Access to Water in Tanzania

Photography provided by Hydrating Humanity

It is easy to overlook the profound labor that's at the root of our simplest technologies and luxuries. Like water, for instance. We go about our day as usual, without giving much thought to the work that was invested -- the brilliance of the concept, the strategy of making it work, the trial and error, the implementation to make it accessible in our everyday lives. When we wake in the sleepy hours of the morning and fumble our way to the kitchen, turn on the sink and fill up our water kettles to begin preparations for our morning coffee, many of us don't think twice about the source. We don't consider where the water came from, or the miracle it is to have it accessible in our homes. We don't worry whether it is clean or drinkable. We don't journey long hours to collect it, or struggle under its weight as we carry it home. Most of us, in that early hour, miss the miracle, though perhaps a few of us catch it. 

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The simple truth is that having access to clean water takes tremendous work, and unfortunately, it isn't something that is accessible to everyone, at least not yet.  We believe in the work it takes to dig wells that will sustain life -- both in the natural and in the Spirit.  This month, we are teaming up with our friends at Hydrating Humanity to support their mission of providing clean drinking water to those who do not have access to it. 


We believe in the work it takes to dig wells that
will sustain life -- both in the natural and in the Spirit.


Join us on Saturday, January 27th as we worship the Lord and honor His vision to sustain life all over the world!  Last year we raised $40,00 in just one night, and this year our goal is to raise $50,000!  All ticket sales and donations from this Benefit Night will go specifically toward reaching people in Tanzania with clean water, hygiene education and the message of Jesus Christ.  To learn more about Hydrating Humanity and to purchase tickets for this event, click here

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Leading up to this event, we also want to inspire you and encourage you to begin digging wells in your heart with the Holy Spirit!  This week's Cultivate feature comes from Volume III: Fly High, Build Home -- our issue that focuses specifically on sustainability.  Access to Water, written by Cageless Birds staff JD Gravitt, is full of simple truth intended to open up a conversation between you and the Lord about where He wants to give you access to Himself.  He is the source, the living water, the well that will never run dry.  As you read this prompt, we invite you to get caught up in the privilege it is that our God makes Himself fully accessible to us. 


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Writing by JD GRAVITT from Cultivate Vol. III

That day Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well they had dug.  They said, ‘We’ve found water! (Genesis 26:32, NLT).

We live in a culture with a “water-bottle” mentality.  Often, we expect water to be easily accessible.  We can get whatever kind of water we want almost as quickly as we think, “I’m thirsty.”  This is quite a different mentality than that of digging your own well.  Digging a well is a time-consuming process.  It is a work of perseverance.  Dirt and dust stand between you and the water.  However, the reward of this hard work is an everlasting, dependable water source that will never run dry.  The reward is sustainability for your life.

the Holy Spirit oftentimes shows up in our lives
in work clothes and with a shovel in hand.

We miss the value of hard work, patience and faith if we approach God as solely an immediate “water-bottle” God.  There is something special the Lord does in us when we take the time to “work until completion” like He does (Philippians 1:6).  When we are thirsty for Him, the Holy Spirit oftentimes shows up in our lives in work clothes and with a shovel in hand.  He is ready to dig a well in us that takes time, but that well will sustain our thirst forever.  He is ready and eager to get involved with the mundane areas of our lives that very few people will ever see, like parenting, grocery shopping, paying bills, mowing the lawn or simply resting at home.

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David was able to stand before the giant Goliath because he had already taken the time and energy to defeat the lion and the bear (I Samuel 17:36).  He dug a well of victory in sheep fields by doing the hard work of a shepherd.  He meditated in stillness on being the Beloved of God, and he actively defended his flocks.  When he stepped on the battlefield, he accessed this “water of victory” in the moment for himself and for Israel.

Prompt: We have the chance to be like David.  Pray, “God, please help me dig my own well with you.  I accept your invitation to live a life with constant access to you and victory.  Where do I start?”  Listen to His voice.  Write down God’s response, and begin to access the “living water” of Jesus that is inside of you (John 4:14).

They Pour Forth Speech

Written by : Phyllis Unkefer
Photography by : Sydnee Mela & Morgan Campbell

Over the next few weeks, we'll be sharing various excerpts from our Cultivate series on the blog.  These writings are a gift from our community to you, in hopes that they will bring refreshing and empowerment to your heart at the beginning of this new year. You can learn more about our Cultivate series here.

This week's piece comes from our latest edition of CultivateCreativity Unlocked, Volume IV. They Pour Forth Speech was written by Cageless Birds staff member Phyllis Unkefer and is full of moving imagery. This writing concludes with a prompt to help you unlock a secret from the Father's heart, just for you. As you read this piece, may you be caught up in the Father's love for you -- may you feel more known and understood by Him than you did when you woke up this morning. 


"THE HEAVENS DECLARE THE GLORY OF GOD, THE SKIES PROCLAIM THE WORK OF HIS HANDS.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.  They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.  Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world" (Psalm 19:1-4, NIV).


It was January in Michigan.  Winter had swept over our lawns, encrusted our car windows and frozen our mailboxes shut.  Snow came like a slowly mounting siege on our driveways of which we had to shovel our way out.  It whitewashed the view in our windows, squintingly bright.  But as it fell, it brought a hushed invasion of quiet.  Snow has a way of softening edges.  It calms the outside air.  While it’s able to reach many places—the ridges of our roofs, the underbellies of our cars, the bare patch of skin between your jacket sleeve and glove—that morning’s snow and its quietude couldn’t seem to reach my mind.  I woke up with teeming thoughts.  Anxiety is a giant I’ve faced over the years, and we’d squared off that day.  I don’t remember why.  I do remember the heaviness—the tightening of stress around my collar bone and this wired restlessness in my chest.  I’d tried to push past the strain to rest with God.  I worshiped, I prayed, I meditated, I sang, but peace felt out of reach.  So I took a walk.

