Change Makers

A family on mission to end the global water crisis

An American family poses with a Kenyan girl in Kenya.

As Shayla and Bryan Moffitt walked through a village in Kenya with their children, Addyson and Cayson, they couldn’t help but be amazed at all God had done the past three years.

The “family on mission” — as they call themselves — was far away from their Liberty, Missouri, home, but still felt as if they were with family when they met their two sponsored children, Lucy and Patrick, and reunited with Maurine, a Kenyan girl about the same age as 11-year-old Addyson.

A family walks in Kenya.
Addyson and Maurine walk about 2 kilometers from Maurine’s house to the place where Maurine used to collect dirty water. Cayson, Shayla, and Bryan follow. (©2019 World Vision/photo by Chris Huber)

The family has learned what saying yes to God’s calling can do as they’ve run several Global 6Ks, half-marathons, and full marathons with Team World Vision, a group of people who run to raise funds for World Vision’s clean water work.

“When we say we’re a running family, we are kind of crazy,” says Shayla, 40.

But their passion has led to experiencing God in new ways and building unexpected friendships.

“We’re enjoying the blessings of watching our children do incredible things,” says Bryan, 43.

While their story is unique, it’s also an interconnected circle of saying yes to God that has resulted in them raising more than $130,000 to help provide clean water to children and families in Africa.

“It’s an incredible story that keeps growing,” Shayla says. “That’s where it’s cool to just step back and let God work. We would have never dreamed four years ago that saying yes for me running would be this impactful. It’s a great reminder that a simple yes can make a big impact.”

The first yes

Growing up, Addyson enjoyed listening to her parents read her stories from the Bible. When she was 6, she decided she wanted to follow Christ.

“At that age, I started reading the Bible all by myself, and I started understanding his words more,” Addyson says.

She asked her dad if she could become a Christian. Bryan said he’d talk to her mom, and they would talk about it as a family the next day.

Shayla had grown up in the church but had walked away and recommitted her life to Christ when she was 26. Bryan was 29 when he came to know Christ.

“We have this life transformation as adults,” Bryan says. “So when Addy came to us and said, ‘Dad I want to give my life to Jesus,’ I didn’t want it to be that ‘my friends are doing it, so I’m going to do it.’” They wanted to make sure she understood what that meant.

The next day, Addyson woke up asking if her parents had talked about it yet, and Bryan said they’d talk about it as a family before bed.

“By 5:30, she’s ready to go to bed,” Bryan says laughing.

When her 8 p.m. bedtime rolled around a couple hours later, they asked why she wanted to follow Jesus. She explained that she knew she was a sinner, Jesus had died for her sins, and she wanted to spend eternity with him.

“When I was younger, you would read the Bible to me, kind of a picture Bible, and it was fine and everything, and I’d look at the pictures,” she says. “But it wasn’t until I started reading the Bible myself that I learned who Jesus is.”

The wisdom in his young daughter’s heart surprised Bryan.

“That right there — if every adult in the world could hear that statement,” he says. “What a profound statement from a 6-year-old. In my heart, I knew she understood what it meant to be a follower of Christ.”

Beyond believing in Jesus and understanding the gospel, Addyson could see what it meant to have a relationship with Jesus.

“It’s believing and worshipping him,” she says. “Everything you do is for him. It’s living each day for Jesus and that he has a plan for my life.”

Little did the Moffitts know that they would quickly find out what God’s plan was for Addyson — and their whole family.

A family smiles in their running jerseys.
The Moffitt family regularly runs the Kansas City Half-Marathon with Team World Vision. They consider running, while fundraising for clean water projects, a calling and way to serve God and be on mission together as a family. (Photo courtesy of the Moffitt family)

The second yes

As Shayla sat at church one Sunday in 2016, the speaker challenged everyone to run with Team World Vision. She felt a pull on her heart to do the 2016 Kansas City Half-Marathon.

Bryan had started running in 2006 and ran his first marathon in 2007. He has since completed 50 marathons in 48 states, aiming to do one in every state. At his encouragement, Shayla had taken up running shortly after Addyson was born as a way to get some fresh air and clear her head as she navigated the uncharted waters of parenting.

