I fell in-love with this organization initially because of the people who "work" for LWI, who give and serve so passionately in Africa, India, and Latin America drilling fresh water wells for villages, families, children. These men and women are not just gifted planners, delegators and drillers, but are also vivid storytellers. To sit and listen to anyone who has been there, anyone who has seen a well pump overflowing with fresh clean delicious water, anyone who has witnessed smiling children cupping this life giving water to their mouths and dancing freely because of it... I could sit for hours listening. And you'll hear them say "It never ever gets old."
(*Please note I put the word "work" in quotations because anyone from LWI will tell you it's not a job so much as it's just "what we do".)
Last Friday night was LWI's annual gala and they asked me to emcee the evening. I realized from their outstanding track record (full of surprises, creativity and trusting God to really bring it) this night was going to be out of this world. Suffice it to say, I was (am) honored and was giddy/willing to do whatever needed to be done. Through the planning stages, I was wowed at the staff and how kind, thorough, open, available, resourceful and hopeful everyone was consistently.
Held at the Intercontinental Hotel near the Galleria in the Legends Ballroom, guests mingled in the foyer amongst tall cylinders of dirty water and large photos of models holding glasses of brown water. (My description of the decor does it no justice whatsoever, it was BRILLIANT and I'll post photos eventually.) Once the doors opened, the sight was breathtaking as you entered into a ballroom full visual displays of clean water and purity. The backdrop to the stage was a waterwall itself. The crew REALLY outdid themselves.
The evening opened with African tribal music and dancers while everyone was taking their seats. As the music finished, I stood onstage under a spotlight and in complete silence looked out over the entire ballroom. I started to open my mouth to welcome everyone, but became so overwhelmed with the thought that these 700 people were about to take in information and visuals of LWI's work... and then do something huge to help further this Kingdom. I gasped. And somehow I went on to welcome and open the evening.
From there, it was pure adrenalin and passion that kept the momentum going. The Chairman of the Board Gary Loveless spoke about finances and the future, Pastor Gregg Matte said a beautiful prayer and then guests ate dinner until they were interupted by some Chick-fil-a cows who shared about an incredible way they are helping with the water crisis. Lael Kurcera shared her story about volunteering with the Health & Hygiene program and then watched a video about a young girl named Nichole Lalime who was killed by a drunk driver just last year - she gave up her birthday and Christmas gifts to give money for clean water. Unreal. Her parents were present and when asked to stand, were given a standing ovation by everyone in the room.
From there, we saw a beautiful presentation by an African man who told his story of receiving clean water, then an Indian family gave their testimony about how their children can play now instead of carrying water for miles back home and Estuardo shared the story of his life growing up in the midst of war and how he now drills water for LWI. Stan Patyrak delivered an incredible presentation about how churches, major corporations and advocacy organizations help out and then I got to introduce the gala chair, David Weekley. David. Was. Incredible. I wish I had a transcript of every word he spoke to share with you. Man!! After David shared, Paul Darilek came on stage and shared his personal journey with LWI in the most poetic and fluid way leaving everyone in the room completely breathless. The evening was finished out by Mike (who reminds me of David Letterman!!) who thanked everyone and closed with prayer.
Afterwards, I met so many more people and left feeling confident the small part I had in the evening was truly surrended and blessed. I don't think I ever stopped smiling. If you know me, I leave after having to be in front of a lot of people and beat myself up for how stupid I sounded.
But this was obviously so far from being about me personally, it was about how EVERYTHING comes back to water. It was about mothers who can sleep knowing their babies are healthy, it was about pastors being able to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ because their people have needs met, and it's about education, health, progress and LIFE.
You can learn more about the Story of the Thirsty by clicking here.
(Photo by Stan Patyrak)