Pack Your Bags!

      After the Holiday season, January seems to be a month of hunkering down, and settling into a new year. But f you’re anything like us, as it gets deeper into February, you are starting to dream about the end of winter, warmer weather, and vacation! So where are you planning on going this summer? Haven’t decided yet?
We’re busy planning and preparing for our trips to Ethiopia, and we’re inviting you to come with us and do something a little different with your vacation this summer. Come travel alongside our team in exploring the cities, experiencing the culture, and witnessing firsthand the impact clean water is having on this amazing country and its people.


We’re blessed to have partners on the ground in Africa to oversee the ins and outs of our well projects. Two or three times a year, we get to travel to meet with these in-country partners, view progress, and celebrate completed wells. The best part is that we get to take people like you along with us. We’re continually blown away by the generosity that we experience from the people who donate, fundraise, and contribute to funding these wells. We do our best to help you feel connected to the process with photos and stories, but there is nothing that can compare to having the experience for yourself. So, we are intentional about opening our trips to travellers who are interested in our mission and in supporting our beneficiaries. We believe this can be a powerful experience, but you don’t have to take our word for it. Krista was one of our interns who traveled with us to Ethiopia and Uganda this past summer, and here’s what she had to say about her experience:

“It’s hard for us to imagine not being able to turn on the faucet and brush our teeth. Or not being able to press a button to wash our clothes. We can’t fathom what it would be like to never have the chance to bathe or shower. We run 5K ‘fun runs’ not realizing that people across the world walk that every day just to get a dirty, yellow, plastic can full of water that may or may not make them ill. We can’t picture ‘drinking water’ with dirt swirling, and worms swimming around. These people can. In fact, that’s all many of them know.
During 3 weeks in Africa you can meet a lot of (amazing) people, learn a lot about a vast array of topics, and visit a lot of project sites (39 to be exact). You can drive a lot of bumpy roads, kill a lot of bugs, take many bush stops, dance often, laugh a lot, and celebrate the gift of life that is clean water. You can start to get to know and love a culture and a country (or two), but what you can’t do is come home unchanged.” 


Every trip is special and unique and we can’t begin to imagine what a trip will mean to you. What we do know is that there’s truth in what Krista so eloquently states: “I couldn’t truly capture this experience and what it has meant to me in an infinite number of words, but I can let it change me.” So we invite you to come with us this summer to see how it changes you. Please reach out to us at for more information, and we hope to see you soon. 


We're Ready for an Exciting 2017

Happy New Year! Yes, we know we are nearly a month in, and the timeline for the greeting has passed. However, with our first blog post of the year, we wanted to welcome you accordingly.

At Water to Thrive, we’re in full swing getting ready for an exciting year ahead. So, we wanted to take a moment to formally invite you to come on our journey with us this year. It’s going to be full of excitement and possibility, and we want each of you along for the ride.


This year we’re excited to provide regular blog updates, so you can keep up with all that we have going on here in Austin, the U.S., Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Uganda. We are able to bless people with the life-giving gift of clean water, because all of you have blessed us. It is with this grateful heart that we embark on the endeavor to keep you up to date on all the ways your generosity is impacting others, both near and far. We plan on having lots of fun along the way too!


If you‘ve been following our Facebook and Instagram accounts, than you already know that we have three trips currently in the works. If you didn’t know, here’s what you missed:


  • We are thinking about visiting Germany to experience some of the celebrations for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, and then on to Ethiopia. This trip would take place in the latter part of May to early June, however, for this trip to be viable, we will need at least 9 travelers.


  • The second trip of the summer will be 2-3 weeks in June or July. We will travel to the Tigray region of Ethiopia and visit many of our completed projects, as well as some yet to be constructed wells.


  • Finally, we have been working on a Global Grant for ten Rotary-sponsored well projects in Ethiopia. In November, we would love to take a group of Rotarians along with us to experience firsthand the impact that Rotary is having on people across the globe.


If you're interested in our 2017 trips, please email us at, and follow our accounts to stay up to date. You can also find more information about these trips in our January Newsletter. We’re excited to have some of you along, while the rest of us stay connected virtually through our Travel Blog.


We are so excited to share with you what is certain to be an exciting year! Check back regularly for updates, stories, travel posts, and so much more. As always, please feel free to share our posts with your friends and family. We want to partner with you in educating, and inspiring, others about the work God is doing through clean water in rural Africa. Looking forward to connecting with each of you again soon... Here we go!



Follow our new Travel website!

 Our executive director, Susanne Wilson, and outreach and communications coordinator, Jazzy Schwolert, are in Ethiopia for a few weeks, traveling to water projects and meeting with in-country partners. This is Jazzy's first trip to Ethiopia, and on our travel website, she is sending blog posts that capture her experience. We hope you will join us at as we follow her days.




