Stillwater News Press

July 27, 2013

Stillwater delegation returning to African nation to dig water wells

By Chase Rheam
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — A man with an idea to help those less fortunate is getting the chance to continue in his quest with an upcoming mission trip.

Ed Long said the inspiration came as a kid when a man from the Congo in Africa visited his church.

“In 1944, one of the bishops from that area came to my little church in Garber and told the story about the need of dairy animals, so if the mothers got sick they had fresh milk to feed the babies, and some oxen so women wouldn’t have to haul grain to town on their heads,” he said.

A self-professed “farm boy,” Long said he felt compelled to get involved. Growing up, he planned to become an agricultural missionary and make the trip to the Congo to lend a hand. But as time passed, the plans never materialized — until another fateful moment made him reconsider.

Long said he was involved in an automobile accident with his grandchildren and former wife in 2001.

“It, a Lincoln Towncar, rolled end over end five times,” Long said.

All four occupants survived. Following the incident, his brother made two observations — the seatbelt he was wearing saved him and God must have had something planned for him to do. The words stuck in Long’s head and reminded him of that idea many years ago.

In 2005, Long, along with family and other members of the First United Methodist Church, made the trip to the Katanga Province, located in the southeast part of the Congo.

The road was littered with potholes and mud. The economy was poor, but the educational community was growing with students attending the local university. The trip provided Long with many memories.

“We were painting in one of the rooms where one of the professors lived,” he said. “No running water. There was a chicken sitting on a nest of eggs and I painted around the old hen because that was going to be protein one day. I wanted to protect that. That’s how primitive it is, but some of the most happy people you’ve ever seen in your life.”

The mission station, which had been there for years, had a water system and electricity. However, only a select few other homes had water lines.

On another trip in 2011, Long traveled with Shida Henneberry, an Oklahoma State University professor in the College of Agriculture and International Studies.

“We took with us a memorandum agreement to OSU President (Burns) Hargis and (the president of the local university) to sign where there can be an exchange of students back and forth,” Long said.

Long will go on his third trip Sept. 30. However, the goal of this trip is one of education and nutrition.

Among the group will be a representative of Water4, an organization dedicated to instructing Africans how to drill wells and provide their communities with access to clean water.

The group, with a $5,000 gift from Stillwater Frontier Rotary, was able to purchase the kit needed to drill the wells. The kit can drill 50 wells in its operational lifetime. Parts needed cost $1,000 a well.

“One well will serve a village of 300 people,” Long said.

He relayed a story of mothers walking for miles to visit the local clinics because of issues arising from drinking unclean water the community shares with livestock.

“The organisms are so horrible that half the babies die by age 6 because of basically water-born diseases,” Long said.

The creation of these wells could save many lives.

The missionary group hopes to drill two wells during the trip — an estimated two weeks. But it hopes local residents contribute in any way they can.

“If God will bless us in a way that enough people would give money to make it possible for them to continue drilling after we are gone, 50 wells at a cost of $50,000,” he said. “Individuals or churches could have their well, a $1,000 well.”

Long said while strides are being made in education and seminary work in the Katanga Province, there’s more work that must be done now to provide a healthy water source.

“I grew up farming and ranching and when the wire breaks, you have to fix it,” he said. “You don’t want more cows to get out. You can’t just sit and cry about it.”

To donate money toward the wells, residents may drop off monetary donations to the First United Methodist Church c/o Congo Water.