Surprise from Blood:Water


I love my Blood:Water family. Not only are they championing my memoir, "One Thousand Wells," they launched a surprise campaign in honor of the book.

1000 for 1000

Starting August 18 — the week before my memoir released — they launched 1000:1000. They are spending one-thousand hours for "One Thousand Wells" to bring 800 kids in Africa access to clean water.

They are raising funds to build raintanks at two different schools in Kenya. You see, kids in Africa often are forced to miss class or school altogether because they are out collecting water to drink. By providing clean water at school, kids are back in the classroom learning, ultimately helping create a brighter future.

Would you like to join Blood:Water's 1000:1000 campaign? Click here.

Across the U.S. in 20 Days


Wow, what a week it's been. This week launched the beginning of my "One Thousand Wells" book tour. The excitement and adrenaline from the release of my memoir still surges through me as I make my way across the country in 20 days.



The book tour began in Nashville, the launching pad and home for Blood:Water, the organization behind the 1,000 wells in "One Thousand Wells." I am in awe of the people who showed up at the Nashville Public Library to support me, love on me, learn about me, and get my book. I pray all who read the words are touched by the story and can find themselves in it.

As you read the memoir, you will find it full of stories of the band Jars of Clay. In the memoir, I let readers in on a little secret about the band. While touring, they would like to stop at karaoke bars along the way. They'd get up, sing, and blow everyone out of the water with their talent. Little did their audience know, the karaoke stars were Grammy-award winning musicians.

So we wrapped up the first night of the book tour with a little karaoke. Here are some photos from the night.







After crooning our hearts out, Lead Singer Dan Haseltine and I packed our bags and headed to book tour stop two — Knoxville, Tenn. Knoxville has always shared a special place in the Blood:Water story. No one city has financially supported the nonprofit as much as the big town in East Tennessee.

 Jena Knox 4

Jena Knox 4

 Jena Knox 3

Jena Knox 3

 Jena Knox1

Jena Knox1

 Jena Knox 6

Jena Knox 6

The next day we hit the road again, headed to Charlotte, N.C. Time for some more karaoke anyone?

After arriving in Charlotte, I dropped a signed copy of my memoir into a book share next to Luna's Living Kitchen. Perhaps one day I will hear a story of the hands to which my book traveled. And above all, I hope we learn to love the world more, together.





Today we travel to Raleigh, N.C. I hope to see you there or somewhere along the way. Click here to see if Dan and I are headed to your city.

Why Should I Chase After a Lost Cause?


When I was in high school, my classmates voted me “Most likely to devote my life to a lost cause.” A decade and a half later, some may still give me that award.

Cofounding an organization to take on the HIV/AIDS and water crises in the world’s second largest continent, probably looks like a lost cause to many, if not most. But as I peer over the African desert and into the rest of the world, skipping from news headline to news headline, I, too, feel the weight of what looks like lost causes, where problems seem bigger than the time, resources, and attention spans we have to tackle them. Taking a sweeping glance around the room, we are so buried in smartphones, text messages, and our own immediate circumstances, I can’t help but think, “Who will answer these lost causes?”

But we need not fear.

Continue reading the rest of this blog on WAY-FM.

My Top 5 Keys to Success


Tomorrow is the day I've been waiting for. My memoir, "One Thousand Wells," will be officially released. I am so grateful to everyone along the way who has helped shaped this major milestone in my life. I pray anyone who picks up a copy is blessed by it. With that, please enjoy the final installment of the video blogs previewing the memoir. Readers like you sent in questions about the book, and I sat down with Blood:Water's director of marketing to answer them.

Two questions stood out.

1. What was it like starting a nonprofit as a woman?

2. What would you tell someone are your top 5 success tips to starting a nonprofit?


Sitting Down with Jars of Clay's Dan Haseltine


My memoir, "One Thousand Wells," is full of stories about the band Jars of Clay. So I thought it only fitting to sit down with Lead Singer Dan Haseltine to get his take on the book.

You can join Dan and me this fall as we tour across the country talking about "One Thousand Wells." Here's a list of cities and dates. You can sign up to join us here.


Pre-order "One Thousand Wells" at


Crossing My T's: Memoir Acknowledgments


No matter how many times you dot your I's and cross your T's, small or big details can be forgotten. Last week I received the first published copy of my memoir, "One Thousand Wells." I am thrilled to actually be able to hold it, feel it, take it in.


A T that didn't get crossed is my list of acknowledgments. They were accidentally left off the first round of publication. I want to use this blog post to make sure those people are thanked—rather, I want to scream 'Thank You' from the mountaintops.


