Tom and Karen Dragano, 2008 Volunteer

Tom and Karen Dragano, 2008 Volunteer

Every day I turn on my water faucet. Every day I remember Malawi. While I was with Team one dedicating wells, the “economic meltdown” was happening in the “more advanced” parts of the world. We heard bits and pieces of the news. But stocks, bonds, and banks did not seem very important compared to the focus of our days—clean, healthy water. Water—WATER IS LIFE. Every day we were doing our best to bring life-giving water to the hard-working, warm-hearted villagers of Malawi. I remember feeling tired, dirty, and sometimes cranky. But I also remember feeling joyful, fired up, and grateful to be a part of this amazing opportunity.

How often in life do you get a chance to help so many people in such a fundamental way?

I remember the well dedications and the responses of the Malawians. I remember shaking hands until I thought my arm would fall off. Greetings and the women’s welcoming songs and dances made most of the dedications feel like holidays celebrations. In my mind, I can still hear the Joy Sound the women make with their tongues. When I do it, it just does not sound the same! One especially enthusiastic village turned out to be Muslim. Even when we talked about the clean water representing the love of Jesus for them, they were enthusiastically grateful. Isn’t God’s love powerful!

At the end of each dedication, we ask the villagers if they have any comments. Usually people would look around at each other, and then a village headman, or some other well-respected person would slowly stand up. He or she would give a 2-3 minute little speech of gratitude, something like this:

“We never thought this day would really come, when we would have clean water. Now we won’t have the water-borne diseases anymore. Please thank those Christians who sent the money to help us. Please continue to go out and help other villages like you have helped us. May God bless you and keep you safe.” In one village, the man who spoke said, “ We have been waiting since 1938 for clean water. I wasn’t alive then, but my father told me. He said people came and promised to help us get clean water. They didn’t. Others have come over the years, but no one ever did it… until today!” Can you imagine a lifetime of drinking water from an open hole in the ground? Could you drink water that has things floating in it? Could you drink the same water from the same hole where the dogs and cows drink? I remember sitting by a Malawian woman, as we watched the first clean drops of water come out of the spout at her village’s new well. She whispered, “Okongola” (Beautiful). I remember her when I turn on my faucet at home.

Karen & Malawian woman watching well installation

Karen & Malawian woman watching well installation

I remember feeling overwhelmed by the thanks of the people in village after village . We would always remind them to give thanks to God, because He is really the one who deserves the credit. Then, one day, my husband Tom ended the dedication by reminding the villagers to thank their brother Malawians. Somehow, they seem to get taken for granted in the excitement of the dedication. If it weren’t for the Malawian Field Officers, Installation Supervisors, Well-builders, and Maintenance Men, these wells could never become a reality. We are in each village for less than an hour. These Malawian brothers give the long-term preparation and persistence that are needed for each well. They will be there months later to replace any broken part, and keep that well working for years to come. Let’s not forget the Malawian villagers who dug those 20 foot deep holes for the wells. Can you imagine digging that far with just a hoe and a bucket with a rope so others above can haul the mud out? The Malawians are the ones who are the heroes who deserve the deepest thanks.

I remember driving. I drove more this year than I have in the past. Every day, at some point I would mutter in my head, “Oohhh Myyy! We’re driving there???” Driving the big Landcruiser truck was challenging, exciting, tiring, jarring, teeth-rattling, fun, and LONG, and did I say, challenging! It was like being a celebrity, as you passed crowds of waving children. Then, just when you were feeling drained of all energy, you would arrive at one more village. To those folks, this was not just one more village, it was their new, long-awaited well. They would fire you up again. You would be lifted up by their enthusiasm and energy. Thank God for them!

I remember Isaiah 41:17 “The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the LORD will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. “ Make no mistake, God is answering them in Malawi, Zambia, and Tanzania. There is still great need, but this year, God has answered out of His love for His people. He has used His people to help His people. God has brought us together, Americans, Canadians, Malawians, Zambians, and Tanzanians. God has formed us into teams and partnerships to bring clean water, so tongues will not be parched, and bodies will no longer suffer with diarrhea from foul water. God will not forsake the villagers. Praise God for inventing Marion Medical Mission. (And you thought it was Tom and Jocelyn!)

Even now, I can close my eyes and see a Malawian woman pumping water with a baby on her back. She finishes, strains to lift the heavy bucket onto her head, then walks gracefully back to her home. She is smiling. May God bless the people of Malawi !