This past month, I have been traveling on the “No Plan B” tour with Carman, working to get children sponsored for ChildFund International. As we traveled the Pacific Northwest, I finished reading “One Thousand Wells” by Jena Nardella in the back of the tour bus, hotel rooms, coffee shops and in state parks on off-days. Jena is the co-founder of the non-profit, Blood:Water, started in collaboration with the band, Jars of Clay from Nashville, TN.
I was immediately drawn in with the foreword by best-selling author, Donald Miller when he begins by sharing that without a completion to Jena’s story, thousands of lives would be left in danger. He says, “As we read Jena’s story, we are challenged to listen to our own lives and to ask the question, “If I am hit by a bus, what doesn’t happen?”
What surprised me the most about this book was that it included a heavy emphasis on Jena’s spiritual journey, one that I can relate to immensely!
“Without realizing it, I had become not only a believer in Christianity but also a believer in the Christian subculture – a culture that wanted crisp answers from its members about faith.”
“I also didn’t know how to express, even to myself, that the place I felt closest to God was a homeless shelter in downtown Colorado Springs.”
I LOVE that Jena quotes Frederick Buechner;
“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
Jena’s words really encouraged me as she highlighted the importance of musicians and speakers that use their voice for the poor. She talked a lot about how we need politicians to get services to the poorest places on the planet, but we need artists because they tell the actual “stories” of the people.
“…true change comes only when Africans are free to be the heroes of their own stories.”
Jena’s sensitive approach to culture, human life, and dignity was extremely refreshing for me to hear! She wasn’t and still isn’t afraid to dream, even if that meant risking everything. I truly believe that in her confrontations with the evangelical church (through questions such as “What’s the point in providing clean water for Africans, if they’re just going to spend eternity in hell?”), that Jena moved further away from “Corporate Christianity”, but closer to Jesus.
“The greatest expression of my Christian faith was giving my whole self to ensuring that the least of these in Africa had a chance at life. If evangelical churches saw that as less important than telling people what they ought to believe, maybe I didn’t belong in the evangelical church.”
I have traveled to many of the same places as Jena (Uganda, Zambia, Ethiopia, etc) and have experienced the heartbreak of extreme poverty, starvation, disease, and corruption. On the other side of the coin, I have also traveled the U.S. extensively and have had the same encounters that she has had with evangelical churches. It can leave you…paralyzed. Afraid to dream, and afraid to doubt, but thankfully, this is not all churches, and hope arises when you see a Church abandon their corporate “growth-strategy” and replace it with a campaign to provide water for HIV orphans. Thankfully I have experienced this too.
There are few books that I can relate to the author as much as I can with Jena, and I am thankful for her honesty, transparency, and her work with the poor. I highly recommend that you buy this book here, and that you also consider supporting Blood:Water’s vision to walk alongside families in Africa.
For the least of these,
*I received a free copy of “One Thousand Wells” from Howard Books in exchange for an honest review of the book, and I do not receive any compensation from you reading this review or pre-orders / purchases of the book in any way. In my role as a Child Sponsorship Advocate, I attempt to keep my eye out for new resources, books and publications in regards to justice, missions, and poverty. I was thankful for the free copy of this book, and I hope this review shows you how I was inspired by these stories and work on behalf of the Gospel.