She had even run a half-marathon in 2015, but that experience was terrible. On race day, it was about 82 degrees with 100% humidity. She says, “At the start of the race, I just told myself, ‘I am never running again. This was a bad, bad decision!’”

The event itself did nothing to convince her otherwise.

“It was not a great experience at all,” Shayla says. “This half-marathon was not 13.1 miles. It was nearly 14 miles. They had not calculated that too well.”

Shayla wholeheartedly believed her half-marathon days were over. But she couldn’t deny what God was asking her to do. She felt compelled to give running another chance.

“There’s something greater than ourselves,” Shayla says. “Sometimes we get wrapped up in what feels good for us and the comforts we have. That sermon was challenging us to live with open hands of generosity and with open hearts. When you are at a place where God starts to speak to you, and you open your heart, amazing things happen.”

She decided to sign up for the half-marathon. Because she doesn’t enjoy running alone, let alone long training miles, Bryan suggested she join the Saturday training runs with the Team World Vision group from their church. She agreed and began meeting them each week. There, she met incredible people who encouraged her.

“Mile after mile, it just became very clear to me that I needed to sign up and run with this team,” she says. So she made it official and joined Team World Vision.

The third yes

A few months later, the Moffitt family sat at the team dinner on the eve of the 2016 Kansas City Marathon. They listened to Michael Chitwood introduce his sponsored child, Maurine, from Kenya and talk about the effect that clean water has on her and her family.

As Addyson, then 7 years old, listened, the Holy Spirit planted a dream in her heart: see every kid have clean water in her lifetime.

Michael, who helped found Team World Vision, also spoke about how child sponsorship helped fund World Vision’s water work around the world. Addyson looked around and saw all the picture folders of children who needed sponsors.

“I grabbed all of them and said, ‘Mom, we have to sponsor all of these kids. It’s not fair for them!’” she says. “I looked at each and every face. I knew that they wanted someday to be sponsored and somebody to help them. I just wanted to help them.”

But Michael also talked about the children who still walk an average of 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) to get water that is often contaminated with life-threatening diseases.

“I didn’t feel that it was fair that they had to go do that,” Addyson says, “and I only have to go to my kitchen sink or refrigerator to get clean water.”

So she told her mother she wanted to run the half-marathon next year and filled out a card indicating her intention to do just that. Addyson’s heartfelt inspiration impressed Shayla, so she agreed.

A girl holds a pen and fills out a card.
Addyson Moffitt signs a “yes” card to commit to running the Kansas City Half-Marathon in the next year. She signed up because she was moved by the need for clean water in Africa. (Photo courtesy of the Moffitt family)

“When we got home, she was very adamant about it again,” Shayla says.

The next day, while the family watched Shayla run, Bryan noticed Maurine and her brother on the other side of the road. He pointed them out and encouraged Addyson to say hi. She was nervous because she wasn’t sure if Maurine would understand anything she said, but she decided to take a chance, and the two girls hit it off.

“After I met her, I realized that she is just like me,” Addyson says. “There might be a culture barrier and a language barrier, but it didn’t stop our friendship from beginning.”

Throughout the rest of the race day, they played and laughed as if the two were long friends. Addyson most loved playing tag with her new friend.

“I was amazed at how fast she runs because I thought I was pretty fast at that age,” she says with excitement.

The next day, Addyson got to play with Maurine more when she and Michael spoke at the Moffitts’ church. The girls played more tag, hide-and-seek, and just laughed.

An American girl and a Kenyan girl smile together.
Addyson Moffitt and Maurine, a girl from Kenya, hit it off and formed a friendship at the 2016 Kansas City Half-Marathon. (Photo courtesy of the Moffitt family)

“If the world could experience what Addy and Maurine experience of the love they have for each other, it would be a much better place,” Bryan says.

When the two girls were about to part for what they thought could be forever, Addyson gave Maurine a small stuffed kitten as a parting gift to remember her by.

Shayla could see the impact the new friendship was having on her daughter, and she says, “Shortly after meeting Maurine, learning of her story, and Africa being huge on her heart, Addy told me, ‘Mom, you know that I’m going to live in Africa someday.’ And I’m like, ‘Whoa, pump the brakes. Let’s get you through elementary school before you move out.’”

