Church focuses on well ministry

Kandie and Charlie Shubeck point to a photo taken of children using a well that was funded in 2018.

What started with hopes of funding one well for those less fortunate across the globe has blossomed into something more for Shepherd of the Lake Lutheran Church.

A ministry formed to raise money for Water to Thrive, a nonprofit that builds wells for those without access to clean water, has been around since 2016 after church members Kandie and Charlie Shubeck learned of the nonprofit while on vacation in Hawaii.

Ed Scharlau, with Water to Thrive, was giving a presentation at a church the Shubecks’ daughter attends in Austin, Texas.

The presentation left them “amazed,” which spurred Kandie to get the Tellico Village church involved. Within three weeks, the congregation’s “overwhelming” response raised $15,000, which funded three wells in Ethiopia.

“Those three wells serviced 850 people directly, but they always say it’s two to three times that amount because of the neighboring people coming in,” Kandie said.

The church raised $20,000 in a month in 2018 to help fund four more wells.

“One of the beautiful things about those projects in Uganda, two of those wells also provided for primary schools,” Kandie said.

An additional $15,000 was raised in 2020, which went toward three wells in Uganda.

Although a united church effort happens every other year, Kandie said the congregation has raised enough this year to build another well in an undecided location. The Water to Thrive fund is always open for donation, and about $1,000 has already been raised for the church’s 12th well.

The church has directly impacted 4,349 people through the 11 wells.

“Really it’s easily 12,000 people that we have literally changed their lives, and we’re a small church. We have 88 members,” she said.

Hopes are for another fundraiser in 2022, Charlie said.

The church has the option of naming each well, but Kandie said they instead opt to put “To the glory of God.” They also ask for their favorite Bible verse on the well in whichever language is appropriate for the country.

A photo of each well shows where the money goes.

“It literally changes their lives,” Kandie said. “Now there’s many definitions of poor, but the real definition of poor is when you don’t have access to clean water you are truly poor. When we give them this water, then they are able to go on and be productive. The children are able to go to school, the communities have a chance to get out of poverty, the women can help the family, they’re not spending all their money on medicines. ... What happens is the girls and the women in these countries are the ones that are responsible for gathering water, and it’s a long to walk to water in many of these communities. It’s not unusual for them to have to walk the girls and women two to three miles one way just to gather water, but the water that they are gathering is out of ponds that is often shared with the animals.

“So they are bringing this disease-borne water back to their homes and that’s what they are drinking,” she added. “Oftentimes the girls, because of the responsibility of the girls and the women to get the water, the girls aren’t able to go to school and because of the long walks they are more vulnerable to being sexually assaulted. It’s very difficult for them, and the women are spending so much time that they’re not able to be productive in their communities.”

Water to Thrive has no involvement with the government, she said. The nonprofit raised $1.096 million in 2020 and funded 130 wells.

“But they don’t just go in and put a well in, they do education, and they have wash committees where in order to have a well in the area first they determine that it’s where they can get water,” Kandie said. “But they educate the community and they make sure that there’s a wash committee set up, and it has to contain at least 50% of the women to oversee the functioning of the well because they know women are responsible for gathering the water so they wanted to make sure the women were really involved. They give the community sanitation training, hygiene training and they even build latrines in the community by the well.”

Kandie said credit for the success of the local effort goes to God.

“It’s not something that I would have ever done, Charlie would have ever done, on our own,” Kandie said. “It’s only because we were moved by the Holy Spirit.”

For more information, call the church at 865-816-4756 or visit www.watertothrive.org.