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2 years ago

The inspiring story of how Alabamians are changing the world through water


(Video above: Neverthirst, an Alabama-based ministry, is building wells in some of the world’s most impoverished places.)

There are moments in each of our lives that are pivot points — events or experiences that send us careening in unexpected directions, like pinballs bouncing off of a bumper.

For Mark Whitehead, one of those moments took place in February of 2006 during a church service in Birmingham, Alabama. Dr. David Platt, then the pastor of the Church at Brook Hills, was delivering a sermon on Psalm 67:1-2 titled “The Ultimate Disconnect.”

“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.”

In those verses, Platt explained, is a singular “truth that is absolutely critical to understanding the purpose of your life in this world. Here’s the truth: God blesses his people for the sake of his praise among all peoples.”

With that truth in mind, Platt asked the congregation a simple question. “Have you disconnected God’s purpose with God’s blessing?”

As Whitehead considered that question, he thought about the physical blessings we enjoy in the United States, and how meeting the physical needs of impoverished people in other parts of the world could open doors to meet their deeper, spiritual needs.

At that time, 1.2 billion people on Earth lacked access to clean water. If a team from Alabama could help change that stunning fact one village at a time, Whitehead thought, they could also have unprecedented opportunities to share the Gospel with people to whom they would otherwise not have access.

Neverthirst was born.

“We felt called to the hard places,” Whitehead told Yellowhammer. “It all started in January of 2008, but we did not even have a focal point for the ministry until traveling to South Sudan later that year. There are less than 50 miles of paved road in the entire country. It’s very remote. Out of curiosity, we stopped in a tiny village called Witto and asked the chief to show us where they got their water from. He took us about a mile off the road and showed us a pool of green, stagnant water. Up until that point, we were really clueless about the water crisis — even though we were four months into being a water ministry. God led us to that village and made his vision crystal clear: You can meet this massive, overwhelming need — 1.2 billion people need clean water — and you can use it as a platform to advance the Gospel around the world.”

On December 8, 2008, in the tiny village of Witto, South Sudan, Neverthirst drilled its first well.

“Seeing that project come together is hard to put into words,” said Whitehead. “The whole village knew it was coming and there were about 1,000 people there waiting for us when we returned to see it completed. It was humbling.”

That experience helped Whitehead understand how meeting people’s physical needs can break down barriers.

“When people are dying from not having water, they’re not going to give you the time of day if you just come up to talk to them,” he explained. “But when that physical need is met, they’re more apt to listen.”

To make those conversations more likely to happen, Neverthirst empowers local pastors to helm their drilling projects.

“It’s all connected to the pastors in the area,” said Whitehead. “The well gives the pastor a platform and opens a lot of doors.”

Neverthirst and other water ministries have made tremendous strides in recent years.

Since 2008, Neverthirst has completed over 5,500 projects, providing over 400,000 people with clean water. During that same time period, the total number of people without access to clean water has dropped from 1.2 billion to 663 million since 2008.

But it all wouldn’t be possible without the support of Alabamians back home, and others around the country.

“We have a lot of church partnerships, individual donors, lemonade stands, garage sales, car washes — people can get as creative as they want when raising money for clean water projects,” said Whitehead. “It can be really fun.”

Many gyms, for instance, have organized large workout events and used them as fundraisers to benefit Neverthirst. To connect it to the water ministry, the workouts included large containers full of water that could be carried or lifted while doing various exercises.

Today, Neverthirst is doing work in India, Cambodia, Nepal, South Sudan, Sudan and Chad. The goal for 2016 is to complete over 2,000 projects throughout Africa and Asia that will bring water to over 72,000 people.

“These projects make an incredible impact on the lives of these families,” Whitehead said. “Just think about the fact that, instead of spending all day finding water for their family, kids can go to school. That alone changes everything.”

And the more people here at home get involved, the more lives will be changed.

“Ultimately we want to work ourselves out of business,” he concluded. “We want to see the number of people without access to clean water go away. God has already done some incredible things, and we put it all in his hands.”


For more information about Neverthirst or how you can provide clean water solutions for a community in North Africa or Southern Asia please visit www.neverthirstwater.org

2 hours ago

A second former Prattville police officer sentenced for theft

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Friday announced that former Prattville police officer John Wayne McDaniel Jr. has been sentenced for conspiracy to commit burglary, third-degree theft, second-degree theft of prescription medicine and criminal impersonation of a police officer.

McDaniel was sentenced in Autauga County Circuit Court to ten years for each count, with the sentences being split for him to serve three years in community corrections rather than prison. The sentences will run concurrently.

“It is always serious and a sad betrayal of the public’s trust when a law enforcement officer breaks the law he has sworn to uphold,” said Marshall.

He continued, “In this case, the court considered that McDaniel acknowledged his wrongdoing, cooperated in the investigation, and assisted with information for the prosecution of others in related crimes. His sentence takes this into account, yet imposes strong controls to invoke his prison sentence if he fails to abide by the strict standards of the community corrections program.”

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In the community corrections program, defendants may serve their time outside of prison or jail but are held to stringent conditions and supervision, and upon any failure to comply are subject to immediately being sent to jail or prison.

