A few months back, Harold Patterson and Bob Young took a mission trip to Kenya. They brought a two-man auger with them to dig a well in a community without clean water.
“After about 5 feet we hit some real hard shale and we could not penetrate it. So we hired four local young Kenyan men and, with picks and shovels, in six days we had the well dug,” Patterson says.
He couldn’t accept moving forward with that method, so when he returned home to Texas he built a low-cost portable drill rig. It can drill a well of up to 100 feet, features a 6-horsepower engine and is powered by gasoline — not people.
The new rig will enable Texas Baptist Men’s (TBM) 501(c)3 water ministry to drill water wells in developing communities around the globe. “Harold’s just an exceptional talent with great mechanical skills,” says Young, vice president of the water ministry.
He says there are times when people ask why they do what they do. “This gives us the opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with them, and that Jesus tells us to love our neighbors and help others when we can.”
With the help of Patterson’s rig, the ministry won’t have to walk away from its goal of providing fresh water to those without it and spreading that message.
“When you see results and you see a little boy taking a drink of clean water for the first time in his life, it’s just exhilarating,” Young says. “Tears come down your face just watching how the people react to clean water.
Patterson, a longtime member of TBM, used his experience on the Texas oil fields and 35 years as an auto mechanic to guide him through the making of the rig. The work was done right next to his house, in what used to be his auto shop before he retired. “By the time I get all of my material together, it’ll take about a week to build this drill,” he says.
He initially found a much more expensive version online, but knew he could do it himself for a lot less. “I went to one of our local [stores], bought the post hole auger and then I went over to one of our places here locally and bought the metal to fabricate the frame. I used a 2-inch mud pump on my water supply and just put all of that together.”
Affordability is important because the water ministry plans to leave a drill rig with each community after drilling the first hole. This way the people will be able to drill more wells and help others nearby. They are not to be used for profit.
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The drill rig has been tested by Patterson locally and was able to get through 4 feet of solid limestone, which is great news considering the many requests TBM is receiving for help with clean water.
“There’s a missionary couple in Nigeria that we’ve known through TBM for several years and they’ve got a hospital and an orphanage over there and they need clean water,” Young says. The water ministry headed to Nigeria on Sept. 8. That’s when the new rig made its well-drilling debut.
They expected to spend two weeks in the village before heading home and regrouping for an early October trip to India. Patterson has a second drill ready for that community and it too will be left behind for use in digging other wells.
Unfortunately, the drill rigs are about 8 feet tall and can’t be over 5 feet for overseas shipping. So Harold has had to redesign the frame to be broken down for shipment and pieced back together on site. “It’s a little bit of a wrinkle in the design of it, but I’ve got it figured out and I’ll build the next ones where it will do that,” he says.
Speaking of “next ones,” Young says Patterson’s future is looking pretty busy. “We have people, I won’t say standing in line, but a lot of people are calling us. Word gets around.”
Well drilling could turn into the main function of the water ministry in the future, according to Young, who’s been leading it for about eight years and says their focus in the past has solely been water filtration. “I’ve had people call me for years asking, ‘Do you drill wells?’ and I’d say, ‘We’re not in the well drilling business. We just do water purification.’”
Eventually, Young’s wife suggested that God might be providing the ministry with new opportunities through the many inquiries. About two years ago, he decided to explore the possibilities.
Before using the two-man auger in Kenya with Patterson, the group tried the method of pulling the rope, lifting the drill pipe up and slamming it down in Ghana. Both options were almost as strenuous as the picks and shovels.
Now they’re properly equipped. “If we didn’t have that [drill rig], we wouldn’t be in the water well drilling business,” Young says.
The next thing on the list is getting better at determining if the places requesting their help are places they can go. “We’re trying to get some companies right now to help us with geological surveys … where we’ll know where the water is and where the rock formations are and everything,” Patterson says.
And he’ll likely be the one to take on that obstacle, considering Young has asked him to replace him as TBM water ministry vice president. “The water wells have become a big portion of our water ministry and I feel very comfortable turning that over to him in October,” Young says.
Patterson was initially a part of TBM’s disaster relief ministry and got involved with the water ministry after he learned how expansive the problem of lacking access to clean water is. The old auto shop he works out of is also used for making disaster relief equipment. It’s the site of his own 501(c)3, Northeast Texas Disaster Response.
Now that he and his wife Kathy are retired, he said charity is what they do.
“Kathy and I have devoted our lives to helping people and to see this ministry go forward like it is doing, it just gives us a great feeling to know that we’re going to be able to help people, especially the children.”
Valerie King is associate editor of National Driller.