Just When You Think You Know What to Expect
After partnering with more than a dozen communities to install water purification systems, it’s understandable that a Living Waters for the World team would develop a formula for how they do their mission partnerships. Experienced teams, like the one from Grace Presbyterian Church in Plano, Texas, develop a feel for the standard number of volunteers they’ll need, the ideal length of their trips, the space required for training, etc. This enables them to confidently prepare for new projects and makes it possible for them to successfully work with multiple partners. And yet, God holds surprises even for seasoned teams like theirs.
In June of this year, Grace Presbyterian Church completed its 15th system installation with the Escuela Oficial Rural Mixta (Official Rural Coed School) in the community of Aldea Chaquijya, Guatemala.
Left: A woman from Chaquijya gets one of the first jugs of clean water
For a new system installation, Nancy Fraser, church member and part of the health education team, typically prepares to train 20-30 people per day on the necessary uses of clean water and proper hand-washing techniques. Based on the team’s initial visit with Chaquijya community leaders, Nancy knew to expect a larger-than-average turnout, so the health education team prepared to train 200 people. Much to their surprise, 450 people showed up for training every day!
They taught four sessions per day for three days to the school children (4 years old through middle school), and one to the teachers and parents. Nancy told us, “We’d trained groups of 20-30 adults before, but never the 100 adults that showed up in Chaquijya!”
Josette Klemp (right of center) is surrounded by students of the Escuala Oficial Rural Mixta.
The community’s overwhelming interest in the water project also extended to the water system. Marc Klemp, church member and part of the system installation team, experienced extraordinary participation as well. More than 20 people (as compared to the typical 3 to 5) wanted to be trained to install, operate, and sustain the water system. Marc said, “This was by far the largest turnout of people willing to be involved. Doing the project in the school drew more attention to the children who would benefit, and this brought the community out in support.“
The school children were excited about the water system installation
The partners worked together tirelessly, and everything was on track for the water system’s grand opening. Yet, one night, heavy rain caused a mudslide that completely blocked the route between the team’s lodging and the school. When the transportation company picked the team up that morning, the driver was only able to take them to the mudslide. The team members had to get permission from security to pass on foot. Once permission was granted, they walked the length of three city blocks to meet up with another vehicle that carried them the rest of the way to the school.
At the celebration of the system opening, Nancy was struck by the children’s and community members’ persistent joy and gratitude despite the weather. She said, “The celebration started, and even with the rain coming down, they celebrated!” Marc also recalled, “Leaders from the community came out wearing traditional Guatemalan attire carrying ornamental staffs with tassels on them. They spoke about the different churches and beliefs represented in the community and how they put their differences aside to unite in support of this system.”
Marc Klemp (center) and community leaders dedicate the new water building and purification system
Grace Presbyterian Church knows that God’s hand was in the extraordinary level of participation they experienced with their partners in Chaquijya. They have experienced God at work in all 15 of their Living Waters for the World partnerships and look forward to developing new partnerships as the years progress. According to Nancy, “When you go outside your comfort zone it expands your world. There is a very humbling experience when you go into a country like Guatemala and realize how abundantly you have been blessed just by where you were born. Every time I return from a trip, I have a desire to share that with others – that we need to think beyond us.” For Marc, “Once you go on one of those trips and see the level of appreciation your partners have, it’s not something that’s easy to walk away from. It draws you in.”