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Communication Challenges Can’t Stop These Mission Partners

The game of telephone always gets the biggest laughs when the message at the end is different from the message at the beginning. The game is built on the expectation that we will misunderstand each other! Sometimes communication between water partners can feel like a game of telephone. Partners must learn to communicate with people living in another country, speaking another language, using ever-changing technology.

Living Waters for the World (LWW) water teams like the Houston Group of Churches have learned to persevere through these communication challenges. In some ways it has gotten easier (thank you WhatsApp!), and in other ways the challenges remain the same. Connections are spotty. Messages get confused in translation. People fail to reply.

That’s why their recent partnership in Nicolas Bravo, Mexico, was so impressive. Pastor Adan Surian sent them updates “every single week.” David Fox, member of St. Philip Presbyterian Church (Houston, TX) said, “For the whole year that they were constructing the water building and getting ready, he kept us up to date.” David credited Pastor Adan’s communication for an extraordinarily smooth installation saying, “The pastor was enthusiastic and gave good leadership. It was the best installation I’ve ever been associated with.” David has been involved with LWW since 2012.

(Right to left) Pastor Adan, Paloma Frauschi, Woody Speer, Brad Urquart, Ed Hess, Alejandro, Juan, and David Fox share a pre-celebration clean water tasting

Typically, LWW water partners only visit face-to-face once or twice per year. That makes communication between visits essential. Thanks to Pastor Adan’s weekly updates, the Houston water team knew exactly what to expect when they arrived for the installation visit. The people of Nicolas Bravo were well-prepared, well-organized, and deeply committed to changing lives through clean water and health education. Ed Hess, also from St. Philip Presbyterian Church, was part of the system installation team. He said, “I was very impressed with the operators that they lined up. They were proficient and self-sufficient. Juan was in college and is working as an electrician’s apprentice. Alejandro had several children. Lalo was an established tradesman, the eldest, and the installation supervisor of the two.” The men worked alongside each other to install the community’s water purification system. During this process they formed a unique and special bond. Ed said, “We got to know each other well. We wanted to know about them. They wanted to know about us. It was a tearful moment when we had to say goodbye.”

Alejandro (left) and Juan (right) proudly display their certifications to operate Nicolas Bravo’s water purification system

Janet Hess was part of the team that taught health education lessons to local educators (Picture on left: Houston Area team members (center back) Karen Persley, Mary Plail, Janet Hessand the health educators of Nicolas Bravo). She recalled, “Training sessions were really fun. This was a very motivated and well-educated group of people.” Even so, it took a moment for the partners to connect the method and the aim of the curriculum. Janet said, “When we started out with the creation story, they were very hesitant. You could see them wondering where we were going. Once we started on the health lessons they began to understand that this was how they were going to teach it. After that, they were all in.” The installation proceeded smoothly, and together they marked the opening of the water purification system with a community-wide church service. They passed out cups of purified water, and everyone raised their glass in celebration and gratitude.

Children prepare to take their first drink of purified water from Nicolas Bravo’s LWW system

The Houston team departed for home feeling confident about Nicolas Bravo's future. The operators and educators were committed and equipped to serve the community, and they planned to extend service to all the rural pueblitos in the area as soon as possible. David said, “I expect them to be a large producer of water.” No doubt, when the partners are face-to-face this fall, they will pick right up where they left off. That’s just one fruit yielded by good communication. Another is a strong partnership able to support sustainable clean water for the people of Nicolas Bravo, Mexico.


Members of St. John’s Presbyterian Church, ChristChurch Presbyterian, St. Philip Presbyterian Church, and Bellaire Rotary Club comprise the Houston Group of Churches Living Waters for the World water team.

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