Can you remember a time in your life when something really BIG happened? Can you remember something that made you smile or shed a tear…something that maybe gave you a sense of purpose… peace of mind…or confirmed that you were on the right track in life?
Here’s my own very personal story about something very BIG. It’s the story about the deep connection between Iron Tribe and Neverthirst. It will reveal to you what both organizations are all about and how you can play a part in what we are doing around the world.
In June 2007, before Iron Tribe or Neverthirst were born, I found myself in the dump, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. I was surrounded by men, women and children who were living in the dump and scavenging in the stinking trash for … food.
God clearly spoke to me and asked me what I was going to do with my life that was bigger than just myself. I can tell you this (in that moment of God’s touch) — the vacation home, the BMW and everything I had accumulated to that point suddenly lost their luster. God dramatically shifted my paradigm.
Shaken by my experience in Honduras, I began traveling the world with Neverthirst co-founders and ITF 280 athletes, Mark Whitehead and Spencer Sutton. We visited Sudan, India and Mexico and saw the desperate need for clean drinking water. I’ll never forget walking into a dark, dirty hospital in Sudan where row after row of children were dying from diarrhea.
Then, we visited the neighboring village named Witto and saw where they were collecting their drinking water. It was from a stagnant, filthy pool of water that you wouldn’t let your dog drink from in a million years!
We felt compelled to do something about what we saw. So, in 2008 Neverthirst was born. Using the story of the woman at the well in John 4 we felt clearly drawn to connect physical water with the living water found in Jesus Christ. Our first project, thankfully, was in that village of Witto and the village now boasts 2 deep-water wells that have transformed the lives of every man, woman, and child there! Children no longer suffer painful water-borne diseases. Women are able to start small businesses and send their children to school, instead of spending hours fetching dirty water.
I met my first third-world orphans on that trip and was completely caught off guard at their standard of living and hopelessness. God firmly planted the desire in Mendy and me to adopt and bring home one of those precious little children, to live with us as their forever family.
Three years later, we returned from Ethiopia with Benjamin in tow, stood on the steps of our home and introduced him to his new family! What a blessing he has been to us and his siblings. He is now a thriving, incessantly talking 6 year old boy and we can’t imagine life without him.
Another defining moment was the first Workout for Water event, held at the original Homewood location, in August 2010. We raised enough money to build a well in Haiti! I remember being so excited to share the beautiful pictures that Neverthirst sent back of the wells being drilled, water spewing from the spout and the children dancing and drinking freely from the clearest water you have ever seen.
The next year we ran Workout for Water at our 280 location and raised over $30,000. Our ITF athletes grasped how critical the need was and stepped up in support. The money raised was enough to literally adopt 2 entire villages in India! You not only helped install 2 deep-water wells — you also helped provide latrines, hygiene training, and Biblical instruction and training.
The original Workout for Water event in 2010
One story about Neverthirst’s work in particular that stands out to me is about a pastor named Edwin who was ministering in one of the rural villages in India. He told us how much better the living conditions were in the village now and shared numerous stories of residents who had experienced dramatic health improvements. The best part is that he used to be ridiculed and beaten for trying to share the Gospel in this unreached village.
However, after the well was installed through the local church, pastor Edwin’s ministry was transformed and he said they now call him “Uncle.” People are not only welcoming to his presence but now, for the first time, they’re receptive to the message he has to share about living water found only in Jesus Christ. (He met the physical needs first so that their spiritual needs could be taken care of)
In 2012 the Workout for Water event and movement continued to grow. For the first year ever we established matching partners that gave before the event allowing their money to be matched by the rest of the tribe dollar for dollar.
After securing $50,000 in matching funds we were able to achieve our lofty goal of $100,000! That money has since been used to build 40 wells in India! I was nervous after setting such an aggressive goal that we might come up short. However, in true spirit of our Iron Tribe athletes, you rallied around the cause and we hit our goal on the nose.
In September of 2013 I was able to lead an Iron Tribe team to go see some of the 40 wells that were built as a result of the 2012 event. It was an incredible trip and we were able to experience first hand the amazing difference that clean and living water was making in some of the poorest and most “untouchable” people in the world.
In our 2013 Workout for Water, fresh off the heels of the India trip, we were able to double our funds raised! Again, the matching partners were critical as we were able to leverage their pre-event giving of $100,000 and successfully challenged the tribe to double that amount. We achieved that goal and $200,000 was raised for Neverthirst!
The 2013 Workout for Water event at Avondale Park
In 2014 our Workout for Water fundraiser continued to grow. More and more support continued to come in the form of Matching Donors. Because the Workout for Water event has been so successful for Iron Tribe, we packaged up the program for not only our Iron Tribe franchise locations to run their own event but even for other fitness facilities to run it in their own locations.
We set a huge goal of $300,000 raised and went about raising the $150,000 match from our donors first. After that was secured we were able to challenge the rest of the tribe to raise the additional $150,000 and at the end of the day $313,000 was raised for clean water projects around the world. Our franchise partners added another $97,000 to that total by the time it was all said and done!
With that money Neverthirst was able to impact the country of Cambodia in a dramatic way. Wells, rain tanks and bio-sand filters were installed throughout the country. Again, I was able to lead an Iron Tribe trip to go see some of those very projects in action. It was an awesome trip and our group fell in love with the Cambodian people and came back more convinced than ever that continuing to build our Workout for Water event was completely in line with the purpose of Iron Tribe; To Create Fitness Communities that Change Lives.
We set an incredibly aggressive goal in 2015 to raise over $500,000 throughout the brand! We had another amazing event and when it was all said and done we raised $376,000 (of which $175,000 was matching funds) in Birmingham and another $230,000 through our franchise partners for a total of $600,000 raised. Then, non Iron Tribe fitness gyms, were able to raise an additional $100,000 for Neverthirst!
In 2016 we took another Iron Tribe team back to Cambodia to see all that was accomplished from the huge 2015 event! The impact that we have had in Cambodia has been incredible and it was evident to the team as they visited project after project that had the Iron Tribe name on its sign! They came back fired up to make 2016 one of our best years yet and we were able to raise $412,000 in Birmingham and another $295,000 brand wide for a total of $707,000 raised!
This year we need your help to build the “$800,000 workout that will change the world!” We have an enormous goal of $450,000 raised in Birmingham and another $350,000 at the franchisee level to hit our highest total ever of $800,000!
The Workout for Water movement and faithful partners like you have enabled Neverthirst to raise more than 10 million dollars and develop over 6,800 water projects, serving roughly 422,000 people around the world. The Workout for Water fundraiser has become a key donor to Neverthirst and one of the primary ways that they have been able to impact these people both physically and spiritually.
Over 75,000 lives have been impacted by the incredible generosity of the Iron Tribe Community! That is truly amazing. We want to continue to expand this event and this ministry to help the more than 600 million people who lack access to clean drinking water around the world. In order to do that we need your help! Join us!
On Saturday morning May 13th of this year, not only will our 6 Birmingham locations run the event, but so will many of our franchisees all over the nation. We truly are a part of national movement to bring clean drinking water through the local church to some of the most desperate and poor areas of the world!
The only reason that our Workout for Water event has continued to grow each and every year is because of you our amazing athletes who have so diligently and consistently supported us. You have given resources, told your friends and even traveled to the field to see the results of your giving! You truly are enabling us to live out our brand purpose to create fitness communities that change lives!
I am confident there will be many more milestones, favorite moments and eternal rewards related to the Workout for Water fundraiser. And I am so thankful for your consideration to continue to partner with us in this effort. Together we will make a huge eternal difference in the world.