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Update! Because of the faithful generosity of our global family, this project has been fully funded. Thank you! Explore other opportunities to get involved with the work of Every Home here.

Update! Because of the faithful generosity of our global family, this project has been fully funded. Thank you! Explore other opportunities to get involved with the work of Every Home here.

Living Water in the Gwembe

It’s a simple thing, really — the metal pipe that stands in the packed dirt of the courtyard, like a dandelion in a sidewalk crack. Heat shivers in the air around it, the dark solar panels that power the pump soaking up the afternoon light.

It’s tragically ironic that wells with pumps like this are so rare in the Tonga villages of the Gwembe Valley. The Tonga used to be “the people of the river.” That’s what the word “Tonga” means. But a water project — a dam to provide power to the greater region of Africa — forced the Tonga people from their fertile land decades ago.

The Gwembe is beyond desolate. The land is dry and rocky. What roads exist are little more than rough dirt tracks.

The world has forgotten about the Tonga and the Gwembe. The Tonga have received none of the resources produced by the dam that displaced them. Electricity and other infrastructure are patchy. Water sits in murky ponds, lakes, and watering holes — breeding grounds for mosquitos that carry malaria and other water-borne diseases. Despite the prevalence of malaria and HIV and the resulting high death toll, there are few clinics. It’s not just a rugged land; there is something malicious about it — a place made to break the spirit.

So, the homestead around the well and its solar pump is shocking. It’s one of the few homes with electricity in the area. An airfield stretches out behind the house. This is the home of Chief Mweemba, a man who is important beyond his village. The president of Zambia had the airfield constructed so he could land his private jet when he wished to consult with the chief.

When Albert, Every Home’s ministry director in Zambia, and Cleopas, Every Home’s continental director over Africa, approached this homestead in the late 1990s, the sight astounded them. It was a display of the power of the man who lived here.

A Tonga chief governs an area. Each village is overseen by a headman, who, in turn, defers to his chief. Chief Mweemba has 480 headmen under his authority. He has the right to grant or refuse access to a significant area in the Gwembe and thousands of people.

This outreach trip was early in Albert’s ministry. He had just joined Every Home for Christ to pioneer work among his people in the Gwembe Valley. Nervously, Albert and Cleopas waited in the courtyard for an opportunity to speak with the chief. Hours passed.

Finally, Albert and Cleopas were led inside for their audience with Chief Mweemba.

The chief was surrounded by his family and advisors. The room grew quiet.

Cleopas took a deep breath and began to share the gospel.

Chief Mweemba listened. When Cleopas had finished, he asked if he and Albert could pray with the chief. Chief Mweemba agreed.

Then came the critical question: Would Chief Mweemba allow Albert and Cleopas to share this message with his people?

Chief Mweemba agreed.

Albert (pictured right) speaks to a gathering of Tonga believers.

This meeting was only the beginning. Chief Mweemba received the gospel, and just a few days later, he started a Christ Group to disciple other new believers under the shade of a big tree in his courtyard. Albert stayed in the village, leading the Christ Group, for some time.

Years passed.

The Christ Group under the tree grew into a church. Believers walked long distances across the dusty land of the Gwembe to hear the Word of God and grow in relationship with Jesus — someone who hadn’t forgotten them, who said they were worthy of love and hope.

This is the power of the gospel in a place like the Gwembe: the radical truth that every human heart is of countless worth to Jesus. In the eyes of Jesus, the Gwembe isn’t just a broken land; it’s home to hundreds of thousands of teenagers with dreams, wise grandparents, and silly children. Jesus sees the faces of the Tonga. They aren’t abandoned; they are his. And his voice is moving through the valley to call them.

The Tonga are answering the call, thirsty for the truth that they are loved.

And maybe that is what gave Albert and Mweemba the idea as they stood over the yawning mouth of a hole in the ground.

“There was no safe water in the entire Gwembe Valley,” Albert explains. “The little water you could find was the same water our animals drank from. The water in the Zambezi River is contaminated and very dirty. People have no choice but to drink it, but fishermen also use the river as a toilet.”

The Zambian government had drilled a borehole on Chief Mweembe’s property, close to the tree where his church met. They’d hit water but hadn’t put in pipes or a pump, leaving the project unfinished and unusable.

Clean water was right there, but the families of the village couldn’t get to it.

Chief Mweembe got tired of waiting and talked to Albert about it. In 2004, Every Home helped install pipes and a solar-powered pump on Chief Mweembe’s property. For the first time, Mweembe and his people had access to clean, cool water.

The water pump was a tangible expression of the truth of the gospel: the Tonga are precious.

Today, the church on Mweembe’s property is a huge congregation. The water pump has provided countless gallons of clean drinking water. But recently, the pump broke down, and Albert has asked for help replacing it.

“The pump saves a lot of people,” Albert says. And he means it in two senses. Clean water literally saves lives, but it also draws the community together in a place where they encounter the love of Jesus. Living Water flows out of Chief Mweembe’s well. And the Tonga people for miles around see Jesus, who spoke with the Samaritan woman and refused to send crowds of hungry people home empty. Rivers of life flow out of Jesus’s heart to the “people of the river.”

You can step into the story of the Tonga people and the healing hope of the gospel by helping fund the replacement of the water pump on Chief Mweembe’s property. Learn more about how to give here. Meet us at the well and see the Living Water at work!

Jesus said… “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’”
— John 7:37-38

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