My way is the best way

There are few things I enjoy more than learning about people. They way they work, what makes them who they are, and appreciating the amazing differences between us. We can learn so much and change for the better simply by integrating with people of different ages, cultures, ethnicities, incomes, etc., etc. Human nature leads us to prefer to remain with people who think the way we think, behave the way we behave, thus confirming our ideas and behaviors. But what if the things we are doing are wrong? What if there are things we are doing simply because "that's the way we do it?" I for one want to know WHY. I need to know why.

"Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. Or just because it's smart, doesn't mean it's right." - People Over Profit

Not much can ruffle my feathers more than people assuming that their respective culture, idea, way of doing things, is the best way. But the thing is, I have been guilty of this so many times. It is amazing how blind I can be when I am absolutely sure I am seeing clearly. We will have NO idea how other people view the world and learn to respect it if we do not try to see it through their eyes and, in the process, question our own beliefs. We will never fully understand what they have experienced in their lives and how their circumstances have shaped the way they think, but we can learn. If we do not pursue this, I believe, we are missing out on Christ's call to be the body: many very different parts combining to form a beautiful whole. I have been reading a little book called Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer for the second time. A passage that hits me hard every time I read it is this:

"God did not make this person as I would have made him. He did not give him to me as a brother for me to dominate and control, but in order that I might find above him the Creator. Now the other person, in the freedom with which he was created, becomes the occasion of joy...God does not will that I should fashion the other person according to the image that seems good to me, that is, in my own image; rather in his very freedom from me God made this person in His image. I can never know beforehand how God's image should appear in others...To me the sight may seem strange, even ungodly."

 When coming into this project we wanted to be sure that what we were doing was actually something the people wanted. You think, water, food, gardens...what could be bad about that? But I have heard of many a project left to die simply because there was no involvement and no ownership by the community, just a plan created by outsiders who have no idea how things are done within the culture. Again, we tend to think our own ideas are best, but most of the time, that is not the case. 

We decided that we would do our best to involve the community in the decision making process. We have started going into the village, interviewing families, and asking questions like: "What do you see as the problems your community is facing?" and "What are your gifts/talents/what do you enjoy doing?" and "If we could do things to help, what would they be?" The responses we got were for the most part very similar as to the needs of the community: Water. From poor quality for drinking and the diseases that come from that, to hours of waiting in line during the dry season, to simply having to walk too far, it is a big concern for most of them. They also have trouble irrigating enough area to really make a difference during the dry season because of the amount of labor and time it takes to water with a can that you filled from a source many kilometers away. Apart from the need however, I have been moved by the fact that they are taken care of. Despite their lack of many things, they survive. They have incredible family bonds and when one of them is in need they band together and help. They thank the Lord for what they have and they ask to pray for us. They give us gifts! Talk about humbling. This quote from the book When Helping Hurts has been coming to life for me as we get more involved in the community:

"A significant part of working in poor communities involves discovering and appreciating what God has been doing there for a long time! This should give us a sense of humility and awe as we enter poor communities, for part if what we see there reflects the very hand of God."

The second most common problem was school for the children. There are a few village schools in the area, but there are many many children who have no access to them because it is too far to walk, they are overcrowded, or the quality of education is very poor.

Third, markets for selling their excess crops. When they do have some extra to sell, they must sell it soon after harvesting because most of them have no way to store it to wait for a better price, they may not have another chance, or, more commonly, they need the money right away. There are traders in the area who will come through right after harvest, buy what they can, store it and then sell for a huge markup in the city. They will also promise a higher price to convince them to grow certain crops and then when it is time to deliver, will give them much less than originally said. With no other options, most of the time they have to take what they can get. 

Through our research, we have located a spot that seems to be the most in need for our first well. It will be accessed by around 180 families. We have told the community we would like to help them build a well in their area but they must contribute to its installation and administration so it becomes theirs. We want them to take pride in having control and ownership while we are here to help them in the event of a maintenance issue etc. They have decided to form a water committee that will implement a small monthly fee for every family using the well. This contribution will be set aside for any repairs that need to be done in the future. They will set hours of operation for the well and also hire a guard who, in their words, "cares in his heart", to protect it from theft. 

The plan is to begin drilling on Monday, but we have had a couple hiccups getting the rig here. It will happen very soon. I will let you know ;). And keep us all in your prayers!  

The Water Problem

I am so excited to post the first update! We made it here safely and spent the first week spending time with my brother and sister-in-law, Keith and Elyse Perry, who are serving as missionaries in Uganda. They were able to come down for a few days with their son Judah and it was so good to see them. And let's be real, there was quite a bit of strategy game playing. I have had a bit of a "worlds colliding" experience over the past ten days, first with my own kids here, then having Keith and Elyse here. It's a little surreal, but completely amazing. We sat almost in awe a time or two just taking in the fact that we were all here together on the other side of the world. Crazy. 

But on to the water. 

I wanted to tour the area and do an assessment of the current situation within the small villages surrounding our farm so we took a couple afternoons to do just that. Our field manager, Ornelio, came along to translate, which was such a gift because he was born and raised in Moz and even knows the local Macua dialect. 

Here is what we found: 

There are three main ways that water is found and consumed in the area. First, and probably the most common, is simply digging for it with their hands. I was a bit surprised by this one, but it makes sense. Through a long history in the area, the communities know where the springs are and they pull back the ground to find the water. The problem is that with so many people putting their hands in the water holes, rain washing in contaminants, and who knows what else falling in, they are dirty. Most of them get stagnant and look simply disgusting. I could not imagine drinking from them, but when you have no other options, what can you do?

 

1.) Hand digging

The second way they can get water is through current wells in the area. There were actually more wells than I expected to find, but when we investigated further, there were quite a few problems. First of all, most of the wells are unprotected and shallow and subsequently get contaminated just as easily as the hand dug holes. These shallow wells are also not as likely to produce water throughout the year, frequently drying during the dry season. We did find a couple deep, hand pump wells just like the ones we will be digging, but as suspected, when these wells are placed in a community with no one taking ownership, no support or training for maintenance, they fail. Case in point: this well below was built in September of 2015 and it was already BROKEN with no resources to fix it!! It was put in by the government when the village put together a small contribution to go towards it, but it was installed, left with no support or maintenance, it broke, and now it is sitting there chained up and useless. And I know for a fact that this is not the only case like it. There are also territorial feuds that can cause a perfectly good well to be unusable to people within the proximity simply because the wrong person has control of it. We hope this can be eliminated by strategic placement of the wells and putting them in the hands of a neutral party while involving the communities in their maintenance.

 

2.) wells

The third way we found that people will get water is through seasonal rivers and slews. This is the least likely source of drinking water, but at times the only option. It is highly contaminated because bathing, washing clothes, etc., occur in these waters and sewage/disease is likely to be quite prevalent. It is also problematic because it is not a steady source of water during the dry season, even if it was simply being used for irrigation. 

 

3.) rivers and slews

A couple other interesting findings were that there are are at least a few people who are attempting to irrigate outside of the rainy season as well as at least one person we know of who is harvesting rain water and selling it. This is very encouraging because it makes introducing some of these ideas and concepts not seem quite as foreign as I had thought they might be. If there are people who want to do these things but simply do not have the resources or knowledge, then we can be the intermediaries for them and provide the opportunities for improvement.

And I can't wait for the next phase to come: DIGGING WELLS!!