My church, Christ Episcopal Church, Bowling Green, Ky., has been learning and talking about Living Waters for the World (LWW) now for over two years. We know that it has over 900 water filtration systems in 25 countries. We know that the systems are sustainable and built to last for two generations. We know that the system is composed of filters and UV lights that are designed to remove debris and undissolved solids and bacteria to purify the water for safe consumption. What we have more recently realized, is that it is also very much about relationships and hope.
Percy Ayala, one of LWW’s in-country technicians in Peru shares purified water with local children at the dedication ceremony.
On our recent trip to Peru, 12 people from the three surrounding communities attended the education classes. These were not just local town folk who were curious to see what all the fuss was about. The class was composed of men and women who were leaders in their communities – health promoters, principals and teachers – all of whom could see how having clean water would benefit their respective communities. All of whom cared enough to learn to be equipped to teach their communities long after we were gone. Though everything was translated from one language to another, the language barrier did not stop the message from being conveyed: all of God's children are deserving of having clean, pure, agua viva (living water).
The graduating education class composed of superintendents, teachers, and other locals plus CEC's 102 team: Laurie Joyce, Belinda Palmer, Jan Funk, and 101 Team Leader, Laura Goodwin
As for the installation, the Peruvian men worked overtime to ready the space for
the system, taking pride in every detail from pouring the concrete floor to painting the walls white to reflect the heat of the sun (we were 3.5 degrees from the equator!). The first morning, Segundo, the jack of all trades on the boat crew, got up before the sunrise to cut wooden boards, plane them, and build a frame in which he would eventually cut out two holes for sinks. All before we got out of bed! And we got up early!
The cooks took pride and care in our meals providing us with freshly squeezed pasteurized juices, French toast, eggs, fish, fresh fruit, and other provisions. They made sure we had the best and cleanest food they could provide in order to give us strength to accomplish our tasks of the day.
Every last person on our LWW team pushed his/her limits. Team members willingly ran through the airport as to not miss a flight, brushed their teeth with bottled water, put ideas together to come up with the absolute best solutions possible, and set all egos aside. They got up earlier than usual to get the most out of every day. They problem solved, interpreted a translated language, communicated with gestures, showered in uncomfortable surroundings, and slept in mosquito nets. They pushed all the boundaries of the creature comforts that could have so easily been chosen over this challenge. And, every one of them would tell you it was worth it for their new friends in Commandancia, Nuevo Israel, Santo Tomas to have the benefits of clean water.
Gary Reimer and Digby Palmer made friends with the caretaker’s daughters who were on site every day during the installation
On the first day that we arrived down river, we had no cell service, no wi-fi, and no electricity, but my cell phone dinged with a notification. It was my Spanish dictionary giving me my "word of the day." The word was "esperanza" which was defined as "hope, anticipation, expectation, confidence." What was so special about this was that Esperanza was also the name of the boat that had carried us down river! It had also carried 300 five-gallon water bottles for distribution, water tanks, education materials, soap, eye glasses, medical supplies, PVC pipe for the system, the UV light, the filters, etc. But in that moment, it occurred to me, that it was actually hope, or esperanza, that we were delivering.
On the day of the dedication service people started showing up on foot and by the boat load. Boats from both directions of the river started to collect at the river bank. People from the three surrounding communities and beyond started gathering. There were over 175 people that showed up that day!
People traveled by all available means to attend the opening of the water system.
It was then that I realized how much bigger this project was than I, or my group, or even Christ Church. For the people of Commandancia, Nuevo Israel, Santo Tomas, this represented hope. Hope of a better life for their children, hope of a better life for the elderly in the community, hope for the future.
Laura Goodwin is the director of Christian Education at Christ Episcopal Church
in Bowling Green, KY.