One sunny, hot Friday last July, the Principe de Paz Iglesia Nacional Presbiteriana de Mexico in Cantamayec, Yucatan, hosted a big party to celebrate clean water. Members of the congregation cooked a delicious lunch for two hundred. Community folks were invited to relax in the shade of trees facing the new water building, while town leaders from local schools, government offices, and the health center sat at a long table festooned with blue ribbons. Banners featuring colorful handprints fluttered in the warm breeze.
The townspeople celebrated with speeches of thanks, certificates of appreciation, songs of praise to God for the gift of safe water, a ribbon cutting, and a toast of delicious, healthful water. Then they lined up at the water plant’s window with five-gallon bottles ready to be filled by the water system operators - for free - on this special day. And with that, the plant was open!
It was a celebration like many, marking the opening of a Living Waters for the World water purification system, but the circumstances that led to this one were truly a gift from God.
For years, the Principe de Paz congregation had prayed for a Living Waters for the World water system. In late spring 2017, I learned that Rolling Bay Presbyterian Church in Bainbridge Island, Washington, was interested in paying for and constructing a building to house a water system, and they were familiar with Cantamayec. So a few months later, Byron and Inez Ahina of Yucatan Helping Hands hosted me and representatives from LWW’s Yucatan network and Pennington Presbyterian Church (my home church in Pennington, New Jersey) for a site assessment in Cantamayec. During our visit, Irving Quintal, Principe de Paz’s pastor, asked if LWW was committed to a ministry that would improve the health of the community. For me, this was critical in determining that the congregation was indeed ready to go ahead with a project.
Hope Anderson (seated, right) joins water partners for a photo in Cantamayec
Almost as soon as I returned to Pennington, I received a phone call from Ken Hill from Unity Presbyterian in Fort Mill, South Carolina. Ken told me that his church had LWW-designated funds available and they were looking for a partner. I sent Ken several potential sites, including Cantamayec, which he presented to his congregation.
At the same time, the wheels were turning in my head. My congregation in Pennington had trained leaders but did not have enough money to fund a complete project. Maybe a tri-initiating partnership could work! Rolling Bay could pay for and work with Cantamayec to construct the water building. Unity could pay for the reverse osmosis equipment and send two members on the implementation trip. And Pennington could provide the Clean Water U-trained leadership and funds for health education and translator expenses.
Believing that God has a way of bringing people together according to God’s will, I proposed this arrangement to all three churches. Seven months later, I traveled to Cantamayec, met the Rolling Bay team, toured the almost-completed water building, and signed a covenant with Principe de Paz on behalf of Pennington and Unity Presbyterian churches for the installation of a water system and health education program. What a whirlwind!
Over the next four months, our Cantamayec friends put the finishing touches on the water building. Unity and Pennington team members held planning meetings via conference calls, wired funds, made reservations, and packed our suitcases. Finally, on Sunday, July 15, 2018, we all met together as one big team, ready to install the system, educate each other, and share Christ's love.
I began this story with the celebration that marked the opening of the system we installed with Principe de Paz. But that was just the beginning. Today, the church produces 70 bottles of water a day and is saving for a delivery truck that will help them reach outside their own village. We also have a water partnership that has changed our lives forever - and will continue to change lives in Cantamayec for many years to come.
Hope Anderson is the LWW Yucatan Network Moderator and a CWU 101 Instructor. She is a member of Pennington Presbyterian Church in Pennington, NJ.