Modesto student plans golf tournament to help dig well in Nepal

Austin Butler, a senior at Big Valley Christian High School, has helped orchestrate Water Fore Life, a charity golf tournament that will be held at the Del Rio Country Club on March 9.
Austin Butler, a senior at Big Valley Christian High School, has helped orchestrate Water Fore Life, a charity golf tournament that will be held at the Del Rio Country Club on March 9. Water Fore Life

We may not think about it very often, but here in America, clean water is incredibly accessible.

For the vast majority of us, there’s always a faucet nearby. Away from home, water bottles or drinking fountains are in close proximity. Water is rarely considered a luxury by the average person, and most people drink their filtered glass of water without consideration of others who might not share this same opulence.

But Austin Butler is not your average person.

A senior at Big Valley Christian High School, Butler is making a mission of providing clean water to a town in need. With the assistance of the Christian-based humanitarian organization World Help, Butler, 17, has orchestrated Water Fore Life, a charity golf tournament that will be held at Del Rio Country Club on March 9. All proceeds will go to construct a clean-water well, as well as a church, for the people of Chisapani, Nepal.

“I feel like in America, we have such easy access to this water,” said Butler. “It was really shocking to hear that there are kids and adults who are lacking access to clean water when we can just go turn on the sink. And we don’t even use that water – we use filtered water.”

Butler’s interest was sparked by a video World Help posted on its website a few years ago. A nonprofit organization that aids impoverished communities worldwide, World Help has raised awareness of the need for accessible water in developing nations. The video reported that more than 1 billion people lack clean water.

Untreated water can have fatal repercussions. Globally, water-borne diseases such as malaria and typhoid lead to about 800,000 deaths every year, according to the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Chisapani’s scant monthly rainfall average of half an inch means water for its 3,000 residents is in short supply, Butler said. But the new well should be completed by the end of the year.

“From the time the funds are sent, it should only take a few months to have it up and running for people to use,” said Tom Thompson, senior vice president for World Help.

“Some people have to walk three hours to get this dirty pond water, and they have to drink it to survive,” Butler said. “I just felt like if I have this easy access to water, why can’t I help somebody who doesn’t?”

As a child, Butler was certain his dream job was to be a missionary. For the past three years, he has traveled with Big Valley Grace Community Church on its annual trip to Vicente Guerrero, Mexico, where he has ministered to young children through vacation Bible school, and constructed churches. In 2014, Butler accompanied his school’s Impact class on its mission trip to the Dominican Republic. He also volunteers his time for Love Modesto, an annual community service program, and plays guitar for his church band.

As one of Butler’s teachers at Big Valley Grace and a spiritual mentor, Aaron Filburn has been able to see the teen’s progression throughout the years. “I have been blessed to know Austin from a variety of vantage points and perspectives and have seen him grow as a young man. His love for Jesus Christ is evident in his commitment to the word of God and his love for others.”

Another close friend and adult mentor, Tim Giannosa, said he has high regard for Butler and his selfless dedication. “I met Austin at our church, Big Valley Grace,” said Giannosa. “It was obvious that Austin was a mature young man who has a vibrant relationship with God and a strong desire to help others. The way he talks, acts and lives gives everyone the correct impression that his life is about something greater than himself.”

Butler makes time for volunteer work in an already busy life. He’s participated in football, basketball and varsity golf for all four years of high school. With a 4.0 GPA and three AP classes, Butler is contending for valedictorian along with two classmates. He is very active in his church and said he loves to spend time with his younger siblings.

Through his parents, who have been involved with World Help since college, Butler has found a way to turn his love for helping others into a reality.

“Earlier this summer, I got to go to a World Help event,” he said. “While I was at the event, I learned about a ministry that they had, called Cause Life, which aims to provide clean water for impoverished communities. I just felt a deep calling by God to provide clean water.”

Butler told World Help he was interested in building a well with Cause Life. He decided to host a golf tournament to raise the money, and was approved by Del Rio to use their course on March 9.

“In order to get people to sponsor the cause, it’s better to have an event that people will enjoy (themselves) and have fun,” said Butler.

The next issue was where to construct the well. Butler and his family already had the location narrowed down to two basic geographical areas: South Asia or Africa. Both were special to his parents’ hearts, as they had taken various mission trips there with World Help.

So when World Help responded and informed them that a great need for clean water was in Nepal, the Butler family couldn’t have been more enthused.

“It was a lot of pressure at first, because if we aren’t able to raise enough money, there’s a lot of people living in Nepal that are expecting a well,” said Susie Butler, Austin Butler’s mother. “But I felt like we were supposed to do this. (Austin) really has the heart for this, and I know it’ll all work out.”

But Nepal’s rocky terrain posed a challenge. “Usually, a deep bore well costs $15,000. But since Nepal is very mountainous, you can only build a shallow well, which is $5,000,” Austin Butler said. “But I felt like I could do more.”

He decided to use the remaining money to establish a village church. “We care about their spiritual needs as well. We wanted to make sure they had the opportunity to hear about our faith and what we believe in.”

Filburn lent his support for building the church. “Water is the most basic of human physical needs … and we should meet the needs of those who don’t have clean drinking water,” he said, adding, “Each person also has a spiritual thirst that can only be satisfied by the living water that Jesus can provide. It is only through faith in Jesus Christ that ... our lives can become a fountain of living water for others.”

Butler’s faith played a major role in his interest in the project. “God was definitely the main proponent … by installing that vision and really helping me to see the need that the people in Nepal have. And I think a deep calling in missions has been another thing that’s driven me to do (the golf tournament). I’ve been able to go on a lot of mission trips, like to Mexico for the past three years. I feel like this is one way I might be able to help people and be able to tell them about my faith without having to physically go over there.”

That’s not to say Butler wouldn’t like to fly to Nepal to help with the construction of his project. “If someone were to sponsor him, then he would be able to go,” Susie Butler said.

As the senior vice president for World Help, Tom Thompson has met his share of volunteers. Back when they were in college, Thompson was close with Susie and Scott Butler through their participation in World Help.

“I’ve watched as (Scott and Susie) have taught their children to have a heart for people, especially those less fortunate than themselves. Over the years, I have seen Austin grow up and become a responsible young man.

“I am so proud of what he is trying to accomplish with Water Fore Life. Austin has planned, organized, staffed, marketed and fundraised like a pro. I have a deep admiration for young men like Austin, who try to attempt something big. It really proves their character and values.”

Butler couldn’t be more enthusiastic about the upcoming tournament. “I’m really excited (that) I get to meet with people and share my vision.

“I’m a little bit nervous,” he admitted, “but with the amount of people I’ve seen giving towards it, and with the amount of sponsors we have, I feel like God is going to easily get this amount we need and could provide even more.”

For more on Water Fore Life, visit www.waterforelife.com. The deadline to register is Feb. 23.

Kara Liu is a junior at Beyer High School and a member of The Bee’s Teens in the Newsroom program.