The fourth yes

When they returned home, Bryan and Shayla continued to educate Addyson and Cayson about the water crisis. They used resources on World Vision’s website to talk to them about it, and Addyson and her father counted all the points in their house that provide clean water. There were at least 30. The more she learned, the more passionate Addyson became.

A girl stands at a sink.
Addyson Moffitt at a sink at World Vision East Africa regional offices in Nairobi, Kenya. (©2019 World Vision/photo by Chris Huber)

“I wanted to help those kids because they don’t have 30 places of water,” Addyson says. “They have to go walk with a 40- to 50-pound jerrycan, on average, 3.7 miles.”

In the weeks that followed, Addyson peppered her mom with questions: When does training start? When can she start fundraising? How can she fundraise?

“That’s when we knew it was real,” Shayla says. “It wasn’t just a 7-year-old who had an inspiring evening.

“This is where, as parents, we try to control our kids and maybe slightly persuade them in one way or another, depending on how we feel about a situation. This was something that we just let God take Addy’s heart. … Why should we snuff out this dream? Why should we squash this dream because this girl is dreaming big?”

Instead of deterring their daughter’s dreams, Shayla and Bryan went to God in prayer and asked him to lead them as well as their daughter as she embarked on this dream.

So Addyson began fundraising with an initial goal to raise $1,310 to represent the 13.1 miles she’d be running.

She started with Santa. As she climbed on his lap at her local store, she surprised him and asked to skip the presents under her tree and instead receive donations to help provide clean water. That Christmas, she received $100 instead of gifts. A couple of months later, her birthday came around.

A girl smiles with her birthday cake.
For her birthday, Addyson requested donations to her Team World Vision fundraising page instead of gifts. (Photo courtesy of the Moffitt family)

“My parents always tell me to be different in life,” Addyson says. “So I wanted to be different and ask for donations instead of birthday gifts.”

She received $200 in donations from her friends. To continue her fundraising efforts, Addyson also made and sold bracelets. She and her family helped bus tables at a local pizza restaurant as part of its community outreach night and earned about $500 each time they participated.

As they began fundraising, Bryan thought back to others he knew who had raised $3,000, $5,000, or even $10,000. “I remember thinking back to those moments when they would share all these different monumental goals … and thinking there’s no way. How in the world could you ever raise $10,000?”

Even when Shayla had run the 2016 half-marathon, she only raised about $100. The couple wasn’t sure if their daughter could meet her goal, but they were willing to help her along the way.

Faith-stretching moments

One of the ways Addyson fundraised was by walking around her neighborhood with Bryan as he carried a full jerrycan of water weighing about 50 pounds. They went door to door and asked people to help relieve their load — so they could help relieve the load of children — by making a $20 donation in exchange for a cup of water poured out. People asked lots of questions, so it gave Addyson a chance to talk about what she was doing and educate others about the global water crisis.

On the second night, as they walked around their community, they were both sore and exhausted, and Bryan suggested it was time to turn in for the night but that they’d keep walking each night until the jerrycan was empty. But Addyson insisted they empty it that night.

“It was probably at least still a quarter full,” Bryan says. “I said, ‘Addy, it’s going to take a miracle for this jerrycan to be emptied tonight. We’re going to have to pray.’”

He asked her if she knew how big a mustard seed was. She replied that she didn’t. Bryan explained how God can take faith the size of the tiny mustard seed and use it to answer our prayers and do big things. The two knelt down in the middle of the road, and Addyson waited in silence for her dad to pray.

“I just sat there with her,” he says. “After about 10 seconds, she looks at me and says, ‘Well aren’t you going to pray?’ And I said, ‘No, I’m not. You are.’ She prayed this prayer of “God, I know you can do this. You continue to move mountains.’

“When Addy prays, we always joke that she’s got a direct line. When Addy prays, things happen.”

An hour and a half later, the jerrycan was empty.

