(Photo: Steve Roese)
A nondenominational Texas church that is working to help an African-focused charity provide fresh water for South Sudan has thus far raised $1.7 million for the effort.
Irving Bible Church of Irving, Texas, is helping to fund the efforts of Water is Basic, an organization which seeks to provide fresh water for the nascent African country.
Steve Roese, a pastor at IBC and founder of WiB, told The Christian Post that the group came about from conversations he had with Sudanese religious leaders.
"At the time people were pouring back into the South only to find a devastated infrastructure and no access to water," said Roese. "They were full of ideas in the areas of education, agriculture, trauma healing, health and sanitation, and church building but in the end they all agreed nothing mattered more than clean water."
Roese then went back to the leadership of IBC and from there they agreed to "the funds to buy rigs and equipment" that the Sudanese would use to resolve the issue of clean water access.
"The entire funding, $1,700,000 so far, has filtered through IBC and been sent on to South Sudan. This is a Sudanese run project," said Roese.
Since the efforts were started for this project, the nation of Sudan has had major political changes. In 2011, a referendum on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was passed that gave independence to the southern territory of the Republic of Sudan.
Comparing it to the United States of America after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Roese says that the climate of change has led WiB to become more localized in its efforts.
"Laws change by the day, policies are enforced or not, officials leave for much higher paying jobs with NGOs or private companies. Everything is in flux," said Roese.
"The changes since independence have caused us to focus on our mission of providing wells through local efforts to local people, those who have no advocate and are desperate. The day to day need for water goes on no matter the political or economic changes."
To raise money for the efforts, WiB and IBC turn to donations from schools, youth groups, and individuals, as well as events like the annual "Carry the Jerry" 5k race.
The jerry can is a container used for water. In parts of South Sudan, women will carry jerry cans full of water that weigh as much as 42 pounds for multiple miles.
"They are extremely heavy and carrying one is not an easy proposition at all. We have multiple Cross Fit gyms and wrestling and football teams attempting to carry the jerry and they all are amazed at how difficult it is," said Roese.
"It really raises an understanding of what it means to a young African woman to have to carry one many times per day."
This year's "Carry the Jerry" event will take place on March 31 in Charlotte, N.C., and Dallas, Texas.