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209 pages
Oct 2006
Relevant Books

The Relevant Nation: 50 Activist, Artists And Innovators Who Are Changing Their World Through Faith

by Heather Zydek

Review  |   Author Bio  |  Read an Excerpt




BORN: January 12, 1973

LIVES IN: Franklin, Tennessee

JOB: Singer/producer/songwriter, author, development director for Blood:Water Mission

WORSHIPS AT: Christ Community Church

FAMILY: Katie (wife), Noah and Max (sons)

MENTORS: Nate Larkin, Steve Garber, Gary Haugen, Don Miller

FEELS PASSIONATELY ABOUT: ”Freedom, mercy, grace; giving my children the ability to grow their imagination; truth and beauty and finding it in places where I would never immediately expect; music; being known and knowing others in true community”


IN SOME WAYS, Dan Haseltine needs little in the way of introduction. As the frontman for Jars of Clay, he’s been on the radio and around the world a few times over. From mainstream chart success to Grammy awards, Haseltine has been in the public eye since the mid-1990s.

However, it’s not Haseltine’s achievements in the realm of the recording arts alone that make him a model of Christian relevance. It’s his contribution to development work in Africa.

As a young boy growing up in an increasingly conservative and xenophobic church, Haseltine was told that rock music was undeniably demonic, that it was a kind of music best suited for the fires of hell and the wayward bent of the world. As a result, his parents purged all unsuitable listening from his music collection, even tossing Stryper and the early work of U2.

All might have been lost for Haseltine were it not for a timely trip to a friend’s house, where the original Live Aid concert broadcast wall-to-wall rock straight into young Haseltine’s heart.

Haseltine was surprised by the sense of justice and community that the artists involved with Live Aid seemed to share. From Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel to the Police and U2, rock suddenly seemed to be more, not less, missional than the church Haseltine had known. Rock stars appeared to be concerned with poverty and disease while the Church seemed terminally hung up on Disney, Santa Claus, and the Easter bunny.

Eventually Haseltine threw his hat in with the rock stars, preferring to go about God’s business quietly, speaking through his songs and very rarely directly from the stage. Haseltine’s stance remained one of polite distance through most of the ’90s, as his band remained too secular for much of the Church and too religious for much of the world.

His stance changed one Thanksgiving, however, as a Rwandan refugee ended up at Haseltine’s house for a turkey dinner. As Rwandan William Mzwere shared his amazing story of escape from a country rife with genocide, Haseltine’s heart opened up to the immensity of worldwide suffering.

Mzwere left Haseltine with a bewildering statement: “If you ask me about computers, I will have no frame of reference. I know nothing. How could I? If I ask you about the provision of God, you will know nothing. How could you?”

Mzwere’s declaration plagued Haseltine for a long time, leading the Jars of Clay frontman to research the state of current human suffering firsthand with his pastor and friend Steve Haas on a trip to Vietnam and China. Haseltine was moved with compassion as he talked with men who had been beaten, tortured, and imprisoned for their faith.

Haseltine’s compassion eventually settled in with the continent of Africa, as he found himself increasingly drawn to the people and the place of such insurmountable difficulties. A trip to sub-Saharan Africa in 2002 brought to his attention the alarming presence of AIDS and the lack of clean drinking water, a lethal combination for the continent. No place seemed to him quite so devastating and hopeless.

Upon Haseltine’s return to the States, he began to envision a mission that would focus on clean blood and clean water for Africa—blood free of the HIV virus and water free of parasites and bacteria that cause AIDS patients and others undue suffering. Haseltine and his band mates envisioned an Africa transformed through the transmission of clean blood and water. The symbols of blood and water seemed Christ-inspired, charged with life. The result was, and still is, Blood:Water Mission, Haseltine’s own labor of love—a mission that focuses on bringing clean water to the poorest and most disease-ravaged sections of Africa. —Eric Hurtgen