Last week at this time I was riding in a van to the village of El Tanque outside of Leon, Nicaragua. Many of us from Asbury UMC had been anticipating this trip for a long time. And before we left, it was clear that we were going to learn much about our life with God in the midst of helping others. I began to think about the trip as an internship more than a mission trip. I wanted to learn about the ministry of Living Water International and listen for how God wanted to teach me. What I have come to realize is that God wasn’t simply wanting to teach me, he was wanting to transform me. And God will have His way.
There is so much I want to share about this trip, but I am not sure one blog post would hold all I have to say about this experience. In regard to what I learned about working for the good of God’s Kingdom. I would say the lesson was “partnership.” God had made it clear to me that it was not our place to swoop in as the hero Americans to help these poor people. Our task was to be humble and to join in the work of the church in that village and the ministry of Living Water. And this is what we did. We joined the people of Nicaragua to make good things happen for El Tanque. We followed the orders of Angel, our drill boss, and Lester, the Foreman. We watched as the men and women of the village emptied the mud pits bucket-by-bucket at the end of the day. We gave thanks for the patience of the people as we tried to speak their language.
The lesson of partnership would connect with the next lesson as well – the lesson of working for systemic change. This work was different from anything I had ever been part of. The biggest difference in this work was the level of impact we could have. Let me briefly explain the situation. El Tanque residents have government provided water in their pipes for about 1 hour per day. The government does not want to run the pumps any more than that. And, the people are asked to pay about $40-50 for the privilege of that one hour of water. Also, if the electricity in the area is out, then the pumps don’t work and there is no water. Oh, and the well the government uses is not deep and highly contaminated. This means the people have to gather their water for the day in that one hour, and they have a high rate of illness due to the quality of that water.
So, the well we helped to drill and set up is a hand pump station located in the front of the local church property. It is available to the people everyday, all day. It is a deeper well that reaches better water. It will allow the people to have a supply of good water all day and this means their children will face fewer illnesses. It is just so incredible to be part of something that makes such a large impact! With the addition of this one fresh water well, the level of hope increased for the 3,000 people of this small community.
This trip was also different from many others because it had a good bit of down time. We were split into 3 teams – Drill team A, Drill team B, and the Hygiene team (this group worked with the women and children of the village, so they had less down time but more personal interaction). The two drill teams would alternate working on the rig. The other times we would walk around the village, meet and greet the people and hang out with the kids and others who came by. It was often a time of learning their language and them asking us to help them learn ours. It was also a time to be still and listen to what God had to say to us.
This was especially true in the evening times. When we would arrive back at our home base in Leon each night we would shower and get ready for dinner, which was always delicioso! After dinner we had time just to be still and relax. We would often talk about the day and the amazing blessing it was to be part of this work. We would also begin to reflect on the work we could do back in our hometowns. That’s where I really began to think about the issue of making systemic change.
I am blessed to be pastoring a church that is focused on helping others experience the hope of Jesus Christ. There are many ways we help serve those in need – from blankets being made for Hospice patients, to repairing homes, to delivering meals at Thanksgiving. All good and loving acts of selfless giving to be sure. But on this trip I began to think about the bigger issues in our community. I am still not sure I know what they are, but many people are caught in situations which are dealt with on mostly an episodic basis. It would be like bringing jugs of water to El Tanque. It does help, but the solution is temporary. Helping people with food and paying their light bill is good, but how do we help them find a better quality of life or better employment? Can we do something to help people start their own small business which can serve their community and begins to develop a greater economic future? Do we begin with the children by finding ways to help tutor them and mentor them and thereby begin a generational change that will change lives? There are so many questions I have and so many possible ways to serve God’s Kingdom purpose in these ways.
I find myself praying about this throughout the day. I find myself thinking of people I know who are working in the communities where they live to change lives. And I find myself thinking about the faces of the people in El Tanque, Nicaragua as they saw fresh water coming up from that well. It was not only a week when we helped bring water and living water to people; it was not only a week where we came to know and participate in the ministry of Living Water International; it was a week we found THE Living Water welling up from within us like a never-ending spring of life. Funny thing is, the more living water I have within me, the thirstier I am for righteousness, joy and peace in the Holy Spirit – not just for myself, but for all who long for new life.
How is God calling you these days?
What is God putting on your heart?
How might God be asking you to serve His Kingdom purpose?
I’d love to hear what God is doing in you. Feel free to leave a comment and let me know.
Holy high-five to you,