When your goal is to install 2,800 wells in just six weeks there are bound to be some disappointments along the way. What has been so surprising to me is just how rare these disappointments have been so far. During the 1st two weeks in the field, we had successfully installed 97 wells in and around Chitipa. However first thing Monday morning well number 98 produced the experience I had been dreading. With all the villagers watching and waiting for their clean water to finally flow their well was dry.
Wells are dug two to four weeks in advance by the villagers and builders prior to our arrival. We then come to complete the well by installing the pipe and pump. We train the villagers how to use their well and conclude with a ceremony letting them know that Christians in America heard of their need for clean water and donated the funds to help complete their well. We tell them that their well belongs only to them. Inscribed on each well are the words “Glory to God” in English and in their native language as a reminder to give thanks and give glory to God for this gift of clean water. All 97 ceremonies have been equally as moving. 97 God moments.
Builders dig the well by hand until there is ideally 2 meters of standing water. The well is then incapsulated with brick and mortar and finished with a concrete slab (cap) and apron. The average well takes about ten 100 lbs bags of cement to complete. I’ve yet to figure out how this 1,000 lbs of cement is delivered to many of these locations.
When we arrive, our first job is to lower the pipe into the well and then measure and document water and well depth to make sure the well is ready to go to provide water all year around. We do this during the height of the dry season. If we can find water now, then water should flow all year.One of the great joys of the entire process is hearing the “splash” when the pipe hits the water for the first time.However on well 98 we lowered the pipe and only heard a “thud” when it hit the bottom. When we raised the pipe knowing what already that it would be bone dry.
We knew right then that this well was not going to happen. Yet the villagers were expecting their well to be working within the next few minutes.So the moment I dreaded for two weeks had arrived. We had to tell them that they will get no clean water today. But how do you tell people that have been waiting for a well for two to three years that the moment that they have so anticipated was not going to happen today?
How would they react? Anger? Tears?
Well how about joy and gratitude…..
Our Installation Supervisor explained to them that their well was dry. He told them that they would have to completely remove the top slab (meaning demolish it) and open up the well and dig deeper. He told them that if they start immediately, that local installers may still be able to complete their well this season. Otherwise it would be another year of waiting. I then told them that Christians in America had dedicated the funds for the cement, pipe, and pump and that those funds would be there to provide this equipment once their well was fixed.
I apologized over and over again that we could not finish their well today. I didn’t know what else to say or do – other than to pray with them and for them. They responded only with smiles and great appreciation that Azungu (white people) from so far away could be so generous as to donate their money and actually travel such a great distance to help them. They said they were truly blessed and that it was in fact a great and wonderful day just because of our visit, prayers, and love in the name of God.
Their only request was that I take a picture and share it with America. So here it is.
They then smiled and laughed and shook my hand over and over again thanking me……
Can you imagine not having electricity, or plumbing, or any source of clean water, or any other modern convenience? Can you imagine being on a two-year waiting list? Can you imagine the day finally arriving when you were going to receive this gift only to learn minutes before it is to go “live” that it isn’t going to happen that day? Can you imagine reacting with appreciation anyway just because someone expressed to you that they care? Would you react that way even if you had to wait another year? There is so much we can learn from these people. Despite everything people in Malawi have to endure they manage to give thanks for what they have and love their neighbor just because their neighbor shows up for 15 minutes to say they care.
Malawi’s tag-line is “The Warm Heart of Africa”.
They are being way too humble. Their hearts are a blazing inferno.
Before heading out into the field Marion Medical Missions Founder – Tom Logan gave an inspirational pep talk to the troops.
He asked if we could “feel the fire”.
I feel it Tom.
I feel it…..
[You can see more stories from Grant on his blog at GRANT’S BLOG.]