As the weeks went on, Addyson hit her initial goal and told her parents to raise it to $3,000. She hit that and told them to raise it to $5,000. Again, she passed her mark and told them to raise it to $10,000. Bryan says, “There was no question. There was no fear of what if we don’t hit that goal.” She trusted and prayed that God would continue to bring the dollars in.

A girl holds up a sign saying she's raising money for clean water efforts.
Addyson Moffitt holds up a fundraising sign in 2018. She and her family have raised more than $130,000 for clean water. (Photo courtesy of the Moffitt family)

The family broke her fundraising goal up into more attainable smaller goals. As a family, each week they prayed for a set number of donations or a set amount to come in.

“We just break it up into chunks,” Bryan says. “When you look at a goal as $10,000 or $20,000, or $60,000 like last year, you can get overwhelmed. But if you break it up into little goals along the way and just chip away at it, you look up every once in a while and say, ‘Oh my goodness, we’ve raised $5,000 in the last few weeks.’”

Seeing Addyson’s fundraising efforts touched Bryan and Shayla.

“When Addy started fundraising, she would share her story so boldly with neighbors and family and friends and classmates,” Shayla says. “It opened our eyes to inviting people into that story because we were so walled off, and we didn’t ask for people to donate that very first year (2016). It’s been very humbling to look back, and shame on us for not inviting people into the story.”

Motivation rises

While Addyson was fundraising, she also had to begin training, and even in that, the family on mission was in it together. They got the recommended schedule, which had them set to begin running the week of the family vacation in Minnesota. But they were in it together, and the Moffitts ran around their hotel’s property each day.

“We did it as a family,” Addyson says.

Before her training, Addyson had done some fun runs, but she had never run this far. As her training miles increased, she built up stamina.

Addyson says, “Even when I felt tired, I just thought of those kids and thought, ‘Those kids want me to keep pushing, and they want me to keep going and keep helping them.’ I always remembered those faces, and I always remembered Maurine. I would use Maurine as my motivation.”

By the time the half-marathon arrived in October 2017, Addyson had raised more than $20,000. On race day, she was thrilled, but nervous too. “I only ran 10 miles before that,” she says. “I hadn’t run 13.1, so I was a little afraid.”

As she walked around the Team World Vision tent, people were puzzled by her. They asked how old she was and if she was running the 10K. She politely responded that she was running the half, and they’d respond with encouragement.

Despite her nerves, she fed off the energy of her Team World Vision teammates and all the people who were cheering her on as she ran every mile.

A young girl holds up her half-marathon finisher medals.
Addyson finished her first half-marathon in 2017. She has since completed four. (Photo courtesy of the Moffitt family)

“There was so much people supporting me,” she says. “There was so many people cheering for you. I put my name on my jersey, and so people were just shouting out, ‘Go Addy! Go Addy! Keep going, Addy!’”

She finished the race, but she wasn’t done yet. She immediately decided to do the half-marathon again in 2018 “because, you know, we can’t stop fundraising and running until the water crisis ends.”

Running with purpose

In spring 2018, the Moffitt family ran the Global 6K for Water together for the second year in a row — and it was Cayson’s first 6K after running several 5Ks.

“It’s always been a family experience for us,” Addyson says.

 

A family shows their participant medals at a race.
Bryan, Shayla, Cayson, and Addyson Moffitt smile for a photo at the 2018 World Vision Global 6K for Water. The family ran the race together to help raise money for clean water projects. In 2020, they plan to participate in the global virtual event due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo courtesy of World Vision)

Global 6K participants walk or run the average distance — 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) — that women and children walk for water in the developing world. Every race bib features the photo of a child who will receive clean water through World Vision’s work, so everyone knows who they’re walking or running for.

A girl runs in a race.
Addyson runs in the 2018 World Vision Global 6K for Water. A 6K is the average distance people in developing countries walk for water. (Photo courtesy of the Moffitt family)

The unique distance spurs educational conversations about the global water crisis.

“You always hear of a 5K or a 10K or a half-marathon or a full marathon,” Shayla says. “When we would share with our friends and family, ‘Hey, we’re running a 6K this weekend,” it was a great opportunity for them to say, ‘What’s a 6K?’ It was just opening that door for a conversation.”

