Alabama church partners with African missionaries

When Greg Tinker became pastor of Saragossa Church of the Nazarene 18 years ago, he asked for what would have been his salary to be given to missions. 

"Our goal became from the very beginning to give away half of whatever came in — to be mission minded and give to others," Tinker said. 

Because of this, the church and its outreach have grown. The church regularly gives to a number of local outreach organizations in addition to World Evangelism, and they have been heavily involved in Haiti missions.

“We are so blessed to have a pastor and church on the district with such a passion for missions,” said Greg Story, Alabama North district superintendent. “They are committed to both local and foreign missions. I have never seen a church with such a compassion for others that motivates them to find ways to help. They are a true blessing to others.”

In May 2017, Tinker met Nazarene missionaries Wellington and Helen Obotte, a Kenyan-born couple who work throughout Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The Alabama churches offered to partner with the couple by purchasing a vehicle to help them travel between the countries. 

The Obottes also had some construction needs concerning a three-building conference center in Malawi. Saragossa sent a seven-person team 5-21 July to join other Nazarenes in working on the second building. The church later sent more funding to help complete the work. 

Word came on 2 October that the building had been completed, and $40,000 will be raised in November and December by the church for constructing a third conference building to give African ministers a Bible college education since most don't have transportation and have to find options within walking distance.

While working there in July, they noted Christians there have been told they can only use some wells if they joined other non-Christian faiths. 

"So, it is water through coercion," Tinker said. "The Christians have been basically marginalized — pushed out."

He said having wells gives the people clean water to cook, drink, and clean with — something Americans take for granted when they turn on the water faucet. 

"As we thought about it and prayed about it, God impressed upon us we needed to be involved in drilling wells where water is free, and people are not coerced in any way," Tinker said. "They can come to the well, they can receive water for free, but we would drill them by a church so that when they come to get the physical water, they can also receive the living water of Christ.”  

He brought the idea of funding the 10 most important wells to his church and to fellow members of a Bible study group. Both groups enthusiastically agreed to help. 

The cost of each well was $6,000. Several individuals gave $8,000 each to add to an already established account, and three wells were drilled immediately. Another man approached Tinker directly about the situation. 

“The man took out his checkbook and wrote a $5,000 check,” Tinker said.

Tinker predicted that it would take until May 2019 to raise the money — funding about one well per month. Now, in the span of roughly two months, almost $50,000 has been raised. 

"Six wells have been drilled and are functional," Tinker said. "The money has been sent for wells seven and eight, and we are on our way to well number nine. Out of that already, there are people coming to Christ. One church has been planted as a result of that."

Technically, $10,000 more is needed for the current project, but Tinker and the Saragossa Church have no desire to stop once that money is raised. 

"What we hope is that this will keep going, that 10 won't be the ending point," Tinker said.

All the money raised goes directly toward drilling the wells since there is no overhead on either end of the process due to the Saragossa Church covering the transaction fees. 

Tinker said he had received one video from Wellington during the drilling process where he witnessed the excitement of an 8 or 9-year-old child. 

"When they really hit water and it gushes out of a well, [the child] starts doing a happy dance," Tinker said. "I told my church, that one scene makes it all worthwhile to see how excited that boy was. He's not going to have to walk to the river. He's not going to have to walk to the lake. He won't get tainted water." 

Tinker said the church hopes to continue working with the Obottes. The church is hoping once they finish raising the money for the wells and the third conference building that the church can go back to Malawi to conclude the construction and celebrate the grand opening.

“We are so proud of the Saragossa Church and their passion for missions and serving Christ,” said Casey Faulkner, Alabama North district missions president. “They provide such a wonderful example for all the churches on the Alabama North district by supporting their local community as well as global missions. Pastor Greg Tinker and the Saragossa congregation are an inspiration.”

--Adapted with permission from the Daily Mountain Eagle