MMM teams have just returned from Malawi—another extraordinary mission trip blessed by God, the best ever. I’ve said that before, and it’s true again!
We are back from Malawi where the extreme poor are everywhere. They make up the large majority of the population. They were everywhere we looked – they surrounded us, we couldn’t escape. Most eat one meal a day even in good times and they all know real starvation. They grieve when their children die and most die from easily preventable deaths many times caused by unsafe drinking water – diseases such as cholera and dysentery. Yet, they welcomed us – the strangers in their midst – they smiled, laughed, sang, danced and shared what little they had – some vegetables, bananas, ground nuts, a few eggs, alive chicken. The realization hit us that we keep food in a refrigerator when people are hungry.
We had two teams from the United States––each in Malawi for three weeks (team 1 had 16 people and team 2 had 15). The US volunteers were not experts in well building. Most knew little or nothing about it. Yet, they went to remote rural African villages sharing the love of Christ working hand-in-hand with God’s people in Africa. They worked with PCUSA missionary Jim McGill, 12 dedicated African Field Officers, 48 African installation supervisors, 400 African well builders, and 1,200 plus village communities.
Our 2007 goal was to build 1,200 shallow wells in remote African villages providing an estimated 200,000 people, 120,000 of whom are children, with a sustainable source of safe drinking water in 7 weeks (between September 23rd and November 11th). The window of opportunity is short because shallow wells need to be built at the end of the dry season when the ground water is at its lowest level. And construction on the first well did not start until September 16th.
The coordination, timing, and effort to meet this goal were staggering. It was more than could possibly be done. We had to rely on God to bless our efforts. We prayed hard and often. And we got up off our knees and went to work doing the best we could where we were with what we had. In 7 weeks 1,289 wells were built.
Imagine . . .
- 1,289 wells built in 7 weeks.
- 1,289 villages covering an area about 400 miles long by 100 miles wide.
- 1,289 wells in remote rural areas where access and communication is difficult, where roads are often nonexistent and bridges questionable.
- 1,289 villages organized.
- 1,289 shallow well committees established.
- 1,289 villages that made the brick themselves and provided the stone, sand and unskilled labor to build their well.
- 12,890 bags of cement (each weighing 110 pounds) purchased, transported and distributed to 1,289 remote hard to get to African villages.
- 1289 well sites identified and 6 foot diameter pits hand dug by the villagers until they had 5 foot of water in them.
- 1,289 wells built by 400 African builders (all subsistence farmers).
- 1,289 pumps manufactured by Africans all of whom are villagers, subsistence farmers and shallow well maintenance people.
- 1,289 pumps installed and dedicated to the Glory of God.
- 1,289 villages told their well is special because it represents the love of Christ shared with them and when they drink water from it they should remember the special nature of their well and they too should share Christ’s love.
- 1,289 wells completed in 7 weeks with everything purchased and made in Africa.
And would you believe––another 200 should be completed by the end of this month. How great our God!
It was hard, hot, sweaty, dirty work and dust was everywhere. The days were long the nights short and many times no breakfast and no lunch. There were truck breakdowns, no electric power, bucket baths, no baths and no phone network (can you hear me now??).
Many times getting to the well site even with our African guides was a challenge.
“Turn left at that road.” What road? That’s a road? Are you sure? You want me to drive there? You think that bridge is safe? It doesn’t look safe.
There were long hikes to the well sites and we’d ask – do we have everything? Are you sure? Where’s the well? “Just there.” How long? “One hour one way.” Are you sure? (Then the conference between the builder and installation supervisor) their conclusion – “2 hours one way.” Up and down the mountain with no switchbacks? “Yes!”
40 minutes later we top the “mountain” and there in the valley is the most beautiful shallow well I’ve ever seen. Not 2 hours – just 40 minutes! And Austin Matambo says, “You’re a Go-Go but you are tough – you are strong! Take my picture with you so I can prove to my wife that you are still alive.”
Hard working people, dedicated – talented people, dancing, singing, celebrating.
Well gifts: bananas, tomatoes, cabbage, ground nuts, rice, maize, eggs, chickens – a 3 chicken well, the gift of a hand made chair.
A cold coke, a hot shower, clean clothes, 1289 wells built and installed – 200,000 people (120,000 children) with safe drinking water in 7 weeks.
The pride and importance of the program to the maintenance people, the installation supervisors, the village communities, the Field Officers, Marion Medical Mission volunteers, Jim McGill. Our Father’s work pulls us together and gives life meaning and hope.
Reaching across the table feeding our neighbor – while they feed us!!! Now that’s heaven.