Her name is Gloria. She lives alone in Columba, Guatemala in a home smaller than my bedroom. Quick to smile and laugh, with twinkling eyes, her lined face tells a parallel story of a hard life. It was my privilege to meet her during a recent trip with our water team from First Presbyterian Church, Tupelo, MS.
FPC Tupelo has many church partners in Guatemala providing clean water, including El Arca Presbyterian Church in Columba. And so it was that we called on Gloria, accompanied by the El Arca pastor and the church’s water system operators, two young men who grew up in the church.
What a special visit we had! She spoke of her love for the church who provides her clean water, and how much better her life is now that she doesn’t have to seek out fuel to boil water each day to avoid intestinal parasites. “You know boiled water leaves sediment that caused my stomach to hurt.” I didn’t know. After 15 years, I am continually learning how much I don’t know about the lives of those God has called us to help.
Gloria’s happy expression suddenly changed when she spoke of her only child, a daughter who blessed her with a grandson before dying from complications from diabetes while still in her 20's. A grandson she rarely sees since he is being raised by the boy’s father and his family. Then her smile returned, as she continued, “But I have good neighbors, and I like to walk the streets visiting with them.”
As I prepared to leave, touched by the amazing resilience of this dear woman, a surprise was waiting for me still. Gloria suddenly turned and grabbed the arms of the two water system operators. “And I was the Sunday School teacher of these two! I made sure they grew up the right way!” she laughed. What? This woman I thought I knew was also a valued leader and teacher in the church who provided her clean water.
Humbled, I hugged her goodbye, two souls from different worlds experiencing God’s love together.
I still reflect on our visit and the lessons learned. How quickly we can make a judgement about others; how quickly we assume we know their role in this world.
At Living Waters for the World, we often say that clean water is a means to a relational end. This Mother’s Day, let us give thanks for mothers everywhere – yours, mine and mothers like Gloria, who lost her precious daughter yet has been a spiritual mother to the children of her church, including two young men who now provide their neighbors clean, safe water in Christ’s name.
Photography by Park Dodge
You can honor a mother this Mother's Day and share clean water with mothers like Gloria. Click here to learn about how you can give a mom access to clean water and help a family thrive.