Travis and Juanita Smith, lifelong residents of Bethany, Oklahoma, created lasting change for those in Kwale County, Kenya, this year through a significant gift to Water4. Access to safe water is a major challenge in Kwale County and the couple’s gift allows Water4 business, Freedom Water Solutions, to provide safe water and training to the community.
The Smith’s investment was in the works for a long time. At 91 years old, Travis graciously shared the story of how he was able to make this investment in our mission.
As one of seven children from Erick, Oklahoma, he moved to Bethany in 1930 and grew up with an appreciation for hard work, having lived through the Great Depression and Dust Bowl. “Work hard and God will take care of the rest. Just trust Him to take care of the rest.” Shared Travis, highlighting advice his parents often told him.
Travis’ father encouraged his children to attend college and pursue their degrees through hard work, each of them paying their way through school on their own. Travis’ brother Ellis, known to the family as Buddy, attended Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University) and was drafted into the Navy during World War II, eventually making it to Harvard University, achieving a Masters in Business Administration.
Travis’ parents remained in Bethany while the rest of the family, aside from Travis and Juanita, moved away to pursue their futures. Travis and Juanita cared for his parents as they aged and as an expression of gratitude for their service to the family, Buddy willed a large gift to the couple at his passing.
“Looking back, we could see how God had his hand in all of this. We put (the gift) in the bank and for ten years we didn’t even think about touching that money,” said Travis. “We felt like God was telling us that the money was set aside for some good organization that will really do some good and is effective with that money. I can honestly tell you that during that ten-year period not one time did I feel pulled to take the money out and spend it.”
Earlier this year, Travis and Jaunita decided it was time to give the money to a local non-profit. After reviewing several organizations, they looked deeper into Water4. “I knew what a great job they were doing and why water was so important. How so many people, millions of people… have to walk three or four miles to get dirty water just to survive,” said Travis.
Travis and Juanita were also impressed by how Water4 team members in Africa are trained and can use their skills to impact their communities, multiplying the number of local people who have sustainable jobs.
When they officially chose Water4 to receive the gift, Travis remarked “I felt like God guided us through this, saying now is the time.” They chose to support work in Kenya as they had a connection to the country through his mother’s family, who had a relative working as a missionary there.
“Water4 is someone who comes in and really does good for the area in the name of Jesus Christ. So that is another reason why we chose Water4,” said Travis.
In early 2021, Juanita’s health began to decline and she passed away in May.
Upon her passing, Travis dedicated the gift to the memory of his beloved wife, Juanita. Several tribute gifts came to Water4, supporting Freedom Water Solution’s work in Kenya, further honoring her memory.
Through their generosity, the Smiths provided funding that will allow Freedom Water Solutions to drill 12 new wells and facilitate 12 WaSH (water, sanitation & hygiene) trainings. Their investment also allows Water4 to provide additional training and support to the team.*
*100% of funds were sent to Freedom Water Solution and items funded represent the usage of funds.
All of us at Water4 extend our most sincere thanks to Travis and Juanita and praise God for the impact that their gift will have on the Freedom Water Solutions team. We are honored to have been part of a story that God has been setting up for generations.