An 11-year-old New Jersey girl raises $10,000 to bring clean water to a village in South Sudan
As part of their family’s Christmas traditions, Andrew and Stacia Jacob give their two daughters $20 each and ask them to select items from the Samaritan’s Purse gift catalog. In 2009, they assumed their 5-year-old daughter, Emma, would choose a small gift such as a soccer ball or a brood of chicks.
Instead, her thoughts remained fixed on the story of children who got sick from drinking water out of a polluted river.
“Mama, do some kids drink dirty water?” she asked. “That’s not fair.”
Stacia remembers the moment well.“You could see the shock on her face,” Stacia said. “She knew she could turn on the faucet at any time and just couldn’t comprehend that some children don’t have clean water to drink.”
Emma asked her parents if she could buy a well from the catalog. For a 5-year-old, the $10,000 price tag was no big deal. Emma’s parents said God must have stepped in with just the right words because even they were surprised by their response.
“Yes,” Stacia replied. “You can’t buy it with the $20 that you have in your hand, but if you are willing to do a lot of hard work and a lot of praying, you can buy a well if this is something you feel God is calling you to do.”
With firm determination, Emma took those words to heart. Her parents remained committed to achieve this lofty goal. They prayed. They shared the mission project with others. They even came up with an official name: “Emma’s Hope.”
Still, no one made a significant contribution. The $10,000 goal seemed unattainable.
But Emma was resolute.“Even if we raise the money penny by penny or dollar by dollar, we will never give up,” she said from the beginning. “God will give us the strength to keep on going.”
Encouragement came about a year later, when Emma delivered a persuasive speech that produced the first sizeable donations. In addition to her home-schooling, she had been learning the art of public speaking through a program offered in their community in Jackson, New Jersey. Her hard work was starting to pay off.
The following summer, their pastor’s wife delivered some good news. During Vacation Bible School, their church adopts a missions project for the students to support. The church had designated Emma’s Hope as their project.
Emma spoke to the children and their parents, making her plea for a freshwater well that would save lives and create opportunities for the beneficiaries to learn about the Living Water, Jesus Christ.
By the end of the week, they had surpassed the $500 goal.Building on that momentum, Emma spoke at additional churches. Her largest audience was a group of more than 400 people. The offering that night—earmarked for Emma’s Hope—took in $2,000.
Instead of setting aside the funds for one large donation, she decided to send the contributions to Samaritan’s Purse as she received them. All the while she kept a running tally, making gradual progress toward the goal.
By December 2014, she was within $750 of reaching the $10,000 mark. A couple in Emma’s church donated the husband’s Christmas bonus to supply the remainder of the funds she needed—down to the penny.
Finally, almost five years to the day and after receiving hundreds of contributions, she had reached her goal.
Multiplying the Impact
The funds raised by Emma’s Hope will be used to construct a deep well, encased in concrete, that can supply potable water for hundreds of thirsty families. The well will be installed in South Sudan, where droughts have left many rural communities with sparse water supplies and no choice but to drink from contaminated sources.“When a person is thirsty or sick, they aren’t going to be open to hearing the Gospel,” Emma said during a recent visit to Samaritan’s Purse international headquarters in North Carolina. “And that’s what they really need. Once the people have clean water, then we can tell them about Jesus’ love for them.”
That’s what kept her motivated and focused for the past five years. While most youngsters may have become easily distracted or discouraged, Emma pressed on. In so doing, she has inspired others in her church, community, and within her own family to use their God-given talents—no matter their age—to help change the world around them.
Her motto is 1 Timothy 4:12: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity” (NIV).
Emma’s mother was right. A lot of hard work and prayer can lead to great accomplishments.
“I want to share that anyone, no matter how young, can help change the world,” Emma said. “It’s really simple. Identify the talents God has given you, and ask Him to use those gifts so you can do big things to help others.”