New Travel Site!


Hello, friends!


Our next group of travellers, led by our Executive Director Susanne Wilson, has arrived safely in Ethiopia and has begun their journey to visit some of our wells.

To keep up with their trip as well as other trips in the future, check our new travel site: You can also subscribe to get email updates when we post something new. Just click on the "follow" button on the bottom right-hand corner of the screen and submit your email. Now you'll get the latest right in your inbox. 

On the new blog we will post stories, pictures, and updates for each of our trips. We hope you'll join us in following along on these adventures!



Jazzy Schwolert
Water to Thrive
Outreach and Communications Coordinator

June 5: Last Day in Ethiopia!


The morning is filled with sharing the worship service at the first and one of the largest Mekane Yesus congregations in Ethiopia, founded in the early 1950’s. In a beautiful, simple sanctuary that seats about 300, the service started sharply at 10:00 am, and the pews were packed to overflowing by 10:30. The service concluded about noon.



Mekane Yesus Choir


One of the joys of the morning was hearing the congregation’s choir sing 4 songs. Beautiful!  We also witnessed a baptism and got to hear a young, enthusiastic intern from the seminary preach the sermon.


Water to Thrive has had a working relationship with Mekane Yesus – Development and Social Services Commission (DASSC) since 2012. This arm of the church does community engagement and support and we have implemented over 100 water projects with this partner.  After the service, we met with national leadership of the DASSC as well as representatives of the 3 synod DASSC organizations with whom Water to Thrive is currently working.  We continue our discussion over a nice lunch nearby.


During lunch, the skies opened up with heavy rain (and a little hail too!)… put a little damper on some last minute shopping before heading to the airport but everyone managed to get everything taken care of.


As you read this, the majority of the group will be winging its way back to Texas…..the Moellers and Kolanders will be heading to Tanzania for another week of adventure.


As we draw a close to this week, it is important to acknowledge those who have helped make this possible….

-        The members of Triumphant Love who so generously supported the Celebrating Wells of Love campaign to honor our Pastors and build more wells

-        Pastor Norb Firnhaber who authored our wonderful devotions each day

-        The staff and leadership of our partners at Relief Society of Tigray and Mekane Yesus-DASSC

-        And of course Johannes and Alem with Diversity Tours


Blessings to all who helped make the journey through Ethiopia such a memorable experience!


- Dick


June 4: Back in Addis



We said goodbye to our driver team at the Mekele airport to board Ethiopian Air flight for Addis……they have been terrific. Leaving behind some awesome experiences and memories in Tigray. It is a nice 737, so a short flight of about 45 minutes…..same as Austin to Dallas. By noon, we had checked into our hotel and were ready for a leisurely afternoon.


Alem and Pastor Steve sampling the “dark” beer tower

Not far from our hotel is the Beer Garden Inn….a combo German-owned hotel and brew house. We walked over to have lunch……and a few beers!

Enjoying Lunch at Beer Garden Inn

Oh yes…..we had lunch too…..the menu included Bratwurst, Wienerschnitzel, spätzle, Jagerschnitzel……not exactly your typical Ethiopia fare…….enjoyed by all.

This afternoon, we were supposed to visit one of our deep bore hole projects, Gadamba, located on the outskirts of Addis. But the traffic had other plans for us.  It was a Saturday afternoon gridlock in Addis, and after sitting in traffic for nearly two hours and not even out of the city yet, we decided to abandon our attempt.  Everyone had a free afternoon for naps, walking, and shopping.

The group ready to try the Ethiopian specialties

For the evening, we are entertained at the 2000 Habasha Cultural Restaurant……a great sampling of Ethiopian food and dance from all regions of the country.

Pastor George with St. George, the patron saint of Ethiopia, on both the icon and the bottle

Oh yes, St. George made a surprise visit to our evening!


Finally, we were entertained by some awesomely talented dancers. Then it was off to the hotel for a good night’s sleep before our last day.



June 3: Mekele

After a pretty intense day of walking and driving yesterday visiting our new projects……today is a more leisurely trip from Gheralta Lodge to Mekele over great paved roads.

