As a child I remember a Sunday School song I learned,
Friends, friends, friends, I have some friends I love. I love my friends and they love me. I help my friends and they help me. Friends, friends, friends, I have some friends I love.
On Living Waters for the World mission trips, it is our mission to share Christ with others as we install water filtration systems and build relationships. That is what we do as “friends in Christ.” Better than friends, we are brothers and sisters in Christ.
The LWW team that traveled to Cuba April 3-10, 2018 was a group of friends from three different churches. First Trinity Presbyterian of Laurel, MS organized the water team that partnered with the Presbyterian Church in Nueva Paz, Cuba. This installation trip was unique since it was funded by the Presbytery of Mississippi in cooperation with three Presbyterian churches from different states; we made new friends within and beyond our Presbytery.
Water team members represented three Mississippi churches: First Presbyterian Church of Laurel, Vernal Presbyterian Church, and First Trinity Presbyterian Church. Pictured left to right are: Esteban (translator), Kathy Wennerstrum, Mindy McMahon, Jerry Goode, Verniece Goode, Philip Williams, Saray (translator), Billy Montgomery, and Janet James
Some of the most important friendships we made were in Cuba. Making friends in Cuba is exciting and easy on each trip with Living Waters for the World. The Cuba Network partners who support all LWW water teams are helpful, our translators are wonderful, and the Cuban people we meet are indescribably warm, talented, smart, ingenious, hard-working, and fun-loving.
The evening of this story, we had gotten to know each other well. For five busy days we had planned together, worked together, and sweated together to complete the system installation and health education classes. We became good friends with very real relationships.
No one made us feel more welcome or safe than Jesus, the oldest member of the church at 74. Our first night, Jesus came to our ladies group before we went to our sleeping quarters to let us know he would be on guard all night, that the gate would be locked, and the police station was just across the street. He was serious and made sure we knew he was watching over us. How much safer could we have felt? We were reminded that God was watching over us through a dedicated member of the church named “Jesus”. WOW! Some people would call that a “God Wink”. Jesus was present every day with his young grandson, Joshua. We met his daughters and granddaughters who are also a very active part of the church.
Many Cubans and our team members worked toward the completion of this water system installation. Saskia, the church administrator, put together a wonderful group from the church and the community. The team of four water system operators were there each day and diligently learned their job well. Before we left, they had a schedule for serving the water and a starting date already in place.
The system operators for the church in Neuva Paz, Cuba. Saskia is in pink.
The trainees who came for morning and afternoon spiritual, health, and hygiene classes were good leaders who came with interest, excitement, good questions, and enthusiasm. God will use them to reinforce what they learned about the proper uses of clean water and the importance of hand-washing to help their community.
The cooks were talented and delightful. They made us feel like we were eating in our grandmother’s home each meal. They used their gifts of hospitality, daily cleaning our rooms and the space in which we held training. These wonderful friends entertained us the night after we arrived with games and special food, they cared for us all week, and gave us gifts during the Sunday service just before the water celebration.
Since returning home, we have received great reports about how our partners are sharing clean water in Nueva Paz and using it to tell others about Jesus Christ, the Living Water. In the first month, they served 600 people approximately 2,100 gallons of water.
Saskia shows community members the bottling station of their new LWW water system
God gets the glory and credit for making all this possible. I write with tears in my eyes remembering the hearty hugs, laughter, and sad goodbyes that we have shared with these special people. God did place us together and we have built relationships that will last for the remainder of our lives. These are the kinds of friendships and relationships that God allows and orchestrates through Living Waters for the World.