Can you believe that one tiny organization has likely drilled more water wells than any other well-drilling organization in the world? Water For All, International (WFA), headquartered in San Angelo, TX (or others trained with this technology) has been responsible for 3,000 or more wells throughout the world over the past 20 years! Pioneered by Terry Waller first in Africa, then in Bolivia, WFA operates by establishing “well clubs,” where the poorest of the poor are taught to drill their own wells, in addition to manufacturing and maintaining their own hand pumps. Called “the Baptist Wells,” these simple, deep (down to 100 meters) wells are revolutionizing life for poor people who never dreamed they could have access to virtually unlimited water. Poverty tends to be generational; the transformation brought by access to water is instant in its effect of positioning families to move out of poverty.
This is a new well in a remote community – in a cattle field! We drilled to a depth of abut 55 meters (~165 feet). Just to the side – about 30 feet from the well stands a tree that local bad guys use as a torture point, called “palo diablo” or “devil tree.” The ants living in the tree inflict wicked, painful bites. The Bolivian drug cartels tie an enemy to the tree and kill their enemies by subjecting them to hundreds or even thousands of bites from these wicked little beasts!
There’s some kind of venom in the bites that also – when bitten “in moderation” – brings relief from muscle or joint pain! I personally experienced it when I had one of the ants bite one of my fingers where I have constant arthritis pain. Instant relief from the arthritis . . . maybe from the bite pain?
It’s finally here. We’ve been praying, planning, training, waiting, talking, learning and wondering. Now we’re finally heading out. Our departure date looks to be the first week of January, 2011. You’ll recall (or see from my previous few posts) that I was in Bolivia for two months this past summer, learning the nuances of – and getting experience in – hand-drilling water wells. Water For All, International (WFA), the folks with whom I was in Bolivia, have invited us to become their point people in an effort to begin a new well-drilling movement in northern Uganda! Because a well-drilling movement isn’t something that occurs in a short-term trip (or trips), Sherry and I are planning a 6-month (or so) first trip, and then an ongoing focus on the people, language and culture in the place from which we believe the movement can grow. Let me explain . . .
We’ll begin in a town named Soroti, in partnership with a local non-profit called Global Care. Global Care currently operates out of several locations in Uganda, sponsoring children, working in schools, focusing on school drop-outs with micro-businesses and vocational skills, and hopes to expand into working with handicapped and other poor and marginalized children in Soroti. They have asked WFA for help in securing wells that will bring regular clean water to kids and families within their local sphere of influence. My first job will be to help them with 8 new wells.
Now, when it comes to creating a “well-drilling movement,” it becomes paramount that our (well) trials are successful – meaning that the locations in which we drill have a high potential for success. By success, I mean that at least 9 times out of 10 we get good wells that produce somewhere around 20-25 liters/minute of clean water. This is obviously the “textbook version,” and reality (or Terry Waller, Exec. Director of WFA) may dictate some adjustments, but that’s the goal at which we’re aiming, both for WFA and for the wells on which we’re partnering with Global Care!
Because of the long-term focus of initiating a well-drilling movement, we can’t say for certain – until we’re there and on the ground for some time – that Soroti is the best place from which that movement can begin. Thus it is difficult to know whether Soroti will be the location from which this work will build in Uganda.
Now, having given you all the “data” about what’s happening, let me tell you how I really feel about it . . . it kind of scares me to death. I believe without a shadow of doubt that this is something we’re called to do; but that doesn’t make it any easier. I’m convinced that WFA is the perfect organization through which I can utilize both my gifts and the education and training I’ve accumulated over the past 7 years; but there isn’t a “career path” or retirement plan. In fact, we’re “volunteers,” investing in eternity – and utterly dependent upon the One Who controls our account in the Bank of Heaven. Thanks for being interested enough to read this far!
Hugo and Katarina’s new well!