Gheralta Lodge, Hawzien Ethiopia
The Lodge is a beautiful Italian oasis in the middle of our trip. Homemade pastas, organic vegetables, and a great staff.  This time we were lucky, we managed two nights at the Lodge before heading to Mekele.
Morning devotion overlooking the valley
Early this morning, we walk up to a nearby cliff overlooking a valley and mountains. A beautiful view that reminds us of God’s gift of creation. From this inspiring spot, we take the time to share our devotion of the day provided so eloquently by Pastor Norb Firnhaber.
The group with staff and Principal of Negash Primary School (grade 1-8)
We had a great stop at the Negash Primary School.  Everyone in the group had brought along schools supplies for the Principal to distribute to the students as need. Highlight of the stop was sitting in the Grade 1 class and hearing the student sing in English and recite the numbers and alphabet, unprompted in English.
Wukro Kirkos Rock Church
Further down the road to Mekele, we stop in Wukro to visit the Kirkos Rock Church.  This church is partially carved in the rock and the other part is more traditional construction. This church is 200 years older than the rock churches in Lalibela that we visited earlier.
The Revolution Monument Honoring the Guerilla Fighters
After checking in at our hotel, we take time to visit the Moument honoring the Guerrilla Fighters who initiated the revolution to overthrow the communist regime. The revolution began in 1974 and ended in 1991 with the overthrow of the government. The movement began in Tigray and by the end of the civil war it is estimated that more than 500,000 Ethiopians lost their lives.
Dinner with REST staff and leadership
Tomorrow morning we head to Addis, as our trip is winding down. So tonight we share a farewell dinner with the staff and leadership of Relief Society of Tigray (REST). As always, they have been incredible hosts and an invaluable trusted partner since we began our work in Ethiopia 8 years ago. Always great to see old friends!
- Dick


* You can now also view each blog post on our new travel site located here.

June 2: Blessing of the “Celebrating Wells of Love” Projects

Today we journey to the field to see firsthand the result of Triumphant Love’s campaign over the last 6 months.  We set out to visit and bless 5 of the 6 wells funded by TLLC honoring the pastoral leadership of our congregation. Two of the wells are completely finished (Afkarma & Denba Kiremti) and 3 projects (Adi Egam, Hartafa, and Netsa) are in various stages of completion.  All 5 of the projects are hand dug wells (HDW). This was actually a nice happenstance because it allowed the group to see various stages of the construction process.


At each of the project sites, the Pastors and Bishop engaged the community members and workers in prayer and blessed the well for the health and prosperity of the community. Each of the wells dedicated today honored Pastors Dan (Denba Kiremti), George (Afkarma), Norb (Adi Egam) and Steve (Hartafa) and Bishop Ray (Netsa) for their pastoral leadership of our congregation and synod.


Celebrating Wells of Love Travel Group

After a pretty challenging walk of about one hour, the group arrived at the first site, Afkarma, honoring Pastor George Reswick. The picture above is the whole group, with our REST support team. Special thanks to our drivers, who keep us safe and comfortable on our journey.



Pastor George collecting water at Afkarma

After prayers and blessing of the well, Pastor George joined the community in pumping and collecting water from Afkarma.



Coffee Ceremony at Afkarma

Our beloved coffee ceremony is never far away…..a great way to keep our energy up!



Construction of Adi Egam

Our next stop was Adi Egam, honoring Pastor Norb Firnhaber. It was at the earliest stage, with the work crew still working to line the well with stone and masonry.



The Plaque Honoring Pastor Norb

The plaque shown above will be affixed to the well head of Adi Egam upon completion. Pastor Steve conducted the dedication and blessing of the well.



Construction of Hartafa

Our next stop on our walking journey was Hartafa, honoring Pastor Steve Troisi.  A bit further along in the construction, all of the below ground work had been completed and the above ground preparatory cement work had been finished as well.



Pastor Steve and Weredekal celebrating Dedication of Hartafa

Pastor Steve shared prayers and the blessing of the well with the workers and community members.



Construction of Netsa

As you can see from the picture above, Netsa, honoring Bishop Ray Tiemann, is almost complete.  The inside cement work had just been completed, awaiting the placement of the pump head.  The beautiful protective stone wall surrounding the project was almost finished.



Bishop Ray with the Plaque for Netsa

Bishop Ray shared prayers and the blessing of the well with the workers and community members….as well as a nice collection of cattle and sheep who also were present!



Pastor Dan collecting water at Denba Kiremti

Our final stop for the day was Denba Kiremti, honoring Pastor Dan Kolander. Before the prayers and blessing of the well, Pastor Dan shared a special message for the members of Triumphant Love, which we will share with the congregation upon our return. Pastor Dan then joined the community in pumping and collecting water from Denba Kremti.



The community members of Denba Kiremti with our travel group

The community members joined in our group photo at Denba Kiremti. Of course, the children love to have their picture taken and then see it on the camera display!



We were a bunch of tired travelers when we returned to Gheratla Lodge to enjoy a delicious St. George's cold one! But it was an exhilarating and motivating day to see projects of the Wells of Love campaign come to life and to share in the hospitality and thankfulness of communities benefiting from God’s great blessing of clean water.  


- Dick


* You can now also view each blog post on our new travel site located here.

