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Another Step Closer

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Valle Nuevo, El Salvador

Today we are another step closer to the completion of the water well for the people of the little mountain village of Valle Nuevo. After drilling to a depth of almost 200-feet, we hit an abundant source of clean water. We spent most of the morning developing the well — pumping air into the hole to blow out the dirt and mud. The shower of water into the air created quite a buzz and lots of questions. Everyone was interested in knowing if the water is good and if it will last. These are important questions to people who have been waiting in expectation for a reliable source of water.

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As soon as we moved the drill rig, the men of the village sprang into action. Their responsibility was to pour the concrete pad around the well housing. They wasted no time in nailing the forms and preparing the pad with big rocks that act as filler and rebar. They mixed cement on the ground and ladled it by the shovel-full into the forms until the pad was complete. These men worked non-stop until the task was done. This water well is an answer to their prayers and they all wanted to play a part in completing the task.

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Jim Coleman set the dedication plaque into the pad. Our missions ministry funds the wells that we drill in Central America. However, this particular well was funded by the students at Faith West Academy where so many Kingsland kids attend school. The dedication plaque will serve as a reminder that students from Faith West gave this special gift to the children and families who call Valle Nuevo home.

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We will complete the well in the morning and then dedicate and present it to the people of Valle Nuevo. There is lots of excitement in the air as people anticipate the completion of the well. This water well will indeed be a huge blessing to this village. Our team is humbled by the thought that God allowed us to be the answer to the prayers of these wonderful people. We trust that this generation and the next will benefit from and enjoy the water that flows from this water well.

Breakdowns and Repairs

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Valle Nuevo, El Salvador

Sooner or later anything mechanical will break down. We drilled through so much rock on our second day of drilling that we literally rattled some parts of the drill rig into disrepair. Fortunately, some of the guys in the village had exactly what we needed to fabricate and replace broken components. And, after a two-hour delay, we were up and running again.

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Stopping to make repairs put us behind schedule so we have had to work into the evening the past couple of days. Once again, the people of the village were there to rig up lights so that we could see, provided coffee and snacks, and stayed with us until we called it a night. Last night we ended the night with a prayer circle, thanking God for the progress we have made. Every man prayed simultaneously. It was a wonderful way to end the day.

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Today was another long but fruitful day. After hours of drilling, we finally hit water at a depth of 200-feet. The excitement in the air was palpable. People of every age watched the developments with great anticipation. When the first bursts of water shot into the air, there were lots of joyful shouts — or perhaps shouts of relief that the village will finally have a reliable source of water. It was a beautiful thing.

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Tomorrow we will finish developing the well, set the pad and pump equipment, and get everything ready for dedication on Friday morning. The breakdowns and repairs slowed us down but did not shut us down. The people of Valle Nuevo will have the water well they have been longing and praying for. Every family will have finally access to a reliable source of good and clean water.

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I am grateful for every member of our team. They are working hard and making meaningful connections with the folks in this mountain village. Today, Jim and Jason taught a math lesson to some students between their drilling responsibilities. And Lacey, the only girl on our team, has had her hands full teaching hygiene lessons with our partners here to more than a hundred local kids. It’s really cool to see each member of the team do their part and maintain a great attitude in spite of unexpected breakdowns in equipment. We look forward to finishing the task and dedicating the well on Friday morning.

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The Context of Thirst

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Valle Nuevo, El Salvador

Before beginning the work of drilling a water well at Valle Nuevo, our team visited some of the homes in the area. We did so to better understand the context of thirst in this village located in a rugged mountainous area near the Guatemalan border. Because water is so scarce in this region, the people must engage in water-collecting and rationing tasks every day.

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The most reliable source of water for the people of Valle Nuevo comes from a mountain pool located at a higher elevation about five-kilometers from the village. The water from this pool is directed to the village through a two-inch pipe. Every three days the water that flows through this pipe is made available to a different sector of the village so that the precious resource is distributed equitably.

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All of the folks that we visited with told us that, at best, they get a trickle of water through the pipe. So, they collect as much water as they can when it’s their turn to have access. They store what they collect in plastic bottles, clay pots, or whatever else they have available. This water is used primarily for drinking, cooking, and washing clothes. They do not have the luxury of having enough water for regular bathing.

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One family we met had collected a couple hundred gallons of water that they stored in a concrete cistern. It has taken them several weeks to collect that much water. And although this sounds like a lot of water, it is far less than the average family in our suburban community uses in a single day of bathing, cooking, flushing toilets, watering lawns, washing cars, and other water-related tasks. For this family, these extra gallons are their reserve in case anything compromises the already unreliable flow of water from the mountain pool.

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Understanding the context of thirst is important to our team. Meeting the people who have learned to survive by cleverly managing their limited stores of water helps us to better understand the importance of our task this week. The water well that we will provide will be a game-changer for the people of Valle Nuevo. This well will provide them with a more reliable and cleaner source of water for years, perhaps generations to come.

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Our presence here has also motivated the villagers. They are helping in any way that they can — providing lunch, helping with miscellaneous tasks, digging pits in the hard-packed ground for our mud-drilling operation, and more. The success of this drilling operation is a top priority for all of us. As the principal of the local school announced to her students, we are the answer to their prayers for a reliable source of water.

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We are off to a good start. We drilled to a depth of fifty-feet through the parched and concrete-hard ground on our first day. We must go much deeper still. No problem. We are prepared to go as deep as necessary in order to find water. Working shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of Valle Nuevo keeps us aware of the context of thirst and keeps us working hard in the heat. The people here deserve access to a reliable source of clean water. Our hope is that this week their prayers will finally be answered.