But when many people hear any number with a K after it in relation to a race, their first reaction is they could never do that. Addyson says, “If you put your mind to it, you can do anything.” Bryan and Shayla can empathize, though.

“I always tell people, ‘I couldn’t do it at the beginning either,’” Bryan says. “Whether you’re walking for five minutes or to the mailbox and back, start somewhere.”

You prepare by sacrificing your time to walk or run. As you do that, Bryan says to think about why you’re doing it because God will honor your heart and meet you where you are.

“Don’t let fear get in your way,” Bryan says. “You start out by walking. And after you walk for 10 minutes, you walk for 15 minutes, and the next week you walk for 20 minutes. This isn’t a situation where you say, ‘yes, I’m running a half-marathon,” and you go out and toe the line the next day.”

As the Moffitts have gotten more involved with Team World Vision, they’ve seen God work miracles even beyond fundraising goals.

“We’ve seen life-change,” Bryan says. “We’ve seen marriages restored, people freed from addictions, weight loss, health issues healed — because people are being active. God is using Team World Vision in so many remarkable ways all over the world. There are so many pieces to it, so we would just encourage people — don’t think that you can’t. Take that first step, and then let God show up.”

Shayla also encourages families to take the pressure off themselves, especially when participating in the Global 6K for Water, and not get intimidated by thinking it’s a race.

“When people hear of a 6K or a half-marathon, people, including myself, have this feeling that you have to be first, right? Or fast?” she says. “I’m not fast. I laugh about it, and I’ll say I run the speed of a turtle. But the point is that I’m running.”

And for the Moffitts, the reason they run is just as important. For them, it’s about providing clean water. And for 6K participants, they also have the chance to sponsor the child on their bib or a child like them after the race. The Moffitts sponsor two children, Lucy and Patrick, who lived in Maurine’s community. They began writing letters and sending school photos as well as praying for them and Maurine.

A girl carries a Kenyan flag.
Addyson waves a Kenyan flag at the finish line of the 2018 World Vision Global 6K for Water near her Missouri home. Addyson runs and fundraises for clean water projects because she was inspired by a Kenyan girl’s story of walking to get water. She and her family also sponsor two children in Kenya. (Photo courtesy of the Moffitt family)

“When you have purpose behind your movements or getting out there, when you find a greater purpose, then those aches and pains that you feel after running or walking have purpose,” Shayla says. “A lot of people, they’re searching for their purpose. It’s not a race. It’s not who comes in first. It’s not who has the best time. It is finding purpose and knowing that when you move one foot in front of another, you are impacting a life clear across the world that you will never ever know about.”

As Addyson’s purpose grew brighter and the 2018 race approached, donations to her fundraising page soared. By the time the 2018 Kansas City Half-Marathon arrived, she had raised more than $40,000 that year alone, bringing her two-year fundraising total to more than $60,000.

A family shows their race finisher medals.
Shayla, Bryan, and Addyson show off their finisher medals at the finish line of the 2018 Kansas City Half-Marathon. (Photo courtesy of the Moffitt family)
People clap and cheer for a young girl after finish a half-marathon.
Addyson struts across the red carpet in the Team World Vision tent to the applause of other runners and onlookers after she finished the 2018 Kansas City Half-Marathon. (Photo courtesy of the Moffitt family)

In November 2018, she appeared on The Steve Harvey Show to share her story.

 

He surprised her by flying Maurine in from Kenya. Touched by their connection and Addyson’s story, he gifted $5,000 to Addyson’s 2019 fundraising and surprised the Moffitt family with a trip to Kenya in the spring of 2019 to meet their sponsored children and visit Maurine.

