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The Best Kept Secrets of Work Week

Each year before our first Clean Water U (CWU) training session, a group of volunteers heads to Camp Hopewell in Oxford, Mississippi to get our water buildings spruced up and ready to go. Ralph Young, LWW’s technology coordinator and water system workshop lead instructor, rounded up about a dozen volunteers, came up with our to do list, and made job assignments. He couldn’t have picked a better time for us to be at Hopewell: Mississippi experienced a bit of a summer “cold snap” by August standards and temps that had been in the upper 90s and 100s dropped down into the lower 90s right before we arrived. Just like when you’re traveling to visit water partners or you’re attending Clean Water U training, the weather you get is the weather you get and you make the best of it. It ended up being a great week to be working outside!

Here are just a few of the best kept secrets of work week, revealed to me during our time together:

1. Elbow grease and helium hands make quite a combo!

What are helium hands? Hands that go up when there is a call for volunteers. Living Waters for the World (LWW) is blessed with a bunch of these folks! Here’s a picture of our work crew for the week - they traveled from Kentucky, Texas, Georgia, California, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama to give of their time and expertise. Two major side effects of helium hands? A full heart and a big smile (not in the photo but with us for work week: Howard Hendrix.)

2. If you get a group of water saints together, a storytelling festival is bound to break out.

Sure, we’ve been in touch and shared news with one another via texts, phone calls, emails, and virtual meetings the last 18 months, but there was something about coming together that brought out the stories. Whether we were rocking on the front porch at the end of the day, sitting around the dinner table, or working side by side assembling a training bay out at the water buildings, we were hungry to hear and share news from our water partners and teams: An installation in Haiti at a school across from a busy health clinic, a visit the next year when the clinic nurse reported that the water-related illnesses had dropped to zero. A near mishap during an install in Cuba and the workaround the operating partners devised - a lesson for the team on “the Cuban way” to solve a problem. Some of my favorite stories of the week were when people shared how they first got involved with LWW and why they’ve stayed involved. Stories of folks long retired or graduated (may their memory be for a blessing) were recalled. These are stories I can hold on to with both hands - stories that remind me why I love this place God has called us to together. This is what it feels like to be part of something that stretches way beyond myself. This is why it all works. Author Brian Doyle wrote that, “all stories are, in some form, prayers.” We did a lot of story praying together during work week.

3. God will provide what we need

I’ve been working from a few deficits the past 18 months or so. I had some catching up to do. And to catch up, I needed to slow down. Haraka, Haraka haina baraka - as the Swahili proverb reminds us: hurry, hurry has no blessing. Work week was work and it was also a respite. The time away was a balm that did my weary soul good. It was hot and so we paced ourselves and stayed hydrated. We went slowly - we weren’t rushing to make our way through the to do list. We took breaks. We visited along the way. We ate delicious food (thanks to Tori at Hopewell!). We talked to our camp family about how the summer had gone and they helped us think about our plans for the October training session. We prayed together. I walked the labyrinth in the early morning hours. It was so good to be back at Hopewell. I think it hit all of us how much we’ve missed the place, the people, the being together. Did we get it all done? No. And that’s ok. There was grace enough to cover what was left undone.

Here are a few photos of our time together:

Doug Boggs (former Honduras Moderator) and Robert Followell were on light duty - they replaced all the old fluorescent light fixtures with new LED tubes. Dan Terpstra donated the fixtures and Doug and Robert bought some new fans for the buildings as well.

Illuminating! Doug and Robert are part of the water team at Woodland Presbyterian in Memphis, Tennessee. They partner in Honduras.

Rick Lee, Reverse Osmosis and Softening (ROS) Instructor for us at Clean Water U, and Charlie Mathers, Southeast Mexico Network Co-Moderator, were tasked with renovating the ROS training bay. Rick has been busy in his home workshop putting together the new RO unit. His water team, First Presbyterian Madisonville, Kentucky, partners in the Yucatán.

Out with the old…in with the new—and ready to train some ROS students!

Wil Howie, Founder of Living Waters for the World, stopped by to cheer/check on our progress. Bob McCoy, Haiti Network Moderator, paused from his work to catch Wil up on the latest news from Haiti. Bob’s team is Holy Spirit Haiti Mission in Huntsville, Alabama. Ralph Young, punch list in hand, kept us all on task.

It was great to get to visit with Wil, pictured here with Jerry Goode. Jerry is part of the water team at First-Trinity in Laurel, Mississippi. He is a former moderator for our Cuba Network and is a lead instructor for our water system workshop at Clean Water U.

It was the first work week for Howard Hendrix (left) and Marc Klemp (right). Howard is new to LWW, having just come through training in April at our virtual session. He’ll go where God calls him and is looking to join a team. Marc is from Grace Presbyterian in Plano - they partner in Guatemala. Marc brought a few tech-related items to show us. Jerry and I partnered up to get a couple of the outside training bays ready to go. Here’s what those ended up looking like:

Bay 4 - the front porch bay. Though he has been retired from teaching for several years now, we refer to this as Randall Swan’s bay since this was the one he built. He and Bubba Martin (God rest his soul) often taught on this bay. I thought of them and all the students who had learned on this bay over the years as I got it cleaned up and gave it some new labels. Whether there were any leaks, I’m not saying (that’s one of the secrets of work week) but if there were, those were on me.

Bay 3 - Lead Instructor Carson Salyer has shown this Ultra-Violet bay a lot of love over the years.

A highlight of the week for me: Getting to inventory the build-a-board kits and help organize the store room! Bushings, elbows, male adaptors, check!

Remembering the water saints who have gone before us ... we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses and they are cheering us on!

To all of our volunteers who were with us at work week and to those who couldn’t make it - thank you. Peace to all of you, until we are together again. Amen.


Kendall Cox is Director of Education for Living Waters for the World. She is part of the water team at First Presbyterian Church in Greenville, Mississippi. They partner on water in Cuba.


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