, this time I’m living Southern California and I decide I should probably go to church. I go to one I hadn’t been to in quite some time, and this fellow gets up and opens the service reading out of Luke 4. When he’s done I hear inside of me, “That’s what I have called you to do.” I was jacked up and couldn’t wait to get out and tell someone that God called me to the ministry. Little did I know that it wasn’t that simple. Thankfully I had a few people who spoke some wisdom into me, and within 2 months I started working towards a Masters Degree while keeping my full time job in the Worker’s Comp industry.
In one of my graduate courses I became challenged by what I was hearing regarding God’s activity in the lives of the poor. Certainly I wasn’t experiencing any of this, and the stories seemed too good to be true. Granted, I knew my faith wasn’t that of the Bible. I knew first hand of the opulence of Orange County and of the wealth that seemed to flow out of some of the churches, but I knew nothing of the poor and certainly my knowledge of God actively working in society was a misnomer. I responded by praying what I later realized was a dangerous prayer; “Lord send me to India, Africa or Latin America because in these poor places you should be at work.”
2 years passed, I’m still praying that prayer, and an opportunity to go to India with my dad arises. Despite the eagerness early on with my prayer for sending, the reality of fear was flowing; cobras getting me in the night, malaria carrying mosquitoes attacking me, not having any food which I would like. The reality for me became apparent. I was scared and didn’t think God could protect me on the other side of the world; it’s too far away and He’s probably busy with someone else.
They say you either love or hate India; my experience actually left me too overwhelmed for either. I had just left a church job I had, so I’m on the couch without work thumbing through the channels on the TV when I come across a show which had Indians walking through a field and crossing rivers with a movie projector over their heads. I stop and watch, mesmerized by what I see, and then I begin to cry. No idea why so I pick up the phone and call my wife and all I really hear is you better figure it out. I hang up, turn off the TV and pray something to the affect of “what on earth is this all about?”
Just about two years go by and then a phone call comes from the church I resigned, they’re wondering if I would be interested in joining them on a trip to India. About a day later I get an email from the Indian I was with when I went for this first time with my dad, and he’s asking the same thing; come to India.
I figured this must be God, so I say yes and a month later I’m on a plane to India, not knowing what lies ahead.
On the last day of the trip, we roll into a small village and as we pile out we’re quickly surrounded with people celebrating our arrival. Flowers are being thrown, garlands are being passed out, and a woman starts singing, dancing then crying only to go back to singing and dancing. I begin to ask a lot of questions and learn that about a month earlier, the church sent money for a well to be drilled and so we were there to dedicate the project. I had no clue that clean water wasn’t available in these places. I assumed everyone had water to drink being we were in the 21st Century; after all who doesn’t have water?
Little did I know of the fact that millions of rural Indians suffer daily because they lack access to clean water.
We walked out to the project with the villagers and for the first time I began to realize the impact that clean water had in a person’s life. I could see it on their faces, I heard it in their voices and I definitely saw the spark in their eyes as water flowed out of the tank.
We leave that village and head back towards the city only to take a detour. We’re told we have one more stop, so out we go down this dirt road for about 100 yards and into a small church run by the Salvation Army. We share for about 20 minutes and then when it seems like it’s time to go, I look over at my Indian friend and try to get his attention and it’s then that I see this old man get up and walk to the front. He faces us and says “Thanks for coming, however we aren’t interested in your message or your Jesus. You see our people are sick and they need help. The government sends us doctors who bring us medicine but we’re still suffering. They tell us our water is the problem so would you please bring us clean water? Caste and distance prevent us from using nearby sources and so would you please help us?” At this point I’m thinking this isn’t my problem, can we just go? We’re all sitting in uncomfortable silence and then I hear someone call my name. I look around, no one is looking at me so I go back to looking down at the floor hoping to hear an “Ok let’s go.” Instead I hear audibly again, “Michael”. This time I think the voice is coming from behind me so I look over my shoulder only to see the brick wall.
I realize at that moment God is calling.
I sit up straight, the hair on my neck is standing up, a chill running down my spine, I respond with “What do you want?”
The reply: “I want you to bring them water.”
My response: “There’s no way. I don’t know anything about water other than to drink it, play in it and waste it. If you haven’t noticed I’m white, they’re dark, I don’t like the heat, the food, and the smells. I don’t speak their language and I certainly don’t know their culture. Go find someone else.”
The reply: “You don’t think that I can do the impossible through you nor do you trust me with your life.”
My response: That’s not fair, I do trust you.
The reply: No you don’t. You might trust me for salvation but not for anything else.
My response: So Lord you want me to go to the cliff and jump?
The reply: Yes, that is exactly what I want you to do.
Now I’m at a point of crisis; I believe or I don’t and there is no middle ground. With my heart pounding and sweat coming off me, I decide it’s time to jump.
I stood up, walked over to the man and made a promise to bring water and do it in a year. “How can I trust you he asked?” I came back with just having a conversation with God and He asking me to do this so not to worry, it will happen. To which he said “I don’t care. You see many people have promised us water and some have even spoken of your Jesus but no one has met their promise and we’ve been waiting now for almost 4 years, so how can I trust you?” I apologized profusely for those who came before and especially for those people who said they were Christians, but one day I’m going to stand before God and He’s going to ask if I brought you water and I need to say yes. With that he put out his hand and we shook. It was a microphone drop!
Walking back to the vehicle, I passed their water source; in it were cows and some kids swimming and I remembering thinking; No wonder the people are suffering. God, we’ve got to do something to change this. I couldn’t help but think He was thinking the same thing.
That was March 2001 and by October of that same year the village was enjoying clean water.
Countless stories and miracles over the years and involvement in India go way beyond water. How can you experience hardship and not respond? Only armed with a call and a big God I’ve set out to make a difference in rural India one village at a time. 16 years have passed and 800 places are enjoying clean water. No huge budget, no payroll to speak of; just a few people, most of whom are Indian, trying to make a difference in the lives of the poor.
My life has been turned upside down because of India and the things God has had me experience. There is no way I would have ever of dreamed I would be doing what I’m doing but this is where God has me so until I hear otherwise I’m going to keep going
Wells for Life is seeking to address the need for water in India one well at a time, and do so from a holistic perspective by first addressing the physical needs of the individual and then their community. We seek to accomplish this task by forming partnerships with indigenous NGO’s who share the same passion we do for meeting one of life’s most basic needs: water.
The need for safe water in India is incredibly large. Reportedly India will fall into the water stress category by 2025, and efforts are being undertaken by the government to assess what programs and strategies can be implemented to address this frightening issue. Given the size of this problem, it would be easy to feel overwhelmed and not get involved. However, the nature and scope of the issue also provides opportunity for great success.
To date, Wells for Life® has met the need for water wells in over 690 rural villages and communities throughout India and the requests keep coming in. We work through indigenous partners who have a history of bring positive change to an area through a variety of outreach programs ranging from micro finance programs to medical camps along with outreach programs to empower women and after school tutoring for school age children. The goal in all of our work is to make a positive impact in the lives of the poor and to lead with water. There are no strings attached to our work or that of our partners; the motivation is all the same and its built upon sacrifice and service.
Learn about the need
- 42% of Indians live under the global poverty line of $1.25 per day.
- Over 6,000 children die daily due to sickness and disease related to bad water and poor sanitation.
- Wells for Life® has provided the funds for countless new water wells.