As intense rain crashed down onto the barge fashioned just for him, forcing him to lay flat on the raft’s surface for nearly 40 hours, Todd Phillips found solace in the mission behind his bold decision.
Phillips is the founder and director of The Last Well, a faith-based nonprofit dedicated to bringing clean water to Liberia, one of the world’s poorest countries, by 2020. But water is just “a tool.”
“We tell people we’re an evangelistic organization that uses water as a tool to share the Gospel,” Phillips told Faithwire during a phone interview Thursday from his barge. “We see water as a tool. So the place is Liberia, the tool is water, but the goal, of course, is the Gospel.”
The mission to bring water — and the Gospel — to Liberia was birthed in 2008, when Phillips was leading a church in Washington, D.C. The young congregants, Phillips said, wanted to have a “first man on the moon”-type moment for their generation.
At the time, they decided the audacious goal should be accomplished Dec. 31, 2020. It took the group 10 years to reach about two million people and now they have roughly 27 months left to reach the final million.
Phillips stressed that any money donated to The Last Well goes 100 percent toward bringing water to the people of Liberia, noting his salary and the overhead costs are covered by private donors.
So in the push to meet the goal, the modest team at the Christian nonprofit decided to make a splash, literally.
“We decided to put me on a barge on Lake Ray Hubbard, which is the source of drinking water for East Dallas,” Phillips explained. “So I’m floating on the drinking water source of a massive city here in America to raise awareness for the need for clean water in Liberia.”
Phillips started living on the barge on Oct. 10, right before one of the worst rain storms of the season came through the area, and plans to remain on the lake until The Last Well has raised enough money to reach half a million people in Liberia with clean drinking water.
The storm Phillips weathered lasted four days. The rain and wind was so severe, he recalled, “the banners on our barge were ripped off completely from the commercial-grade trussing,” the raft was shifting “six to eight feet backwards and forwards,” and water was cascading into his battered tent, where he had been laying for nearly 40 hours.
“At one point, I went to the port-a-potty — I crawled into the port-a-potty in the middle of the storm and got inside of it just to stand up and brace myself, just so I could be physically upright after those 40 hours,” he remembered. “It was very intense.”
But all of it has been worth it, because it’s “created a lot of awareness for the story,” the mission to bring clean water to Liberia. The “suffering” he has endured during his weeks on the barge, Phillips said, “is nothing compared to what the people of Liberia deal with on a daily basis.”
Every night, at 7:30 p.m. CST, Phillips goes on Facebook Live to give an update about how much money has been raised and what life is like on the barge. On Thursday, Texas state Rep. Justin Holland (R) joined The Last Well founder out on the lake.