Lending A Hand

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Los Robles, El Salvador

To say that the people of Los Robles are excited about getting a water well would be an understatement. For the past couple of days we have had more than an audience, we have had an army of volunteers eager to lend a hand. The folks here have been waiting a long time to get a reliable water well in their village and they are not content to sit idly while it happens. They want to get their hands dirty.

Developing the Well
Yesterday we drilled to a depth of 100-feet and found a great source of water. We were fortunate that we had smooth drilling. No rocks to punch through as on previous drilling trips. We also set the casing in the well before the end of the day, putting us ahead of schedule. This morning we developed or cleaned the well, a process of blowing air into the well for several hours until the water runs clear.

Making the Form
In preparation for pouring the pad and setting the pump housing, we had to get a couple of truck loads of sand. The men and boys in the village jumped into action. They not only fetched the sand and mixed the cement, they cut rough-hewn lumber and made the form for the pad on which the pump will be placed. Others gathered rocks to place in the form to serve as filler. There was a beehive of activity as the men worked, many of them in bare feet, to complete today’s tasks.

Filling the Form
The best part of today’s experience was working alongside people whose hearts are filled with gratitude for the gift of this water well. I enjoyed the activity, the laughter, and the progress that we made because everybody was willing to lend a hand. The people of Los Robles have taken ownership of this initiative to provide clean water to their village. Their willingness to get their hands dirty made today’s tasks easier and a lot more fun. We are all looking forward to seeing each other again tomorrow as we work together to finish the task.

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A Lifetime of Waiting

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Los Robles, El Salvador

There are some things, like living a lifetime without running water, that we will never fully grasp. No poverty simulation exercise or even experiencing the temporary inconveniences of traveling to places with limited access to water can help us understand the challenges faced by people like Angel and his wife Marta.

Angel and Wife
Angel is 94 years-old and his wife Marta is 82. We met them this morning in the small village of Los Robles. They live in a simple thatched-walled house and lean on each other when they walk. They raised six children and have 30 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren. And they have lived a lifetime without running water.

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When they heard that we had arrived to drill a water-well close to their home, they sent and asked that we stop by for a visit. When we arrived at their humble little home they embraced us and thanked us. “You are an answer to our prayers,” Angel whispered softly. They understand what a water-well will mean to the village they have called home for a lifetime.

I cannot begin to imagine how difficult life has been for this sweet little couple. As I looked at Marta, I could not help but wonder how many hours she had spent in her 82 years walking to fetch water for her family’s daily needs. Many women and young girls who live in places like Los Robles spend as many as six hours a day fetching water. That adds up to a lot of hours for someone like Marta.

Pastor Marcos at Church
After our visit with Angel and Marta, a man named Marcos, the local pastor, took us to visit other families in the village. Every family welcomed us with open arms and thanked us for coming to their village to drill a water-well. I especially enjoyed meeting the children. The water well that we drill will certainly make life better for them. Looking into their faces I prayed that they will not have to live a lifetime without access to clean water.

Pastor Marcos Daughter
After meeting the local families, we started the work of drilling. By the end of the day we had drilled to a depth of 100-feet and found an abundant source of water. Over the next couple of days we will develop the well, set the pump, and teach the people how to maintain their well. We will officially dedicate the well on Thursday and present it to the village as a gift from the people of Kingsland and Living Water.

We are thankful to be here and especially happy to be regarded as an answer to the prayers of people like Angel and Marta. Although they have lived a lifetime without running water, they are glad that things will be different for their grandkids and great-grandkids. The best part of this day was getting to meet this sweet couple and the people of Los Robles.

The Raging of the Sea

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Playa Salinitas, El Salvador

The small nation of El Salvador is a treasure. Tightly wedged against the Pacific by neighboring Guatemala and Honduras, the country is home to more than twenty-five volcanoes, lush rain forests, and breathtaking coasts. Pedro de Alvarado brought this region under the Spanish flag in 1525 and named it El Salvador or “The Savior.” I personally love the name of this country.

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This morning a team of Kingsland men and I boarded a flight from Houston to San Salvador, the capital city of El Salvador. We are here to work with our friends at Agua Viva El Salvador to drill our ninth water well in this country, our tenth in Central America. There are hundreds of villages scattered throughout the country that still lack access to a reliable source of clean water. Our work here this week will make a difference.

El Salvador Coastline
As our plane made its final approach, I could see the Pacific coastline outlined by foamy white waves breaking against the shore. El Salvador is the only country in Central America with no Atlantic Coast. My good friend Carlos Molina, the country director for Living Water International, met us at the airport and drove us to Playa Salinitas. I always enjoy returning to Playa Salinitas and the beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean.

Breakers
We will begin our work tomorrow at a village called Los Robles or “The Oaks.” Until then, we enjoyed an afternoon of relaxation to the soothing sound of the waves breaking against the shore. As I sat and watched the waves coming in, I reviewed several passages of Scripture that talk about God’s power over the waves.

Waves are often used as a metaphor for trouble in our lives. “You rule the raging of the sea,” the psalmist wrote, “when its waves rise, you still them” (Ps. 89:9). And indeed He does. When waves of trouble crash over us and threaten to beat us against the rocks, we can always call on Him who rules the seas. He can calm the waves and He can calm our hearts.

Hard Hats

This week, we are here in answer to the prayers of the people of Los Robles, prayers for access to a reliable and clean source of water. The people of this village know all about the troubles and problems caused by filthy water. Our hope is that by the end of this week God will indeed calm the hearts of the people of Los Robles and cause them to rejoice because the ruler of the raging seas has heard their cries.