First-Time Volunteer Finds Transformation in Mexico
One of the joys of participating in Living Waters for the World (LWW) is witnessing team members become a little different after their first trips. I remember exactly where I was, the date, and the sounds surrounding me when I was transformed - Sacalum, Mexico, sanctuary, Oct. 31, 2010, with joyful singing. Last summer, I watched my fellow Pennington Presbyterian Church member, Elizabeth Andres, step away from her life in Central New Jersey and walk into the welcoming arms of the congregation in Cantamayec.
Cantamayec partners gave each water team member a traditional Mayan house to keep. Author Hope Anderson is fourth from right. Elizabeth Andres is third from right.
As we began to plan for the trip last winter, I reached out to Elizabeth because I’d heard that she might be interested in joining us. After lots of questions, and in a giant leap of faith, she decided to travel to Cantamayec, Mexico, with us. She wanted not only to experience an LWW water partnership, but to fly on a plane for the first time, travel outside the USA for the first time, and immerse herself in a new culture for the first time.
Since Pennington became involved with LWW in 2010, Elizabeth had considered going on a trip and thought safe water was a good cause. But, she was busy with work and caring for her family. This time, something was different. Elizabeth recently remarked, “Finally getting out of my comfort zone, getting on a plane, going to another country where I knew I couldn’t speak the language. I wasn’t worried; I felt calm. A calm feeling came over me, and I knew that I was going to be safe and that it was okay for me to go.”
Elizabeth remembers that when we first visited the system site, we shook everyone’s hand. She liked that our partners were happy that we were there, that they didn’t take offense. It made her feel warm inside. She wasn’t expecting the welcome and hospitality or the feeling that we were all working together. She said, “It wasn’t like - you’re the Americans. It wasn’t like them versus us.”
Elizabeth and I were roommates for the entire visit, so I watched her become more comfortable as the week went on and fall in love with our operating partners and the beauty and culture of the Yucatan. Elizabeth told me that she had always thought of Mexico as a place with drug problems; during our visit she witnessed how much parents love their children and want the best for them. She also marveled at our friends’ relationship with the earth – growing vegetables and raising chickens and pigs at home instead of running to the supermarket. Unlike those of us in the USA, they didn’t take conveniences for granted.
Elizabeth loved teaching 102 in the morning and then watching her students instruct others in the afternoon, remembering everything they’d been taught, and adding their own personal touches. She also enjoyed the water celebration, telling me, “I can’t believe how many people came and celebrated the water!”
Elizabeth watches as a young scientist looks for germs everywhere
Since returning home, Elizabeth has joined the mission committee and helps lead a monthly church-school-wide focus on water and water awareness. “I look at water in a different way now. I conserve more.”
One evening in the middle of that hot week last July, we sat in the courtyard of our hotel in Peto talking about the highs and lows of the day. When it was Elizabeth’s turn, she began to cry a bit and told the group that she felt so relaxed, comfortable, and peaceful that she didn’t want the trip to end. As you might imagine, I also had tears in my eyes, tears of thanks to God.
We sometimes think we are going to our operating partners to take care of them and their communities. Elizabeth said over and over that she felt cared for by our partners; by a woman who reminded Elizabeth of her grandmother, who always made people feel welcome; by our team’s long-time translator, Jose, who talked about his wife and children and love for them; and by the community.
After the water celebration (Elizabeth in peach)
Relationships; that’s what LWW is all about. It’s no surprise that we now have one more water saint who has been blessed by this miracle.