The task sounded impossible. How could a room full of die-hard Texan bikers be convinced to support children they would never meet to solve a problem most Americans couldn’t imagine?
For Fort Worth Harley-Davidson store owners Mark and Jennifer Smith, it just took a few sips.
If you aren’t comfortable with me drinking dirty water, then you shouldn’t be comfortable with anyone drinking it.—Jennifer Smith
At a meeting to present the couple’s idea for a ride to raise funds for more World Vision-drilled wells in Africa, Jennifer improvised. She carried a clear mug filled with dirty water, sipping as she told those gathered about the need for clean water in developing countries. A few hours earlier, Jennifer had asked Mark to get her dirty water. He and their children added dirt from their backyard to the cup.
“I watched them get more and more uncomfortable the more I drank, and I could see it sink in,” Jennifer says. Her message was clear: “If you aren’t comfortable with me drinking dirty water, then you shouldn’t be comfortable with anyone drinking it.”
And so, the annual Water4Life Ride was born. Four years later, more than 450 bikers participate, and thousands of kids now have access to clean water. The events have raised more than $166,000 to date.
Riders include men covered in tattoos and leather and housewives wearing pink tops studded with rhinestones. The Smiths aren’t surprised.
“This is something everyone can connect with,” Mark says.
The couple first got a glimpse into the world’s need for water when they read World Vision U.S. President Rich Stearns’ book The Hole in Our Gospel. Jennifer says reading about how 2,000 children die needlessly each day from disease-infested water was a very personal call to action. She thought immediately of her own two children.
“I couldn’t imagine having no choice but to give my babies water that would make them sick,” says Jennifer, who became sick herself after she drank the dirty water that day.
Their passion has taken the Smiths to rural Africa to see the need for water firsthand. Now they are inspired to live with less so others can have more.
To Mark and Jennifer, one of the greatest rewards is seeing how God uses their talent and position as the owners of one of the most successful Harley stores in the nation.
“God led us to use our business to help children without something as simple as clean water,” Jennifer says. “We encourage others to use what you have to make a difference in the lives of the poor and vulnerable in this world.”