Teams are told before heading down to Guatemala to "expect the unexpected," and Guatemala delivered! There we were in the dry season, and it poured rain all night and all day! Our group of six was on its way to El Buen Pastor Presbyterian Church, in a village high up in the mountains of Huehuetenango, Guatemala. We had installed a water purification system with the church in 2014, and we were heading there for a sustainability visit as part of our three-year covenant. However, we couldn't quite make it to our site, because the road had become washed out by the rain. We had to abandon our vehicle with gear in tow, and start walking the remaining 1 to 2 miles on a very muddy, windy, and steep mountain road. This remote village is a place that the locals tell us even Guatemalan government officials will not bother to go.
Fred Filiaggi, Linda Strong, Al Aguilar, and Sara and Paul Vlajcic starting the long trek to El Buen Pastor Presbyterian Church, with Tuktuk up ahead
But God was with us, and seeing our plight, He sent an angel driving a small Tuktuk, whose driver was kind enough to take our supplies. It was a saving grace! Members of the congregation, including the pastor, met us part way. They brought umbrellas to help keep us from getting completely soaked, and kept us company as we carefully maneuvered our way down the road.
Once we arrived, a bit late but ready to do the important tasks ahead, the pastor welcomed us in prayer and members of the session and youth group offered warm greetings. We were provided an update of the Living Waters for the World (LWW) project and its impact on the community. Times have been trying for the village, as several key leaders in the project had left for the United States in hopes of a better life. Even on this day, with all the rain, the church’s well had run dry by late morning.
It seemed like our arrival brought a sense of hope; a chance for the community to renew its commitment to each other to bring pure water to their village and improve the lives around them. Our perseverance to get there was equally matched by the desire of the members of El Buen Pastor to relearn health lessons and how to operate and maintain the water purification system. At that moment it became clear that this was why we came; this was why we answered God’s call.
The LWW mission is not without sacrifice, not without hardship along the way. It is a journey of discovery about yourself and what God can do through you, if you let Him. It is about taking care of each other in a difficult world. It is about an unconditional love that God has always intended for us as brothers and sisters.
Meal preparation and hand-made tortillas!
We shared a wonderful meal together, prepared by the pastor’s wife and other women of the church, and were kept warm and dry from the rain as we sat in the kitchen close to the fire. We learned about each other’s families and shared stories. Once our bellies were full, we worked into the afternoon.
Fred Filiaggi, Rubenia Sanchez (LWW In-country Coordinator) and Linda Strong enjoying fellowship and lunch with our Guatemalan partners
Al Aguilar, speaking in Spanish, captivated the kids with a personal story, and Sara engaged the teachers and children in the health curriculum for the entire day.
Al Aguilar and Sara Vlajcic reviewing the health education curriculum with the teachers and children
Water team members Linda Strong and Fred Filiaggi and LWW's In-country Coordinator Rubenia Sanchez worked with two operators, new in their role, to reestablish proper system operation and maintenance. Both operators (only 18 and 19 years of age) were attentive and committed to learning and improving. The day ended with the children presenting a lesson showing how much they had learned about the system. Paul Vlajcic played a key role in the demonstration!
Sara Vlajcic, Paul Vlajcic, and Rubenia Sanchez helping the kids share a lesson they learned about how the LWW system makes pure water
We had a closing meeting with the entire congregation, and the pastor led us in prayer. We said our goodbyes, with hugs and gratitude from both sides, and made our way up hill through the rain to head back to our van. About halfway through the trek, we came across a mudslide that had partially blocked our path with swift flowing water and loose rocks falling from above! The good news is ... we made it across! And now we have an incredible story to tell.
We returned to the hotel sopping wet and cold, but gratified and thankful that God is using us in a way that we could have never imagined.