Oregon, Missouri — just 80 miles north of Kansas City — has a population of 837, and the average attendance at Oregon United Methodist Church is 64.
This rural farming community knows the importance of water. That may be one reason why members donated $55,000 in 2022 to build wells in Mozambique.
The other reason is that one church member, Arnie Kreek, took up the cause for building wells in Mozambique, considered by many as the second poorest nation in the world, where more than half of its 33 million people lack ready access to safe water.
He explains that the first well built by the church was in 2015 when individual donations and memorial gifts provided enough money to build a well in honor of Glenn Waller, the chair of the longtime mission at the church who died in 2012.
In 2021, Kreek’s wife, Kathy, was diagnosed with brain cancer and died in February 2022.
He decided that investing $9,000 to build a single manual well in honor of Kathy would be a worthwhile use of some of her memorial funds.
Then, others in the congregation heard of his plans, and they, too, wanted to help. Larry and Marcia Kurtz asked for memorial funds to build a well in honor of his mother, Emma Lou Kurtz, and another to honor her mother, Ethel Sommer.
Three hand pump wells are now bought and paid for. Each can provide water for an estimated 950 people. Each helps those people to avoid having to walk several miles a day to get clean water. Each honors family members in remarkable ways.
At that point, Kreek set his sights on a larger target — a solar well with a price tag of $28,000. Those setups typically allow clean water to be pumped into a tower for storage and piped to nearby homes in the community. The funds those residents pay for water help to sustain the operation.
Then began months of fundraising breakfasts and special offerings.
His Sunday School class was the first to prepare a pancake and sausage breakfast. After that, two other classes held breakfasts. In the end, each breakfast event netted around $1,000.
“It’s wonderful how supportive the entire membership has been,” he said, and attendance at each event was strong.
As a farming community, he observed about Oregon, “people understand the value of water.”
Importantly, he believes the congregation has a good understanding of the impact of these wells. The Missouri Annual Conference launched the Mozambique Initiative in 1986 under then-Bishop Ann Sherer. Since then, it has grown to provide significant support for that nation.
Oregon United Methodist Church and Forest City United Methodist Church — a second church in this charge — for years have supported the pastor and church at Mucodoene and sponsored a seminary student.
As the year drew close, Kreek secured additional memorial funds to reach the solar well goal. When the final check was mailed to the Mozambique Initiative office at the Missouri Annual Conference, the total donated in 2022 by this small community was significant by any measure.
According to Lucas Endicott, the U.S. Mozambique Initiative coordinator, the Oregon-Forest City charge was the fourth highest donor in the Missouri Annual Conference in 2022.
Endicott said, “We are talking about Oregon giving as much as churches running up to 2,000 a week in worship. Honestly, the generosity has been amazing.”
Kreek said, “To me, it was a healing process to help me get through the loss of my wife.”
More than that, though, “it’s a blessing from God,” he added. “These wells are that exact thing.”