A talk show host and young girl laugh while talking on a television program.
Addyson laughs with Steve Harvey in the fall of 2018 when she appeared on his television program to discuss her fundraising efforts for clean water projects. (Photo courtesy of the Moffitt family)
A girl's mouth drops open as she is surprised.
Addyson’s mouth drops open when Steve Harvey surprises her. He flew her friend, Maurine, from Kenya to the U.S. to appear on The Steve Harvey Show with Addyson. Maurine has been the motivation behind Addyson’s fundraising efforts for clean water. (Photo courtesy of the Moffitt family)
Two people sit in a television show studio audience.
Shayla and Bryan Moffitt sit in the studio audience at The Steve Harvey Show while Addyson appeared on stage to discuss her clean water fundraising efforts. (Photo courtesy of the Moffitt family)
An American girl and a Kenyan girl embrace in a hug.
Addyson and Maurine embrace in a hug as they greet each other on The Steve Harvey Show. The girls became friends at the 2016 Kansas City Half-Marathon. (Photo courtesy of the Moffitt family)
An American girl and a Kenyan girl appear on a talk show with a television host.
Addyson and Maurine talk with Steve Harvey on his television show. He surprised them by sending them to Universal Studios together, donating $5,000 to Addyson’s clean water fundraising efforts, and sharing that he was sending Addyson and her family to Kenya in the spring of 2019 to see the fruit of their fundraising efforts and visit Maurine. (Photo courtesy of the Moffitt family)

A life-changing experience

As the Moffitts prepared for their trip to Kenya, God continued to provide opportunities for Addyson to share her story. On one of several visits to the doctor as they received the necessary travel vaccinations, the receptionist asked why they were in so often. Shayla looked down at her daughter and said, “Addy, do you want to share your story?” As she did, the receptionist was overcome with emotion, saying, “I wish there was more people like you in the world, Addy.”

Fast-forward a few months, and as Addyson and Cayson’s spring break began, the Moffitt family set off for Kenya.

As they entered Bartabwa, people welcomed them, celebrated them, and took great pride in showing the work being done in their community. As the Moffitts explained that they had come to meet Lucy and Patrick, a sense of belonging set in as community members embraced them.

Bryan says, “Their eyes would light up like, ‘You’re one of us. You’re welcome here, and please come back because you’re part of our community.

“Sponsorship is so much more than just sponsorship. You’re empowering a community.”

A Kenyan man and an American man exchange gifts.
Bryan exchanges gifts with his sponsored child’s father. (©2019 World Vision/photo by Chris Huber)

The Moffitts arrived at Lucy and Patrick’s home, and butterflies fluttered in their stomachs, but their nerves were soon eased.

“When I walked through the gate of the homestead, and we saw Lucy and Patrick, that’s when it connected for me,” Bryan says. “They were no longer a picture on a packet. They were real-life children that were so full of joy.”

Adults laugh and talk with Cokes.
Shayla and Bryan talk with their sponsored children’s parents at their home in Kenya. (©2019 World Vision/photo by Chris Huber)

Lucy’s family welcomed them with bottles of Coca-Cola, and Bryan used it as a moment to teach his children about hospitality. He explained to Addyson and Cayson how loving and welcoming the families were. Despite never meeting in person, they hosted their family like they had been family for years. The parents talked and visited as the children played. As excited as Addyson was to see Maurine, she says her favorite part was meeting Lucy.

Two American kids and two Kenyan kids pose for a photo.
Cayson, Patrick, Lucy, and Addyson smile for a photo while visiting with each other in Kenya. Cayson and Addyson’s family sponsors Lucy and Patrick. (©2019 World Vision/photo by Chris Huber)

“That doesn’t mean I don’t love Maurine any less, but it was really cool to meet Lucy because I’ve always loved writing back to her and knowing that she’s a girl about my age; she’s a girl in Kenya,” Addyson says. “It was exciting to hold her hand and walk around her house and to see how proud she was that somebody believed in her and somebody cared for her, even though we’re so far away. She had so much joy that we were there.”

Lucy’s whole family brimmed with joy as they proudly showed off their home and how things worked.

An American woman and a Kenyan woman do chores together.
With guidance from Lucy’s mom, Fridah, Shayla learns how Fridah prepares meals for her family. (©2019 World Vision/photo by Chris Huber)

“Lucy’s mother, Fridah, had stations set up around their homestead to show me how she prepares meals for the family each day. She was so excited to share that with me,” Shayla says. “We instantly connected as mothers of young children. It was like we were two moms having a coffee date. Plus, I will never forget the view. Their home overlooked the Great Rift Valley with one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen.”

“They’re a family just like my family,” Addyson says. “We could connect because we were one big family coming together.”