So the adventure continues. In grad school, part of my work in International
Development focused on what is called Appropriate Technology. My research led me to a process of hand-dug water wells that could be delivered for around $100. I wanted to know more about this amazing process and tracked down Terry Waller, the inventor of the technology and now the Director of Water For All, International. Terry has been a missionary in Bolivia for over 20 years, where he has dug over 2,000 of these wells and continues to hone the process. This past March, I went to San Angelo, TX (Terry’s US home) for a week-long training on these wells and was invited by Terry to join him in Bolivia where the technology actually started.
I leave early Monday July 5th and will return home at the end of August! If you want to check out where I’ll be, click on this link. We fly into Santa Cruz de la Sierra, then drive about 250 km NW to the village of San Julian, from which we’ll travel to rural villages, drilling wells. This location is between the Amazon Basin rainforest and the Andean highlands, working primarily with the Quechua people. I’m told we will have only dial-up access to the Internet while in San Julian, so I don’t know how often I’ll be able to update.
After my return to the States, Sherry and I will be considering, praying and wondering if perhaps the Lord would have us take this technology with us back to Africa. There is a Ugandan wells project developing now within Water For All, which would complement their existing Ethiopian work. The Ugandan project would be based in an area called Karamoja, in the northeast of Uganda, likely emanating from a city named Soroti. We’d love your thoughts and prayers!
Do you ever marvel at the turns your life takes? I’m sitting in the Kanga coffee shop in Davao City, Philippines, looking at the woman I fell in love with 40 years ago. To me she is even more beautiful today than that day I noticed – really NOTICED her (might it have been that tight green sweater and sparkling green eyes?). I’d known her for several years already, but never dreamed she might “like” me. Then a couple years later as we stood at the altar, no wait, the judges desk (in Walla Walla, WA where we ran away to be married), I couldn’t believe she was truly mine!
We’ve been on a wild journey since that day (Feb 17th, 1972). We abandoned ourselves to follow a Jesus we barely knew and have over the years continued to revel in the power of His work in our lives. We have 3 children who’ve grown into amazing individuals – each of whom married equally remarkable people. In three weeks or so, our 5th grandchild will be born.
And we’re at another crossroads. We have spent the last 7 or 8 years preparing for this next step of the journey. Sherry has been here in the Philippines for almost 3 months, completing an internship as a midwife; after our return to CA, I’ll be leaving for 2 months in Bolivia, hand-digging water wells among the Quechuas with an organization called Water For All. After that, who knows? We’re looking for some direct and clear guidance as to what the future might look like. All we know is that we have committed the rest of our lives to living out (as best we can) God’s word through Isaiah . . .” to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke . . . to share [our] food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when [we] see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from [our] own flesh and blood? . . . and if [we] spend [ourselves] in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then [our] light will rise in the darkness, and [our] night will become like the noonday. The LORD will guide [us] always; he will satisfy [our] needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen [our] frames. [We] will be like well-watered gardens, like springs whose waters never fail. . . (Isa 58:6-11).
I invite you into the journey with us!
It’s been a long time since I’ve posted to my blog . . . We’ve been back in the States now since the first of July last year and I’ve been focused on working and getting ready for our next trip. Sherry has been in Davao City, Philippines since February, completing an internship in midwifery. I’ll meet her there at the end of her stay and we’ll return together. After nearly 40 years together, it’s been a real challenge for me to be living alone for these past 7 weeks! Having run away and gotten married at 18, neither of us has ever lived alone – and the longest we’ve been apart is about 10 days or so! I confess, I’m hopelessly codependent with her 🙂
This past March 15th – 20th, I spent with Water For All in San Angelo, Texas, learning about hand-dug wells. The training was interesting, especially since everything that might go wrong . . . DID go wrong. But how better to gain an understanding of what might occur overseas than having to deal with it in the training? I especially enjoyed getting to know Terry Waller and Kim Edlund, the two guys running the Water For All organization. They invited me along for a drilling trip to Bolivia during the months of July and August this year. Never been to South America, but I’m planning to go!