It was a week of challenges. Another volunteer and I were working with a Zambian Field Officer and installation crew in Zambia’s Eastern Province. The main road toward Lusaka, Zambia’s capital, theoretically paved, was carpeted with 6-10 inch deep craters, forcing us to drive on one or the other shoulder, or slow to walking speed through the craters when both shoulders were impassible. It took more than an hour to go only 20 miles. The villages were deep in the bush and far apart. Reaching the wells required hours of slow going on poor and non-existent back roads. We had three flat tires (not all on the same days, thankfully, and our spare held up each time despite a deep split through the sidewall). We mired our 4wd Land Cruiser pickup in axle-deep mud and water trying to cross a stream. It took a heavy lorry with a chain to pull us out. Several villages had only a few people present when we arrived for the pump installation and well dedication. Few villages have cell phone service, and fewer still have a family with a cell phone, so there was no way for them to know exactly when we would arrive or for us to know that most of them had gone to a funeral at another village. As the week wore on, I found myself getting tired and cranky.
But, every time I began to get discouraged, something wonderful would happen. I vividly remember one village in Zambia. As we drove closer, we heard the beat of an African drum. The women were dancing and singing to welcome us. Children and adults crowded around the truck, eager to shake the musunga’s (white person’s) hand, eager to help us carry the pump and pipes to the well site, eager to help with the pump installation. More drumming, more dancing, more singing!
Their joy was contagious. I was swept up in their excitement. What a wonderful occasion! I thought of the Psalm, “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.” And, what a joyful noise they were making. Somehow, tired and cranky just vanished. My spirit was lifted up.
Later, in the mountains of northern Malawi, I helped install a well serving both a school and a nearby village. This school has 370 children in grades 1-5 and only one teacher. The school building is a crude brick structure with a leaky straw roof and no doors or windows. Their only drinking water source was an open hole with foul water at the bottom. Now they have a new protected shallow well with good water. Now, the head teacher told us, he hopes to attract other teachers to work at the school.
After the installation we took this picture of the school children and villagers at their new well. One copy of the picture will go to the donor of this well and another will be given to the community.
Whether in Zambia or Malawi, it just was not possible to feel down for very long. Long drives over nearly impassible tracks? Long hikes up and down hills when even the tracks gave out? Tire problems, logistical setbacks, whatever – all that mattered in the end were the people that were so happy to have clean water to drink.