My deepest gratitude is for my husband, James, my partner in life and mission. Thank you for encouraging me to push beyond my comfort zone, but always with the assurance of your hand in mine. For living with me through the angst of writing, for teaching me about the value of an outline, and for coauthoring so much of this story. (And for sweet Jude, who in so many ways, is our greatest adventure.)

My parents, Gus Lee and Diane Elliott-Lee, built a love and a family that made space for a young girl's dream to flourish. You have been ever selfless and supportive, and I am so grateful.

Thank you to Jars of Clay for believing in a college girl with a “25-page manifesto.” Your families became family for me when I needed it most. Dan and Katie Haseltine, Charlie and Sonja Lowell, Stephen and Jude Mason, Matt and Kristen Odmark - thank you for embracing me into your world. And to Aaron and Cari Sands for being the glue that kept it all together!

Special thanks to Steve Garber for caring about the long narrative of my life. To Gary Haugen for teaching me about leadership, vision and joy in service. (Thanks to Ruthie McGinn, too. You're a star).  And to Reverend Becca Stevens, for showing me how to love the whole world, one person at a time.

Eight summers in the Rocky Mountains with Cheley Colorado Camps served as the greatest playground of my youth. To my Cheley sisters and brothers whose memories are scattered across a thousand miles of Colorado trails - you dear friends, lift me up where earth and heaven meet.

To each of the million plus individuals in Africa who has taken part in the Blood:Water narrative, this story is yours. A very special thanks to our early partners: Lifewater International, Seeds of Hope International Partnerships, Lwala Community Alliance, MOUCECORE, Divine Waters Uganda and Water for Good. Thank you to Leah Oyugis, Elizabeth Akinyi, Milton Ochieng', Fred Ochieng' and the Baxter family for letting me tell your stories.

To every individual who took a risk on the Blood:Water vision, this story is yours, too. Your contributions, mentorship and advocacy over the last decade have filled our cup to overflowing. (The pages that follow are simply some of the many names who have made this work possible).

Blood:Water is only as effective as its people - and my, do we have incredible people! For the 25+ staff who have given your days and years to building Blood:Water over the last decade, I can't thank you enough. A very special thank you to Aaron Sands, Barak Bruerd, Amy Adams Hann, Matt Ward, Kellie Lutito, Victor Huckabee, Lauren Hitch and Pamela Crane-Hoover for being the core team to launching the 1000 Wells Project into a reality. And, to our founding board members: Collin Brown, Lon Cherry, Rob Curwen, Reagan Demas, Steve Garber, Brad Gibson, Rich Hoops, Dr. Clydette Powell, and Joel Vikre. I am grateful for those who are leading the way today, especially Jake Smith, Katherine Hofstetter and Courtney Baker. Special thanks to Mike Hamilton, Chris Bolton, Stuart McWhorter and Carrie Horton for providing encouragement and backend support along the way.

Thank you to Dan Raines and Kathryn Helmers at Creative Trust, and to Donald Miller for insisting that Kathy and I meet. I am in such good hands! Elisa Stanford was the best editing partner through the writing process, helping me find my voice in the piles of words, and working with me and James through multiple drafts over late nights and early mornings. And thanks to Amy Tan for offering her generous support.

I am grateful to the team at Howard Books and Simon & Schuster, especially Jonathan Merkh, Jennifer Smith, Bonnie MacIsaac and my wonderful editor, Beth Adams. And thanks also to Jessica Wong for her early enthusiasm - our time was too short!

The wonderful readers of my early manuscript provided me invaluable feedback: Courtney Baker, Mary Anna Brown, Katherine Falk, Katie Harris, Cooper Kandler and Jessica Pearson. Asante sana to Fred Ochieng’, Damianus Japolo Nyakinye and Elizabeth Akinyi for being my Kenyan readers with important edits. Thanks to Barak Bruerd for compiling the photos and stories of the water projects. And to Ken Byers for his creative marketing support.

I am thankful for the loving congregations of St. Augustine’s Chapel and City Church of East Nashville, the staff and faculty of Whitworth University and the community of Nashville.

For my lifelong friends: Amy Aaron, Rachel Schlabs, Alyssa Dillard, Sarah Sandifer, Holly Wielkoszewski, Kara Hanger, Katy Byers, Autumn Petersen, Erin Gallion, Elizabeth Paul, Anna Engeln, Katie Harris and Jessica Pearson. And for my family: Eric and Becky Lee, Jim and Allie Nardella, and RJ and Jalene Salus. And always, for Elan Vie Salus.



"One Thousand Wells" releases August 25. You can pre-order your copy at