June 1: Axum to Hawzien

Today we make our way south from Axum to the area around Hawzien, where we will stay overnight at the beautiful Gerhalta Lodge. On the way, we will visit two project sites funded by Triumphant Love (TLLC) in 2008, Ketin Serdi and Kontebatib, both hand dug wells (HDW).  Also, time permitting, we plan to visit current a project site for 2016, Kuhale, a spring development system nearing completion.


Adwa Mountains

It is about a four hour drive to Hawzien, on good paved road that winds its way through the Adwa Mountains near Adigrat. The road has many switchback turns as it works its way up and down the mountainside, producing many beautiful vistas down into the valley below.


Weredekal with his Father (103 years young)

As we enter Adigrat, we have a nice surprise. Our main contact at REST is Weredekal, who is with us on all the visits to the project sites. As it turns out, many of Weredekal’s family live in Adigrat.  We stopped by to meet his father, 103, who greets us with a hearty “Good morning, how are you?” in perfect English. Weredekal is one of 18 of his children! An amazing man.


Time for a break

We managed to work in a coffee break in Adigrat as well!


Ketin Serdi Project Site

A short time later we arrive at our first project site, Ketin Serdi, a HDW constructed in 2008, and then later at Kontebatib, also constructed in 2008. In speaking with the water committee members and guard at each site, we find a similar experience as yesterday.  These sites have worked continuously since 2008, serving their surrounding communities, with only a few minor repair issues, handled by the water committee.  Both had a bank account for maintenance. We did discover a worn bolt and bushing at Kontebatib, but fortunately, the REST technician had the necessary tools and spare parts, so it was remedied in about 5 minutes.


Signage at Kontebatib

The signage at our early projects were all large paint sheet metal signs, and of course the outdoor elements take their toll on the signs. The one for Kontebatib is shown above with Weredekal, Bishop Ray and Pastors Dan, Steve and George.  Weredekal is pointing to the Amharic version of “Triumphant Love Lutheran Church”…..notice the 2000 in the lower right of the sign….the Ethiopian calendar is 8 years different, so it really was 2008 by our calendar.


Women fetching water at Kuhale

We made it to our third site for the day, Kuhale, a spring development project.  The project is located about a forty minute walk from the road, up a steep incline. Really spectacular view of the valley below when we reached the project. The project is almost complete, but has progress far enough so that the community can begin using water from the spring reservoir.


Tomorrow is a big day as we will be visiting the 2016 projects that are funded/constructed as part of the “Celebrating Wells of Love” campaign for TLLC!


- Dick


* You can now also view each blog post on our new travel site located here.

May 31: Back to the Future!

At each community, we witnessed and heard the amazing transforming power of water and its positive effects on the communities. All of these projects have been in continuous operation since they were constructed. The 4 wells represent 24 years of combined operation managed by the community!

-        At Adinifas Melhis, there is now a primary school within 5 minutes walking with 350 children that was constructed 3 years ago… has 350 students and 7 teachers, grade 1-4

-        At several communities, farmers are now constructing their own open wells for irrigation to increase crop yields

-        All of the water committees continuously operated since completion with 3 women and 3 men and all had money in the bank for repairs

-        We heard firsthand accounts about the impact of reduced illness in the community and increased attendance in schools, especially for girls

-        None of the projects had any significant maintenance issues, 2 had none at all and 2 had minor issues that were repaired by the water committee.


When we started W2T, this was the hope and prayers for our communities we serve……today it truly felt like we returned back to the future to witness the results in reality. What a blessing for these communities!


Greeting by the school children at Adinifas

Not only at Adinifas, but in each community we were greeted enthusiastically and gratefully……children singing, men and women clapping, popcorn flying in the air, breaking bread together, sharing God’s blessings with each other.



Community members at Mai Kuha

We had a wonderful opportunity to engage with the community at each site.  To hear their personal stories about how the blessing of clean water had changed their lives and the community for the better.


3rd Grade Class at Adinifas Primary School

As usual, the children were everywhere……curious about these visitors, practicing their English, fetching water, singing and helping to guide our way on the walk to and from the Regah project site.


Water committee at Dare Bezy

The water committee members are responsible for the sustainability of the projects……they oversee the operation and maintenance. They are elected by the committee, but volunteer their time.  Only the guard is paid a small amount to open and close the water site during collecting times of the day.


Jerry Can Queue at Regah

Our last stop at the end of the day, the gracious people at Regah were awaiting our arrival to express their gratitude for the project. They enthusiastically filled their jerry cans during our visit……more than 20 of them!


Coffee Ceremony at Regah

One of the great experiences with communities……enjoying the coffee ceremony in the field for social time. Oh so good!


More tomorrow……visiting projects constructed in 2008.

- Dick


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