When Jonathan Moyer (’00) left Kenya, he couldn’t predict he’d return years later to give back to the place he called home for eighteen years. Moyer was born in South Africa. His parents were missionaries with the Church of the Nazarene. They eventually moved to Kenya when he was a teenager.
After attending PLNU for college and earning a fine arts degree, he settled in San Diego county, working different jobs, including for the National Association of Music Merchants and the pool industry. But he kept feeling a calling to return to Africa in order to make a difference.
“That passion lay dormant for probably twelve years, and I couldn’t ignore it anymore. I felt spiritually prompted to get more involved in Africa. The church I go to now has a very active missions team, and that’s how it started.”
Through Daybreak Church in Carlsbad, CA, Moyer joined four mission trips that took around the world. The most prominent one was assisting with relief work and serving as a photographer following the 2010 Haiti earthquake. His experiences became the focus of a 2015 documentary he directed called Haiti 10.
“It was a leap of faith and an act of obedience to understand my deep calling, which came after that trip,” he recalled.
This deeper calling materialized in 2016 in the form of Africa Thriving, a 501-C3 nonprofit charity whose motto is to provide clean water, food, and Bibles to rural communities in Africa.
“That molding and shaping my heart was preparation for Africa Thriving, which came four years later.”
According to Moyer, the idea for Africa Thriving began while he was working in the pool industry. He suggested to his friend and colleague named Dave Varnon, who now serves as Secretary of the charity, that they visit Africa. During that 2014 trip, they helped drill a well for a community. Following that experience, they decided to found Africa Thriving.
“We knew we wanted to make something that would live for generations, that we could expand and grow.” They started small with local community events, including a One Day challenge where they invited people to donate what they’d usually spend on food in a typical day to support a feeding program for children in Africa. That initial campaign allowed them to start a monthly feeding program.
Moyer states that one of the moments he’s really proud of is the experience of drilling the first well for the Risa, Kenya community in 2021.
“There’s nothing more exciting than bringing life to people who are doing everything they can to survive,” he said. “Drilling our first well at Risa took about five years.”
He recalls receiving reports that drilling in that location would be difficult, that they would encounter problems such as the salty water.
“When we drilled that well, it was a really special moment for me because that was the first community that we went out to. When we knew that we wanted to help bring water to rural areas, that was the first community that our Kenya leaders took us out to and said, ‘this is a community that needs some help.’ Not only did we strike water, but it is perfectly clean water. It doesn’t need to be filtered. It’s a deep well, 600 feet down. We equipped it with solar panels, a solar pump and an elevated 50,000-liter water tank. So we can pump it to the surrounding homes where all the families live. So drilling that well was a really big deal. We couldn’t have gotten better results.”
Since then, Africa Thriving has drilled two more wells, the most recent being drilled in January of 2023. Moyer shared that one of their goals is to drill 20 wells by the end of the decade.
In addition to drilling wells, the charity also distributes Bibles to those who want them.
“We’re not a faith-based organization. We’re actually a purely humanitarian organization. So we basically do things the way Jesus did. We bring food and water and help their immediate needs. We give Bibles to those who want them, but we don’t push faith in order to get food or water. Their faith is really a result of our actions and the faith we have. People always amaze me.”
“Their faith is really a result of our actions and the faith we have. People always amaze me.”
For example, he recalls how people were dancing when the third well was drilled in January. After spending time with members of the community, they pulled out Bibles that had been translated in the Maasai language. There was an immediate effect upon the people.
“They’re thirsting more for that than the actual water. We pull them out and everyone crowds around. You’d think we were handing out a million dollars or something. They were really thirsty for it. Their faith is already there, we’re just coming alongside and helping them as Christ called us to help our neighbors.”
Moyer recalls that this reception to the Word of God reminded him of John 4:13–14. Here Jesus states, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (NIV).
“That explains pretty well what’s going on there, faith-wise,” Moyer said. “When we bring life to communities like this, they are so grateful. It unlocks the spring inside of them. They’re so joyful. It’s pretty incredible to see.”
The most fulfilling aspect for Moyer is seeing how the children of these communities will grow to leave their own stamp on the world.
“The best work of Africa Thriving is not going to be anything that we do,” Moyer said. “That’s going to be what the kids in these communities will grow up to become.”
“The best work of Africa Thriving is not going to be anything that we do. That’s going to be what the kids in these communities will grow up to become.”
“So we do everything through schools for the main reason that if we put water and a feeding program in the school, that’s going to basically allow the kids to get an education, as opposed to spending hours of the day collecting water for their families. And that education is going to give them a brighter future. For me, the most fulfilling part is when I go back to these communities seeing some of these kids going to high school.”
Moyer looks forward to doing more work for the glory of God’s kingdom.
“I hope that Africa Thriving becomes a contagious force for good, not just in Africa but in our local communities here and around the world,” Moyer said. “It’s really exciting when you get involved in something that brings life to people.”