In the first section of “One Thousand Wells,” we begin to understand Jena’s sheltered childhood and what evolved from her early life in the Bay Area and Colorado. Her first experience with poverty marked her life forever, and it was not experienced in Africa. Instead, it was something most see daily in Union Square–a homeless man begging for someone to feed him. She searched for the man after she boxed up an uneaten burger that her mom got her for lunch, but she never saw the man again.
That life event ultimately flamed Jena’s desire to effect change in the world. She was even voted most likely to devote her life to a lost cause by her high school classmates. She found faith while following her grade-school friend’s Jewish family customs and experienced Christ while reciting prayers, working at a homeless shelter, and listening to a Jars of Clay CD lying on her bedroom floor.
After beginning her college career as a nursing major, Jena developed a special interest in the HIV/AIDS crisis and the stigma and effects it has on a community, specifically communities in Africa. She changed her major to political studies and later found a common passion in the band she had listened to growing up, Jars of Clay, through the introduction by her personal mentor, Dr. Steve Garber.
The lead singer of Jars of Clay, Dan Haseltine, had a strong desire to mobilize their audience to start a movement for clean water and HIV/AIDS care in Africa, and this fueled Jena to write a 25-page plan to engage college students across the country with the help of Jars’ success as a band. The mission of Blood:Water was born through the intersection of Jena and Dan’s revelations–identify Africa’s hidden heroes and partner with them in their vision for change to end the HIV/AIDS and water crises. Immediately after graduating, Jena packed up her belongings and moved to Nashville to begin the journey toward one thousand wells.
- The thing about lost causes is that they’re only lost if you leave them behind. If you stay in there, if you keep hoping in action, if not in feeling, if you listen to how circumstances are shaping your calling, you discover they are not lost after all. (Prologue, xvii)
- If we believe that we are not better than a hungry man on the sidewalk, if we believe that the death of someone else’s child is not different that the death of our own, if we believe that sensitivity to injustice is imperative, then we should be outraged when we look at the world. (7)
- Among the homeless, I had found my home. (21)
- Dan [Haseltine] observed that more than twenty years into the pandemic, fear, judgment, and stigma still surrounded those with AIDS. This was especially true in the American church, which was slow to address something that demanded an immediate and compassionate response. (43)
- We can’t just drill wells. We have to work at the grassroots level to make sure there is ownership. If we want to facilitate lasting, honest change, we have to do things that other charities don’t bother to invest in. And we have to care more about the people than the numbers. That gives people dignity. (59)
- We watched other organizations pass us by like motorboats on waves of success and grandeur. But we moved slowly, if we moved at all, enabling one community at a time to join us. The relationships we forged with African communities and with the Americans who funded the work were what made the journey worth anything–and that made arriving at the destination so sweet. (65)
Questions to Ponder
- After an eye-opening experience with a homeless man in San Francisco, Jena feels convicted at an early age to help those who are less fortunate in the world. “What is it about childhood perception that makes us able to see right and wrong for what they are?” What changes as we move into adulthood?
- Jena speaks of her early devotion to Christianity and how it helped her as she struggled to fit in with the cookie-cutter teenage persona. She even humorously shares an account of the way her faith protected her from “decades of pop culture.” In what ways was Jena’s faith a “safety zone,” and how did it shape and prepare her for her role with Blood:Water?
- Discuss the analogy of an organization being like a motorboat versus a sailboat. What do you think is the most important aspect of this philosophy for an organization to follow?