A little African sharing. The mission trip was enormously successful. Altogether we put in over 630 wells. Normally the first team achieves about 1/3 of the goal and the second team the remainder. Our first team put in more than half of the 1200 intended wells with Ron, Shelby and I having a hand in at least 200 of them.
Our first day began with worship in the Embangweni Mission Station hospital chapel. The worship leadership rotates through the hospital staff. The leader that day was part of the nursing staff and one of their choir leaders. She stood in front of us with perfect poise, full of thanksgiving and joy for God and she had on a skirt – her Sunday best I am sure – it had a hole in it as big as a softball through which protruded her slip.
In my wildest imagination, with all our focus on appearance, I couldn’t imagine myself being so lost in praise and thanksgiving. The choir sang two songs: “We are children of the kingdom – we are one.” And “Hallelujah, Hosanna Jesus is coming today.”
That worship experience was a perfect beginning for me. Transporting my mind from our culture that focuses on things into their culture which focuses on people – AND in which social kudos are obtained not from what you have but from what you give.
Early on I met what is probably the world’s happiest man. He was at a well site when we arrived. When we smiled and said Good morning he literally started dancing around, jumping up and down like a kid at Christmas. When the pump was installed and the first water flowed out of the spout he fell to the ground with tears flowing down his cheeks and pounded the earth with open palms.
A moment latter I understood. He went over to a woman and took into his arms a small child no more than 18 months old and cradled and rocked her before the water. To him it obviously meant life for her. Can you imagine living with the constant threat that your child might not live to be an adult.
On a less happy note – because of mechanical problems with our land cruiser I spent 1 / 2 a day driving a borrowed truck in a seat that was not bolted to the floor. The only thing that kept me in place was my grip on the steering wheel. But I was no worse off than the 3 workers who were in the back sitting on the pipes and pumps.
I was moved by many sights – a few:
- Observing the ladies of a village escorting and assisting what was obviously an elderly matriarch to the pump to pump the first water
- Watching the first water being offered to a village head man in a wash basin and from the same basin the second drink being given to a teenager who had obviously been brain damaged from Malaria but who had an obvious place in their society.
- Teaching children from the middle of a circle to throw a Frisbee back and forth.Standing at a well and noticing a woman obviously pregnant and realizing that her child would probably never know what it was like not to have clean drinking water.
- Performing a wedding ceremony for a bride and groom who sat in chairs in front of the congregation – other than that the wedding was about the same as in our culture – including one nervous bride and groom.
- Recalling Old Testament stories as a villager summoned the people to the well site by blowing on a trumpet made of an animal horn.
- Realizing that at every well – I placed and left on the ground a back pack full of goodies – and never once worried about them being touched.
- Snapping a picture of a boy strumming a home made guitar – one wire strung across the base of the guitar which was made from a plastic bottle and the other wrapped around a nail.
- Praying for the first and only time the Lord’s prayer being led in English by a villager
- Feeling the chill run up my spine when told by a village head man we had no water, no water for drinking, no water for cooking, no water for birthing. I had never thought of the importance of water in that context.
Will I go back next year? Probably. Why? Perhaps it is best summed up in a conversation I had with a woman who said, “We have been enslaved by bad water and now we are free. We will never go back.” Freedom – that’s why I go – that’s what Christianity is all about – it is why Jesus came – to bring freedom.