When it was time to leave, Bryan recognized a look in Cayson’s eyes. “He looked at me like, ‘What do you mean I have to go home now?’ It was no different than back home,” Bryan says. “When I saw that, I knew he had connected with Lucy and her siblings.”

An American boy and a Kenyan boy high-five.
Cayson high-fives another boy while visiting his sponsored children’s community. (©2019 World Vision/photo by Chris Huber)

In addition to meeting their sponsored children, the Moffitts visited with Maurine and her family. Addyson and Maurine picked right up where they had left off, playing and laughing.

“I’ve always wanted to see her house, so it was really cool to be there and spend time and experience what it’s like to be here,” Addyson says.

A Kenyan girl and an American girl hug.
Maurine and Addyson reunite in Kenya. The two girls have been friends since meeting in 2016. (©2019 World Vision/photo by Chris Huber)

They also visited a girl named Anita and walked with her and her classmates to get water for drinking at school. The walk entailed going several miles, down a steep cliff-like hill, all while carrying a jerrycan.

“It was hard for me to realize that they have to do this because there were lots of rocks and thorns,” Addyson says. “They’re not wearing running shoes like we’re wearing. They’re wearing sandals that they can get poked with. … They could get a thorn in their foot or fall on the rocks. The rocks wobble a lot, so it’s not safe to be on them, so it made me sad that they have to do that.”

And on the way back, the children carry a full jerrycan of water too, making it even more treacherous. As Shayla watched Addyson and Cayson walk with Anita to get water, tears started streaming down her face.

Two girls walk down a steep hillside.
Addyson, right, and Anita walk to get water. The path has cliffs and steep hills as it winds down into a canyon. (©2019 World Vision/photo by Chris Huber)

“That was a breaking point for me emotionally,” Shayla says. “The first thing I kept thinking was, ‘This is not fair; this shouldn’t be.’ There is opportunity for clean water, and it put this drive in me even more that I will do something because it just wasn’t right to watch these kids Addy and Cayson’s age fetch water — dirty water, water that bugs were swarming on top of. It was murky; there were tadpoles.”

Seeing the water affected Bryan too. Water that he wouldn’t even touch, the kids were gathering to take back to drink later. “It was heartbreaking to see, and for the kids, it was normal,” he says. That moment sparked the fire in his heart for this cause.

“We can end this,” he says. “That’s what’s motivating our family. This isn’t a story of ‘please donate a few bucks to help these kids in Africa — let’s rally together because we can end this!’ … It’s not just ‘these kids need clean water because it’s refreshing.’ It’s life.”

A family poses in the window of a water kiosk.
Maurine, left, and the Moffitt family in a water kiosk in Kamulot village while visiting the water project. The Moffitts were able to see water projects like those that their fundraising efforts have helped create. (©2019 World Vision/photo by Chris Huber)

Saying ‘yes’ leads to change

The past four years have been a whirlwind for the Moffitt family. Coming back from Kenya, Addyson was more motivated than ever. She and Maurine again appeared on The Steve Harvey Show to talk about their visit together in Africa.

A group of people stand on the set of a talk show with giant ceremonial checks.
The Moffitt family and Maurine appeared on The Steve Harvey Show for the second time in early 2019. Steve donated $10,000 more dollars to World Vision. (Photo courtesy of the Moffitt family)

She went on and raised $70,000 last year while she trained for and ran the 2019 Kansas City Half-Marathon last fall. She has now run four half-marathons, and Shayla has run nine. Addyson is now running club cross country and club track, which gives her an opportunity to share with peers the motivation behind her running. Even Cayson, at age 7, is getting into running with his family. Together, the family has raised more than $130,000 for clean water since the end of 2016.

“We are a family of four that’s on mission,” Shayla says. “We’re on mission for God. We’re on mission for others. We are on mission for hope.”

A family poses with their finisher medals at a race finish line.
The Moffitt family poses for a photo with their finisher medals at the finish line of the 2019 Kansas City Half-Marathon. By the end of 2019, the family had raised more than $130,000 in four years for clean water projects. (Photo courtesy of the Moffitt family)

Bryan adds that hope is found in the gospel message.

