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A Water Story from San Pablo, Belize

Clean water is flowing from a new installation in Belize, and I’m blessed to have been a part of the process that made this happen.

My first visit to the little Mayan village of San Pablo was about a year ago, when Dan Terpstra, Dave Mullins, and I, all from First Presbyterian in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, drove over rough dirt roads through mile after mile of banana plantations to meet with the school principal Pablo Acal, the village chairman Juan Isham, and the water board chairman Israel Canti. After the meeting during which we signed our covenant, we were invited to lunch at Israel’s house. We washed our hands, went inside the small house with the well-swept dirt floor and thatch roof, and dined on delicious hot tortillas, spicy chicken soup, and hot rice. I won’t pretend that I didn’t think about water-borne illness as we ate, since we knew the village water came from the river and had zero chlorine in it. However, I’ll tell you that I felt God’s presence and knew everything would be alright. I relaxed, enjoyed the meal and the company, and was glad that soon this village would have a reliably healthy water supply.

Israel's home with the green hand washing bucket by the door

Israel (in the blue shirt), the gracious host, keeps the hot corn tortillas coming

During our installation last month, I helped fellow East Tennessee Presbyterians, Ivy Winchester from Eusebia Presbyterian, and Pastor Todd Jenkins from First Presbyterian in Greeneville, teach the Health Education course. During every Living Waters for the World installation visit, one group teaches partners how to install the water purification system, and another trains partners to teach lessons about the important uses of clean water and proper hand-washing techniques. Ivy was our fearless leader, and I learned so many things from her about running an efficient program.

Todd Jenkins and Ivy Winchester teach the morning health education class

Health educators in our classroom (left to right): Danna, Ivy, Juan, Todd, Peggy, Mati, and Pablo

Three local women (Rosalia, Danna, Mati) and two local men (Juan and Pablo), attended our morning sessions and proved to be quick and enthusiastic learners. In the afternoons, our morning class taught several local moms and kids. The afternoon sessions were especially awesome, because we got to witness our morning teachers deliver their lessons in the Mayan Qʼeqchiʼ language. The song “Use This Water,” which we could sing in English and Spanish, was translated by members in our class into Qʼeqchiʼ. We all sang it, although I probably mispronounced some words based on the giggles I got from some of our students! We used all three languages in our water celebration at the end of the week, which brought in more people than we expected and was a happy, noisy, and energetic success.

Children gathered in the water building to celebrate the opening of San Pablo's water purification system

Our job is not done in San Pablo. There are a few more things to do to the water building so it can receive a license from the Health Ministry to sell water. We’ll be back to San Pablo again to visit our friends, to teach a refresher Health Education course, and to make sure everything is working as it should. In the meantime, I’ll be touching base with some of my new friends on WhatsApp, Facebook, and Messenger. And, of course, remembering them in prayer. Please pray for our friends in the village of San Pablo, and may we have clean water for all God’s children.


Peggy is a member of First Presbyterian Church, Oak Ridge, Tenn. She is a CWU 102 grad and member of her church's water team.

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