2008 – Edmond, Oklahoma: Steve Stewart, owner of Allied Innovation, LLC, got a call from his old high school buddy, Richard Greenly. Richard knew that Steve’s company created innovative products for the poorest people in third world countries, so Richard had a real challenge for him.
Richard Greenly and his wife Terri own Pumps of Oklahoma, a global wholesale distributor of well water drilling and pumping equipment located in Oklahoma City. In 2005, Richard commented to a friend that he would like to go on a mission trip one day. Three months later he was in China working on a solar project. The trip changed his life. He had to do something to help others.
A short time later, Richard attended a leadership conference at Willow Creek Church in Chicago – one of the largest churches in the country. While talking with the church pastor, Richard knew he had to find a way to get clean water to people around the world. In an Easter Sunday morning service in 2007, the pastor mentioned Richard’s calling. A large offering was taken for the project.
Now Richard needed to get busy. He traveled with a team to Zambia, Africa, where he discovered the urgent need for a small hand pump that could lift water 100 feet out of the ground. Upon returning, Richard called Steve.
Richard needed help on the water project he was working on in Zambia. He wanted Steve to create a maintenance-free pump, which could be used anywhere in the world and that cost less than $50. Steve’s response, “It’s not possible…but I will take a look.” He did an exhaustive search for cheap water pumps, but 10 weeks, and plenty of long days later, he had about run out of ideas.
Then, in a quiet moment of prayer, God reminded Steve of a book, The Machines of Leonardo da Vinci, he had purchased 10 years earlier while on vacation in Rome. While thumbing through the book, Steve found a drawing of a bellows-operated water suction pump, which da Vinci had designed in 1480. From that design, Steve got an idea for a simple, manual pump.
Using da Vinci’s 500-year-old design, Steve developed a hand-operated pump out of PVC pipe he purchased at Lowe’s. He used a plunger, rather than the bellows design. After several improvements, Steve had a pump that could raise water from 150 feet in the ground and pump it up to 130 feet. His cost was $25. He called his pump Access 1.2, which he named after the 1.2 billion people in the world who don’t have access to clean drinking water
At the same time Steve was developing the pump, Richard was working in his shop in Oklahoma City, creating inexpensive manual drilling equipment that could be used to bore the wells.
In 2009, Richard and Terri founded the Water4 Africa Foundation with a dream that the people suffering from the water crisis would be the ones to ultimately help solve it. Today, the organization has completed almost 1,000 well water projects in 17 countries across Africa.
Along the way, Richard discovered that charity doesn’t work. His model now requires each village to pay a small fee for the well and pump or to be trained to dig and install the well themselves. Most choose to build the wells. Because women in Africa do 65% of the water toting, involving women in projects ensures a higher level of success. Water4 has 60 teams of four drilling wells and training people to drill wells.
More than 850 million people lack access to clean drinking water in the world. Each year more than 3.5 million people die due to contaminated water supply. Richard Greenley’s calling and Steve Stewart’s God idea are creating miracles for millions of people across Africa.
“Good ideas originate in our cerebral cortex. God ideas are mysterious, magical and hard to define. One God idea is worth more than a thousand good ideas. Good ideas are good, but God ideas change the course of history.” Mark Batterson