“The ultimate reason why we all do what we do and why World Vision does what they do is for the gospel,” he says. “It’s to provide eternal hope for these families and children. It’s also to provide hope on Earth with food, shelter, education, water, and safety, but ultimately, it’s for somebody to experience the hope of Christ. The moment that we’re defined by something other than being a follower of Jesus is the moment that we need to check our heart.”

Shayla and Bryan are careful to make sure their family doesn’t lose sight of this as they continue running, fundraising, and ultimately as more people learn of Addyson’s story.

“Why Addy runs, and why we do this as a family, there’s a lot of work for all of us that we put in, and it’s enjoyable, but there’s a burden,” Bryan says. “There’s a burden because there are kids dying every day because of the lack of clean water.

“We’ve been able to connect the fact that our kids were born in Liberty, Missouri — we didn’t choose that. Maurine didn’t choose to be born in a village in Bartabwa, Kenya. We connect the pieces and tell people that are fundraising, ‘You’re a piece of the puzzle. We’re all a piece of the puzzle.’”

Addyson says it takes each person saying yes to what God asks them to do in order for the puzzle to all fit together.

“If Michael didn’t say yes [to sponsorship], then Maurine wouldn’t have come, and then I wouldn’t have heard her story,” Addyson says. “If my mom wouldn’t have said yes to running the Kansas City Half-Marathon with Team World Vision, then I wouldn’t have met Maurine. We wouldn’t have been at the team dinner.”

A girl stands with her half-marathon finisher's medal.
Addyson displays her 2019 Kansas City Half-Marathon medal. This was her fourth half-marathon. (Photo courtesy of the Moffitt family)

Addyson won’t run the Kansas City Half-Marathon this year, but she is planning to run in the virtual Global 6K for Water with her family again this year on May 16.

“As we continue to raise money for vulnerable kids in Africa and all over the world, we are constantly reminding ourselves of the ‘why,’” Bryan says. “While we love running and love the Team World Vision race weekend experience, the true joy comes from providing for the kids. We raise money because we are providing an opportunity for someone else. … By having a virtual race, you can run the race from your house, on your own time, together as a family.”

The $50 entry fee for the virtual event provides clean water that lasts for one person. Participants also have the option of fundraising to help provide clean water for more people. The ultimate goal is to end the global water crisis.

“The work that World Vision has done, in Addyson’s lifetime, there is a great chance for her to see the water crisis be over,” Shayla says. “That’s a really cool thing to think about.”

Addyson encourages other kids to help end the water crisis and not let people belittle their goals.

“Don’t let anybody take down your big dreams,” Addyson says. “People might tell you that you’re too young, you’re too small, but don’t listen to them. Always go for your dreams.”

And she is still dreaming big. When asked what she wants to be when she grows up, she still says a missionary in Africa.

A girl looks off over a valley.
Addyson looks out across the valley in Kenya. She dreams of being a missionary in Africa when she grows up. (©2019 World Vision/photo by Chris Huber)

“You could drop Addy in a village in Africa, and she would fit in,” Bryan says. “It’s a calling on her life, which is really exciting to see how God is using her at such a young age already. It’s been amazing to have a front row seat to her story.”

Regardless of how much money the Moffitt family raises or how many races they run, one thing is certain: They will continue to keep Christ center of their family on mission.

Bryan says, “We’ve turned this over to God saying, ‘God, we’re letting you lead us, and we’ll follow you wherever you take us. Open up doors, open up opportunities, and bless the children that are getting clean water. Bless these families that don’t have to walk anymore. And may more people join the story.’”

Chris Huber of World Vision’s U.S. staff contributed to this story.

How you can help

  • Learn more about how you can be part of the movement to end the global water crisis by 2030.
  • Join us in prayer that more and more communities would get access to clean water.
  • Walk or run the Global 6K for Water on May 16, 2020, and provide life-changing clean water to one person in need. You’ll get a race bib with the picture of a child who’s benefiting through World Vision’s water projects!
  • Give a monthly gift to provide clean water to communities in need. Your faithful support will empower kids and families around the world to create lasting change.

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