McDaniel’s cooperation was an integral factor in the successful prosecution of another former Prattville police officer, Leon Todd Townson, who was sentenced on Monday to serve ten years in prison for first-degree insurance fraud and conspiracy to commit first-degree burglary and and three years for third-degree burglary. Townson’s sentences run concurrently.

McDaniel and Townson were both originally charged with breaking into a home in 2015, and Townson was also charged in 2017 with defrauding an insurance agency by filing a claim worth $190,000 using false information.

Marshall commended Assistant Attorney General John Kachelman of the office’s Criminal Trials Division for his exemplary work in bringing these cases to a successful conclusion. The Attorney General also applauded Special Agents of his Investigations Division and thanked the Prattville Police Department for their crucial role in the investigation and prosecution of the two cases.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 hours ago

77-year-old identical twin sisters ‘serving up smiles’ at Alabama McDonald’s

A pair of 77-year-old identical twin sisters working at a Shelby County McDonald’s restaurant has customers saying, “I’m lovin’ it.”

Maryann Byrne and Alice Moore, the twins, are so popular that a customer called WBRC urging them to do a story about the sisters, who work at the location on Valleydale Road and the corner of Caldwell Mill Road.

Byrne and Moore do every task – from taking customers’ orders, to preparing food and pouring piping-hot cups of coffee – with genuine smiles that are contagious to co-workers and customers alike.

“Those two ladies are a breath of fresh air for all the people who come in here,” customer Rod Peeks told WBRC. “They’re just amazing.”

The sisters say it all comes down to them loving to serve others and caring about the people they interact with.

“The customers are gorgeous, they really are,” said Byrne. “They’re like your family members.”

“We like to make people happy. We like to please people. God made them and we need to please them,” added Moore.

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The story gets even better. The sisters get to work with another family member, as Moore’s daughter is the general manager of the restaurant.

“They’re my superstars and I love them to pieces. Please come in and see them,” Barbara Gibbs said about her mom and aunt.

Byrne calls her sister “the twin queen,” because Moore has a set of twins and her daughter Maria, the manager, gave birth to twin boys.

Watch the entire story below:

WBRC FOX6 News – Birmingham, AL

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 hours ago

Jefferson State Community College gets grant to improve biomedical training program

Gov. Kay Ivey has awarded Jefferson State Community College $220,817 to upgrade a program that trains students for jobs in the medical industry.

The grant, provided to the state by the Appalachian Regional Commission, will be used to purchase equipment, furniture and supplies to upgrade classroom and laboratory space for the college’s biomedical training program. The program trains students as biomedical equipment technicians in both manufacturing and healthcare.

“My administration has championed job growth in Alabama, and programs like this ensure that our workforce is trained and ready for those jobs,” Ivey said in a press release. “I am pleased that this ARC funding is helping to provide better opportunities for Alabama workers.”

Thirty-seven Alabama counties are members of the Appalachian Regional Commission and eligible for grant funds.

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4 hours ago

Congratulations to all of Alabama’s Congressional delegation on their re-elections

[WRITER’S NOTE: Before I get started, let me just short-circuit 90 percent of the response to what I am about to say is going to get: No, fivethirtyeight.com was not totally wrong about the presidential election. They said Hillary Clinton was going to win the popular vote, and she did.

If you are an elected Congressman from Alabama, you are good to go in November, according to FiveThirtyEight.

The least likely winner is Congresswoman Martha Roby, who is still expected to brutalize her opponent.

This should surprise absolutely no one. Alabama is still a red state. The only blue district in the state is a gerrymandered mess that includes Birmingham and Montgomery, so Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) didn’t even draw an opponent.

The bigger story from fivethirtyeight.com is that their analysis shows two things:

1. Republicans are projected to lose, but it’s not impossible (this is better than the chance they gave Trump)

2. There are far more Solid D (188) seats than Solid R (146) seats, that means more seats for Republicans to defend, and that means less money for each one.

This could be a tough year for Republicans, but all is not lost yet.

@TheDaleJackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a conservative talk show  from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN

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5 hours ago

See where Alabama schools rank in Princeton Review’s list of best colleges

The Princeton Review has released their trademark list of the “Best 384 Colleges” for 2019 and three Alabama schools made the cut.

To compile their latest edition, which is the 27th annual, the Princeton Review interviewed 138,000 students and examined the relevant data on the nation’s colleges.

See which Alabama institutions are on the list, and why, below:

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(Note that the following sub-rankings are only done for top 20 schools in each category)

Auburn University

Best Athletic Facilities – #2
Future Rotarians and DAR – #14
Happiest Students – #19
Students Pack the Stadiums – #5
Their Students Love These Colleges – #18
Town-Gown Relations are Great – #7

Academics, on a scale of 1-99: 75

Read more about Auburn’s inclusion here.

The University of Alabama

Best Athletic Facilities – #1
Best College Dorms – #13
Best-Run Colleges – #11
Lots of Greek Life – #5
Most Active Student Governments – #8

Academics, on a scale of 1-99: 77

Read more about UA’s inclusion here.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham

UAB’s post-graduate programs really push it over the top as a premier high-education institution.

The Princeton Review highlighted UAB by saying, “At the University of Alabama at Birmingham, professors and administrators ‘care about you.'” They also boast a relatively low student-to-faculty ratio.

Academics, on a scale of 1-99: 67

Read more about UAB’s inclusion here.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn