Most of us have encountered a person who has changed our lives for the better. Perhaps it was a teacher, co-worker, supervisor, coach, significant other (Mary Frances in my case), mentor, et al. I've been blessed to have had a number of such people, foremost among them Mary Frances, my parents John and Ruth, and my sisters Ellen and Ann.
Today I remember a man who changed my life for the better - Bill Ashe. In fact, Bill has been responsible for having had a positive effect on the lives of thousands of women, men, and children around the world. When someone praised him he would just smile and say that he was just doing the Lord's work and serving solely as a tool. His humility was genuine and inspiring. It's a rare quality in today' world.
So what's so special about Bill Ashe? First and most importantly, he was a Christian whose faith was living. Yes, he founded of Limewater International the hydrophilanthropy that introduced me and many others to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene (WaSH) and how these aspects could improve the lives of people everywhere. But more importantly, he taught me and many others humility, grace, and the obligation that those of us who have been blessed have to ease the suffering of those less fortunate and make the world a better place. And do it without bragging about it or drawing attention to your good works.
So how did all this start? From LI's WWW site (in 2011);
Lifewater International has been working for three decades to provide safe water to communities around the world. William (Bill) A. Ashe founded Lifewater in the late 1970s. Beginning in the 1960s, the Ashe family took outings into Baja, Mexico, to help orphanages, camps, and churches install new water systems. The family’s water pump business was prospering in Southern California, and Bill and his wife, Lorraine, wanted to teach their children that such blessing brought with it an opportunity to give.
Surprised by the impact they were having by helping people in Mexico gain safe water, Bill began to invite other water professionals to join him on his work trips. As the outreach grew, Bill's friends began encouraging him to formalize the ministry. The Lifewater International name was established in 1977, and a board of directors was elected in 1979. Lifewater became a California non-profit corporation on April 26, 1984, and was granted tax-exempt status as a 501(c)(3) corporation by the IRS in February of 1986.
Lifewater's ministry has grown tremendously over the past several decades. Requests for assistance and training led the organization to expand from two people working in the back office of Bill’s pump repair business to a headquarters on the central coast of California with over fifteen full-time staff and a host of interns and office volunteers. The number of volunteer field trainers serving with Lifewater also grew from about 50 individuals to over 150.
With generous grassroots funding, committed volunteers, generous donors, and excellent in-country partner organizations, Lifewater has seen thousands of communities and almost two million lives transformed by clean, safe water, improved health, and the good news of God's love for all people. Since our founding over thirty years ago, Lifewater International continuously rejoices in our growing capacity to serve those most in need.
Bill and Lorraine not only talked the talk, they walked the walk. LI's core values reflect theirs.
Bill was the main reason I joined LI in 1996 and he was instrumental in promoting my acceptance. LI was an organization of evangelical Christians; I was not of that tribe. Although my professional credentials were impeccable, my religious views were considered suspect by some. Several people high in the organization did not view me as sufficiently worthy, but fortunately Bill was a firm believer in a 'big tent'. If I passed Bill's scrutiny, then I was okay. He called me one day and we spoke for quite some time. Never once did he ask me about my belief system - just my reasons for wanting to join LI and why and how I thought I could contribute. His voice was so calm and reassuring. At the end of the call he said, "Our annual conference is in Pasadena this fall. I'll be very happy to welcome you into our community." That was it, I was accepted and never did I encounter any prejudice. So I owe Bill a substantial debt, one he would neither admit nor collect.
I once told a Lifewater colleague that Bill was the closest person to a 'saint' that I'd ever met. I still believe that, now more than ever.
I recall his response when I told him of my high fever and GI distress on a trip to Panama. He smiled and said, "Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger." He sure made me stronger.
I can never walk in his shoes, nor even carry them. But I will sure try.
God bless you, Bill; I miss you already. But I know where you are, and I am very happy for you.
"Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’" -- Matthew 25:40