It’s Amplify time! We’re one week away from the annual fundraising day, and excited to partner again with Amplify Austin. If you didn’t know, this is a wonderful platform provided by I Live Here, I Give Here to connect local donors with Austin area nonprofits. As a nonprofit founded and based in Austin since 2008, we love to partner with our local community. Mark your calendars, because this year’s Amplify Day begins at 6pm March 2nd, and ends 24 hours later at 6pm on March 3rd. We love this event and, as always, we pledge that 100 percent of all donations made go directly to clean water projects. So, every penny raised by Amplify Austin will let Austinites help serve a rural African community in need.
If you were part of our campaign last year, then you may recall how your generous donations helped us successfully reach our $10,000 fundraising goal. Additionally, as part of our campaign we partnered with Canyon Creek Elementary School and were able to match the money they had already raised to complete the funding of their well. We are so thankful for these kids and the hard work they put in, and to everyone who helped us reach our goal.
It continues to humble us to see so many different people, from various backgrounds, and over many generations, come together to help change the lives of those living without clean water. Last year our Executive Director, Susanne, went to speak to the 5th grade class at UT Elementary School. After Susanne’s water presentation the students immediately jumped into action to fund a well. Through various fundraisers - including selling postcards they designed themselves - these young students are already over a fourth of the way finished funding their own well! We love partnering with all of you to reach goals and fund wells, so we’ve pledged the first portion of our $10,000 goal for Amplify 2017 to go toward matching the progress these kids have made on their well campaign.
After we’ve matched UT Elementary’s fundraising efforts, every $5,000 we raise will fully fund one well in a rural African community, with recognition going to Water to Thrive's Amplify Austin Donors. Are you excited to donate, but afraid you’ll forget on the day? Not a problem. Through our Donation Page on Amplify's website you can schedule your donation at any time, and it’ll be charged on March 2nd during the event. We’ve already had over $1,000 in donations scheduled! Be sure to check our Facebook page frequently throughout this 24-hour period to see our progress in reaching our goal of $10,000. We’re excited for the big day next week, and to see how our Austin community will help us impact these African communities in need.
Happy New Year! Yes, we know we are nearly a month in, and the timeline for the greeting has passed. However, with our first blog post of the year, we wanted to welcome you accordingly.
At Water to Thrive, we’re in full swing getting ready for an exciting year ahead. So, we wanted to take a moment to formally invite you to come on our journey with us this year. It’s going to be full of excitement and possibility, and we want each of you along for the ride.
This year we’re excited to provide regular blog updates, so you can keep up with all that we have going on here in Austin, the U.S., Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Uganda. We are able to bless people with the life-giving gift of clean water, because all of you have blessed us. It is with this grateful heart that we embark on the endeavor to keep you up to date on all the ways your generosity is impacting others, both near and far. We plan on having lots of fun along the way too!
If you're interested in our 2017 trips, please email us at email@example.com, and follow our accounts to stay up to date. You can also find more information about these trips in our January Newsletter. We’re excited to have some of you along, while the rest of us stay connected virtually through our Travel Blog.
We are so excited to share with you what is certain to be an exciting year! Check back regularly for updates, stories, travel posts, and so much more. As always, please feel free to share our posts with your friends and family. We want to partner with you in educating, and inspiring, others about the work God is doing through clean water in rural Africa. Looking forward to connecting with each of you again soon... Here we go!
Our executive director, Susanne Wilson, and outreach and communications coordinator, Jazzy Schwolert, are in Ethiopia for a few weeks, traveling to water projects and meeting with in-country partners. This is Jazzy's first trip to Ethiopia, and on our travel website, she is sending blog posts that capture her experience. We hope you will join us at w2ttrips.wordpress.com as we follow her days.
Our next group of travellers, led by our Executive Director Susanne Wilson, has arrived safely in Ethiopia and has begun their journey to visit some of our wells.
To keep up with their trip as well as other trips in the future, check our new travel site: www.w2ttrips.wordpress.com. You can also subscribe to get email updates when we post something new. Just click on the "follow" button on the bottom right-hand corner of the screen and submit your email. Now you'll get the latest right in your inbox.
On the new blog we will post stories, pictures, and updates for each of our trips. We hope you'll join us in following along on these adventures!
Water to Thrive
Outreach and Communications Coordinator
The morning is filled with sharing the worship service at the first and one of the largest Mekane Yesus congregations in Ethiopia, founded in the early 1950’s. In a beautiful, simple sanctuary that seats about 300, the service started sharply at 10:00 am, and the pews were packed to overflowing by 10:30. The service concluded about noon.
Mekane Yesus Choir
One of the joys of the morning was hearing the congregation’s choir sing 4 songs. Beautiful! We also witnessed a baptism and got to hear a young, enthusiastic intern from the seminary preach the sermon.
Water to Thrive has had a working relationship with Mekane Yesus – Development and Social Services Commission (DASSC) since 2012. This arm of the church does community engagement and support and we have implemented over 100 water projects with this partner. After the service, we met with national leadership of the DASSC as well as representatives of the 3 synod DASSC organizations with whom Water to Thrive is currently working. We continue our discussion over a nice lunch nearby.
During lunch, the skies opened up with heavy rain (and a little hail too!)…..it put a little damper on some last minute shopping before heading to the airport but everyone managed to get everything taken care of.
As you read this, the majority of the group will be winging its way back to Texas…..the Moellers and Kolanders will be heading to Tanzania for another week of adventure.
As we draw a close to this week, it is important to acknowledge those who have helped make this possible….
- The members of Triumphant Love who so generously supported the Celebrating Wells of Love campaign to honor our Pastors and build more wells
- Pastor Norb Firnhaber who authored our wonderful devotions each day
- The staff and leadership of our partners at Relief Society of Tigray and Mekane Yesus-DASSC
- And of course Johannes and Alem with Diversity Tours
Blessings to all who helped make the journey through Ethiopia such a memorable experience!
We said goodbye to our driver team at the Mekele airport to board Ethiopian Air flight for Addis……they have been terrific. Leaving behind some awesome experiences and memories in Tigray. It is a nice 737, so a short flight of about 45 minutes…..same as Austin to Dallas. By noon, we had checked into our hotel and were ready for a leisurely afternoon.
Alem and Pastor Steve sampling the “dark” beer tower
Not far from our hotel is the Beer Garden Inn….a combo German-owned hotel and brew house. We walked over to have lunch……and a few beers!
Enjoying Lunch at Beer Garden Inn
Oh yes…..we had lunch too…..the menu included Bratwurst, Wienerschnitzel, spätzle, Jagerschnitzel……not exactly your typical Ethiopia fare…….enjoyed by all.
This afternoon, we were supposed to visit one of our deep bore hole projects, Gadamba, located on the outskirts of Addis. But the traffic had other plans for us. It was a Saturday afternoon gridlock in Addis, and after sitting in traffic for nearly two hours and not even out of the city yet, we decided to abandon our attempt. Everyone had a free afternoon for naps, walking, and shopping.
The group ready to try the Ethiopian specialties
For the evening, we are entertained at the 2000 Habasha Cultural Restaurant……a great sampling of Ethiopian food and dance from all regions of the country.
Pastor George with St. George, the patron saint of Ethiopia, on both the icon and the bottle
Oh yes, St. George made a surprise visit to our evening!
Finally, we were entertained by some awesomely talented dancers. Then it was off to the hotel for a good night’s sleep before our last day.
After a pretty intense day of walking and driving yesterday visiting our new projects……today is a more leisurely trip from Gheralta Lodge to Mekele over great paved roads.
* You can now also view each blog post on our new travel site located here.
Today we journey to the field to see firsthand the result of Triumphant Love’s campaign over the last 6 months. We set out to visit and bless 5 of the 6 wells funded by TLLC honoring the pastoral leadership of our congregation. Two of the wells are completely finished (Afkarma & Denba Kiremti) and 3 projects (Adi Egam, Hartafa, and Netsa) are in various stages of completion. All 5 of the projects are hand dug wells (HDW). This was actually a nice happenstance because it allowed the group to see various stages of the construction process.
At each of the project sites, the Pastors and Bishop engaged the community members and workers in prayer and blessed the well for the health and prosperity of the community. Each of the wells dedicated today honored Pastors Dan (Denba Kiremti), George (Afkarma), Norb (Adi Egam) and Steve (Hartafa) and Bishop Ray (Netsa) for their pastoral leadership of our congregation and synod.
Celebrating Wells of Love Travel Group
After a pretty challenging walk of about one hour, the group arrived at the first site, Afkarma, honoring Pastor George Reswick. The picture above is the whole group, with our REST support team. Special thanks to our drivers, who keep us safe and comfortable on our journey.
Pastor George collecting water at Afkarma
After prayers and blessing of the well, Pastor George joined the community in pumping and collecting water from Afkarma.
Coffee Ceremony at Afkarma
Our beloved coffee ceremony is never far away…..a great way to keep our energy up!
Construction of Adi Egam
Our next stop was Adi Egam, honoring Pastor Norb Firnhaber. It was at the earliest stage, with the work crew still working to line the well with stone and masonry.
The Plaque Honoring Pastor Norb
The plaque shown above will be affixed to the well head of Adi Egam upon completion. Pastor Steve conducted the dedication and blessing of the well.
Construction of Hartafa
Our next stop on our walking journey was Hartafa, honoring Pastor Steve Troisi. A bit further along in the construction, all of the below ground work had been completed and the above ground preparatory cement work had been finished as well.
Pastor Steve and Weredekal celebrating Dedication of Hartafa
Pastor Steve shared prayers and the blessing of the well with the workers and community members.
Construction of Netsa
As you can see from the picture above, Netsa, honoring Bishop Ray Tiemann, is almost complete. The inside cement work had just been completed, awaiting the placement of the pump head. The beautiful protective stone wall surrounding the project was almost finished.
Bishop Ray with the Plaque for Netsa
Bishop Ray shared prayers and the blessing of the well with the workers and community members….as well as a nice collection of cattle and sheep who also were present!
Pastor Dan collecting water at Denba Kiremti
Our final stop for the day was Denba Kiremti, honoring Pastor Dan Kolander. Before the prayers and blessing of the well, Pastor Dan shared a special message for the members of Triumphant Love, which we will share with the congregation upon our return. Pastor Dan then joined the community in pumping and collecting water from Denba Kremti.
The community members of Denba Kiremti with our travel group
The community members joined in our group photo at Denba Kiremti. Of course, the children love to have their picture taken and then see it on the camera display!
We were a bunch of tired travelers when we returned to Gheratla Lodge to enjoy a delicious St. George's cold one! But it was an exhilarating and motivating day to see projects of the Wells of Love campaign come to life and to share in the hospitality and thankfulness of communities benefiting from God’s great blessing of clean water.
* You can now also view each blog post on our new travel site located here.
Today we make our way south from Axum to the area around Hawzien, where we will stay overnight at the beautiful Gerhalta Lodge. On the way, we will visit two project sites funded by Triumphant Love (TLLC) in 2008, Ketin Serdi and Kontebatib, both hand dug wells (HDW). Also, time permitting, we plan to visit current a project site for 2016, Kuhale, a spring development system nearing completion.
It is about a four hour drive to Hawzien, on good paved road that winds its way through the Adwa Mountains near Adigrat. The road has many switchback turns as it works its way up and down the mountainside, producing many beautiful vistas down into the valley below.
Weredekal with his Father (103 years young)
As we enter Adigrat, we have a nice surprise. Our main contact at REST is Weredekal, who is with us on all the visits to the project sites. As it turns out, many of Weredekal’s family live in Adigrat. We stopped by to meet his father, 103, who greets us with a hearty “Good morning, how are you?” in perfect English. Weredekal is one of 18 of his children! An amazing man.
Time for a break
We managed to work in a coffee break in Adigrat as well!
Ketin Serdi Project Site
A short time later we arrive at our first project site, Ketin Serdi, a HDW constructed in 2008, and then later at Kontebatib, also constructed in 2008. In speaking with the water committee members and guard at each site, we find a similar experience as yesterday. These sites have worked continuously since 2008, serving their surrounding communities, with only a few minor repair issues, handled by the water committee. Both had a bank account for maintenance. We did discover a worn bolt and bushing at Kontebatib, but fortunately, the REST technician had the necessary tools and spare parts, so it was remedied in about 5 minutes.
Signage at Kontebatib
The signage at our early projects were all large paint sheet metal signs, and of course the outdoor elements take their toll on the signs. The one for Kontebatib is shown above with Weredekal, Bishop Ray and Pastors Dan, Steve and George. Weredekal is pointing to the Amharic version of “Triumphant Love Lutheran Church”…..notice the 2000 in the lower right of the sign….the Ethiopian calendar is 8 years different, so it really was 2008 by our calendar.
Women fetching water at Kuhale
We made it to our third site for the day, Kuhale, a spring development project. The project is located about a forty minute walk from the road, up a steep incline. Really spectacular view of the valley below when we reached the project. The project is almost complete, but has progress far enough so that the community can begin using water from the spring reservoir.
Tomorrow is a big day as we will be visiting the 2016 projects that are funded/constructed as part of the “Celebrating Wells of Love” campaign for TLLC!
* You can now also view each blog post on our new travel site located here.