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Through the woods all I could see were my boots overtaking each other, one after another in some kind of self-appointed race.  My lungs pushed against a wall of frozen air.  I paced, digging up my honest thoughts and shoveling them to Jesus’ feet.  When I reached the end of the trail, I stopped and spun around to see the shoe prints that had chased me all the way there.  Under the empty trees with my veins rushing and my breath rising in a haze, I leaned into my need.  I needed the Father’s voice.  I needed His relieving words to cut through to my heart.  I told Him so, with the graceless tone of an overtired child, I’m sure.  But grace is His to give.  

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Just as I was blindly reaching toward Him like a kid with outstretched arms, I saw it happen. 


Her face slipped through the bushes.  The leaves parted for her reverently, and she moved as quietly as fog lifts.  A deer.  Ten feet in front of me.  Directly in sight.  We both went completely still.  We stared at each other with held breath.  While she was uncertain of me, I was overwhelmed by her.  Slender face, pointed ears, dark eyes heavy with understanding.  Her shy loveliness drew all of my senses to one point of awestruck attention.  We stood there for a stunning amount of time in the kind of moment that makes the heart ache with gratefulness.  Then she made the first move.  She drew back through the bushes and slowly strode away.

I love miracles!  This was one.  Even more miraculous was the moment after, when I found myself at peace.  Everything had gone entirely still.  I leaned into the quiet.  It softened my edges.  I felt the Holy Spirit’s nearness as I stood in the snow, and I’m quite sure that I laughed out loud.

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On my way back up the path, the forest was all at once alive: cardinals swooping below branches, chipmunks dashing over drifts, a woodpecker drumming, a hawk hanging overhead, a thousand white leaves holding on by their stems and hovering through the forest like apparitions of spring.  Then around a corner, seven deer leapt!  Their white tails flashed into the trees, and I’m sure she was with them.  As soon as I whispered, "This is amazing," the Father answered me: "Yes.  And it’s for you."

Our Father created the earth.  Creativity is language for the heart.  Our human hearts speak through what we make, and this is no less true for the heart of God.  The Holy Spirit often asks me, "Do you hear the morse code?"  He’s pointing to the wordless messages the earth is constantly sending, the love notes the Trinity has folded up and slipped inside of everything—every maze of bark, every toucan’s beak, every manta ray’s gliding and weightless wings.  Psalm 19:4 in The Message says, "Unspoken truth is spoken everywhere."  That day in the woods, I needed to hear it—God’s heart beating through what He’d made.  I’d been clutched by the fear that I had been left alone, that Jesus was out of my reach, but He split through that fear in the calm face of a deer.  

There is a voice that has been
speaking for thousands of years

There is a voice that has been speaking for thousands of years, vividly shouting truth about the Trinity.  It’s creation itself!  It speaks, not only in unlikely, holy moments with deer, but in each ordinary day.  The Father’s orchestration of weather patterns declares His utter capability.  His ink strokes on a beetle’s shell announce that He’s full of detailed care.  The underground layers of earth proclaim from beneath our feet how wisely He can build the foundations of our lives.  And the wild beauty of it all rings with the fact that He loves our delight.  We ought to take it all personally.  It’s all from His heart.  It’s all for us.

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Prompt:  Think of something in nature that you’re drawn to—a landscape, an animal, an element—and write about it in free form.  After this, ask the Father to tell you a secret about this part of creation.  Journal His voice.  Take this secret personally.  It’s from His heart.  It’s for you.

Thank you! We Completed the Art Barn!

We did it!  With your help we raised all the funds needed to finish our stunning new building just in time for our 2017 school! This building has been one of the biggest gifts and upgrades our school has ever received, and we are astonished by how huge of a help it’s been to our students and staff.

This building has revolutionized our school. It has given us the space we need to facilitate our teaching sessions and worship nights.  It’s taken the strain off the Farmhouse and made space for it to exclusively serve as our dining hall.  It’s given us another meeting place for small groups and collectives, provided counseling rooms for one on ones, and perhaps the biggest area it’s served us is in giving our students the space they need to engage visual creativity in Art Class.

The Art Barn has become the hub of the land. It’s where we’ve gone to the depths of worship and come back up for air with swing dancing parties and movie nights.  This space has marked our students’ lives as they’ve learned to pursue sustainability and build friendship with Jesus.  When they think back to their 18 Inch Journey, they’ll remember the Art Barn and the endless ways they encountered the Father there. You have changed their stories by your generosity, and you continue to change ours. Thank you for partnering with us and sowing into the dream of the 18 Inch Journey!

As we close our discipleship season, we are looking ahead and are so excited about the ways the Art Barn will serve our staff in the creative season that’s coming.  This building will give our creative teams space to meet and dream into the books, videos and creative projects we’re releasing.  It will relieve our cramped studios and give our teams space to facilitate meetings.  It will make way for our design, photography and videography teams to work simultaneously while staying inspired.  Already, we can anticipate the gift that the Art Barn will be to our staff and we can’t wait to share the creative products and projects that overflow from it with you!