Clean Water Project in Guatemala

If you did not know where this community was, you probably could not find it.  Turning off the main highway you first drive parallel with and on an abandoned train track.  The old set of rails still in place as you bounce off the side of them, then onto a narrow dirt path.  Not many vehicles see this forgotten pathway that once moved goods and people through this area.

But now as you get about a quarter of a mile in you start to see makeshift homes lining the once bustling railway.  Now this area has become a home to some of the poorest people in Guatemala.  Because they are squatting on this land, with permission from the local government, power is not an option, even if these families could afford it, the power companies would not install because they do not have title to their land.

So these families live their lives around the sun.  When the sun rises, so do they.  When the sun sets, generally the village goes to sleep and is quiet.  During the day at any given time there is always someone in the river either bathing or getting water for their families needs.  Now this river is very contaminated with bacteria, germs, and feces.  We have already treated many children for preventable water born diseases.

With this visit we are hoping to bring a healthy change to this village.  Our well digger, actually digs the wells by hand.  After pumping most of the water out of the well, he carefully lowers himself down into the dark well where he begins to use a digging bar that is about a meter long, and loosen up the bottom.  Then he uses a shovel without the handle and loads the sandy mixture in a bucket.  His helper at the top, carefully raises the now heavy bucket up and dumps out the sand.  This process is extremely dangerous.  Because we have been blessed with several good vanes of water, the well was filling up pretty quickly.  However he continues to work in the cold water until it is up to his shoulders and he can no longer reach the bottom.  He then tells his helper to turn the pump back on and drain the well back down.  This cycle repeats many times until he was satisfied that we would have enough water.

Meanwhile, about 50 feet on the surface, work was going on to construct a water tower.  The concrete and steel structure had to be sturdy enough to hold a 660 gallon water tank, 3 solar panels, and 2 deep cycle batteries.  In addition to the water tower, a trench needed dug for a drain line and a water line to feed the two sinks we were also installing.

Of course with all the excitement in the village the children would come to watch and play nearby as construction continued.  Each day we took good care of our workers and fed them lunch.  Meanwhile we had a few children standing by that I would sneak them a little to eat because we did not have enough for them.  So the next day we made sure to have enough for the children also.  My heart was encouraged when I saw one of the construction workers give his portion to one of the children.

While I was playing with the children, one precious little girl came up to me and asked for a drink.  I did not have any water to give her and my heart was sad because everything was still under construction, however we did have the pump in the well but it was not hooked up.  Then that still small voice reminded me that we have a generator on site.  So I instructed them to hook the pump up so we could fill up some jugs.

When the water started flowing the joy and laughter from the children was priceless.  The pipe was directed into the street and the children all started running through the water getting soaked from head to toe.  All we needed was a little soap and shampoo.  As we filled some water bottles, milk jugs, and any other container that was clean and able to hold water, the children continued to play and giggle like it was Christmas morning.  What a precious gift they just gave to me.

Nearing the end of the construction process, my dear friend the Mayor of Gualan, Alfredo Ortego, stopped by to visit our project and the people.  We walked around the village and showed him where the families are currently getting their water and bathing.  He was very appreciative that American’s would donate their money and time to help the poor people in Guatemala and wanted me to relay that message to you.

Several hours later we were ready to dedicate the well and give it to the community.  We truly believe that ownership needs to be transferred to the local people.  This way they will take care of it and maintain it.  As I dedicated the well, I reminded them about the story of the woman at the well.  Jesus told her if she drank this water she would thirst again, but He could give her living water.  I explained that Jesus is this living water we seek after.  As I prayed, I asked the Lord for this well to never run dry to quench their physical thirst, and for them to seek Jesus to quench their spiritual thirst.  As soon as I said Amen, boom, boom, bam, fireworks in the normal Guatemala style.

There was just a little more work to be done before the tank could be filled all the way up.  But my missionary journeys were taking me to another part of Guatemala, to visit another family we are currently working with.  So I did not get to see the finished product, but look forward to seeing it on my next trip.  However, the day I was travelling home, I received a very special video.  This video was of clean water filling up a sink and a little girl in the background singing, clean water, clean water in Spanish.  What a blessing it always is, to be HIS hands, to do HIS work, and to bring only HIM the glory!