Our story begins simply – a mission trip, a call from God, and the willingness to follow. From those humble beginnings almost 20 years ago, Set Free has grown through our network of indigenous partners to give over 2 million people clean water, rescue over 25,000 children, baptize millions, and plant thousands of churches.
When Roland Bergeron, owner of a custom home building company, first heard that more than 800 million people in the world didn’t have access to clean water, he was shocked. An engineer by trade, he became even more involved in water ministry in 2002 when he went on his first mission trip to Central America. From that moment on, Roland knew he had found his life’s calling and began Water of Life. But he still felt unsettled. He was doing the right work but in the wrong location. Roland felt called to go to the hard places, unreached places, places where other organizations weren’t working. So, after a lot of prayer and a little divine nudging – Water of Life moved into Liberia, Sierra Leone, and India.
As the well drilling and church planting work expanded into India, another problem was revealed – the child slavery epidemic. Our India partner felt compelled to act. We knew that we couldn’t tell people about the grace and love of Jesus yet leave thousands of children enslaved. After discussions with our partner and a key supporter of this mission, Brookwood Church, Set Free Alliance started in 2011 to rescue, reunite, and care for the enslaved, orphaned, and vulnerable children of India.
Yet, God still wasn’t done with us. The work continued and the Kingdom of God grew exponentially to the point that slave owners were following Water of Life drill crews around to release their slaves into the care of pastor partners’ churches through Set Free Alliance. After some more prayer and continued conversations, Set Free Alliance and Water of Life merged to become Set Free in 2019 with the holistic vision to create a world where all are set free in the name of Christ.
Creating a world where all are set free in Christ is a monumental goal. Giving clean water, rescuing children, providing mobile medical clinics, and planting churches all work together to make this vision a reality. And while there are lots of other organizations doing similar things, Set Free is different than most because of a handful of core values we are committed to protecting in every single thing we do.
We are only stewards of the resources God and our donors have entrusted to us. Every dollar matters, especially when the need is so great. We consistently drill hundreds of wells each year, offer dozens of medical clinics, and care for thousands of children. This all happens while glorifying God by sharing the love of Jesus Christ.
And we do it all with lean overhead – only six full-time employees stateside. You won’t catch us booking first-class tickets or working from a glitzy office. This allows us to keep costs down, stay quick on decisions, be flexible as needs arise, and focused on what really matters.
Established in 2002 following a mission trip, our non-traditional model later evolved and is now tremendously successful. We partner with locals, indigenous to the regions in Africa and India – people who know the language, the culture, and the scope of need. They are our pastors, drill crew team members, doctors, and caretakers. They take pride and ownership in both the villages we serve and the work they do. That’s why our proven model is creating employment, transforming communities from the inside out, and empowering long-term sustainability.
While investing in these unreached communities is one part of what we do, we also realize how important it is that the local community be invested as well. For this reason, we employ local vendors and labor when drilling, creating networks of indigenous workers to manage and maintain the well long after we have gone. We work to change the village culture when reuniting children with their families so they will never again be taken into slavery. This sustainability factor means we are empowering each community and cultivating a sense of ownership.
There’s one more core value, and it’s the most important one. In everything we do, we believe we exist first and foremost to bring God’s love to people through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Understanding that Christ’s love is what drives us, empowers us, and challenges us to care for others, we’re committed to sharing and showing His love in everything we do. With every person we come in contact with, we provide for not only their physical needs, but their spiritual needs as well.
It’s why, despite how much investment we’ve made in drill rigs and housing for rescued children, we’ve made an even bigger investment into our network of pastors across the regions we touch. From identifying and training to equipping and supporting, we’ve cultivated a growing relationship with thousands of pastors who know the area, live in the villages, and are indigenous to the area. These pastors are focused on building discipleship, community, and ongoing support to help those we reach with the Gospel grow in their walk with God and multiply our impact by sharing Christ with others.