Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Girls Rockin' the Well Drilling

If you've followed much of what we've posted regarding well drilling, you might have noticed that it's usually just men doing this type of ministry. There's a good reason whyit involves a lot of long hours of manual labor in the hot sun, day after day. Thus, this type of a mission trip tends to have more appeal to men. However, this past week, I had the privilege of getting to join in on one of these well-drilling weeks thanks to Chelsea, an awesome girl on the team from Georgia who gladly signed up for a week of roughing it in the bush of Africa to do missions on what's typically "a man's trip." Since Engage/Envision wouldn't send just one girl out to drill with all guys, her coming on the team meant that I got to go out drilling, too.
The drilling team minus Ben (who was taking the picture)

Now at this point, I've been living in Burkina for eleven months, and because working with short-term mission teams is Ben's and my main job, I've been on lots of trips to the bush; I'm used to the situations where we must drive for many hours to reach our destination, sleep outside, eat whatever local food we're served, take bucket baths, use the bathroom in inconvenient places, and so on. However, even with being prepared for what the conditions would be like, I knew going into it that doing a six-day drilling trip wouldn't quite feel the same as doing the normal four-day church-hangar-building trip that I always love. I was feeling somewhere in between eagerness to be a part of this new kind of ministry and uneasiness as to whether or not I'd enjoy living in the bush for nearly a week plus doing manual labor all day long each day. 
Ben and me with some of the locals right after we installed the pump on the first well we drilled

As it turned out, I was extremely glad that I got to be a part of this drilling trip. Not only did I really enjoy hanging out with Chelsea, I also enjoyed getting to know all of the guys on the two teams from Georgia and Wisconsin, learning what all happens on a well trip (prior to this, I had only helped with one well drilled in Ouaga), and being a part of giving people physical and spiritual water. 
Ben and me in front of the dusty drilling site with the drilling rig at work

A great story from this trip: At the site of the first well we drilled, a missionary from that area met up with us and did an evangelism night after we had finished drilling for the evening. It drew a large crowd of peopleabout 400 was the estimatesince many in the area had realized throughout the day that the well-drilling team was working plus a movie screen and loudspeakers always seem to draw a crowd in the bush. Although those of us drilling were all so worn out from our work that we weren't directly a part of this, the missionary showed the Jesus film near our well site and he and the local pastors preached, and forty people raised their hands wanting to give their lives to Jesus. Our team was overjoyed that so many new believers came to Christ, some of which were surely drawn there through the curiosity and questions that the well drilling sparks. This is the whole point of this ministryto draw people to the living water through the process of bringing them the physical water
Mark from Friends in Action directing two of the guys on the team on how to jet the well at our first drilling site
Another story: Our team of twelve ended up being able to drill three wells in five days, with the second of those wells being dry. It was the people of that area's reaction to the dry well, though, that was one of the most incredible things we experienced all week. After we all had spent an entire day's work of drilling in addition to a few hours the night before when we had arrived at that village of Sideradougou, the drill reached its maximum depth at 300 feet without hitting any water. It was pretty heart-wrenching, as a small crowd of disappointed Burkinab√© looked on, to shovel dirt back into the dry hole that had taken nearly a day and a half to drill yet took less than ten minutes to refill. In fact, Friends in Action, the well-drilling organization, had actually tried two previous times to drill wells for this village, with both of them ending up dry. So this was the third time that we've been unable to give water to this church that wants it so badly because of its position as the central meeting place for the churches in that district. 
Our team praying over the difficult drilling situation
Chelsea and me on the drill site with some unexpected
extras joining in behind us for the photo ;)

We were all disappointed, of course, because we also very much wanted water for these people who have waited for it for so long, but at dinner late that evening, we still joked and enjoyed each other's company as usual. A few guys later brought up their concern that it might have looked to the villagers like we didn't care that we couldn't hit water for them. Yet on the contrary, the next morning as we were leaving, the area pastor let us know just how grateful and encouraged the believers there were that we tried to get water for them. He also said that they were pleased to see from our laughing and upbeat chatter the night before that the joy of God remained in our hearts even after putting in all of that work with no results. They then presented us with half a sack of corn and several chickens. How humbling it is to think that we were unable to give them the water that they so desperately wanted and yet they were so grateful for our efforts and our time spent with them that they would gift us with their very best things! 
The sweet kids at Sideradougou who loved playing games with us

I know that we were an encouragement to them through our many fun interactions with them and through our labor of love in trying to get them water, but they were just as much an encouragement to all of us through their response to having to yet again face the disappointment of not getting their own well. This kind of a reaction forces me to thinkDo I react with complete thankfulness to God and to others even when things don't go my way? When what I had been praying for and working for and hoping for doesn't happen? I think that all too often, the answer to this for all of us is "no." These Burkinab√© believers were such an example of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18—"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus"—as us not hitting water affected us that one day but will continue to affect their everyday. 
Chelsea and me holding out bubble wands for the kids to blow

On a side note: my "low" of the week was experiencing something I had hoped I'd never have to: taking bucket baths completely out in the open because there was no other choice. Thankfully, both times that this was the only option, it was dark out and Chelsea and I took turns standing guard for one another and helping look out for anyone that might be walking our way. It's not going to go down in the books as my favorite experience, but I guess I'm a little tougher for it! On another side note, Sideradougou is the village with the nicest bathroom setup I have yet to see (as far as village bathrooms go), so I actually got the best experience and the worst all in one week. :)
Our camp site with the nice bathroom in view on the back left side. It's an open-top stall like always, but it has a door that locks, foot steps on either side of the hole so you don't have to stand in waste, and it even has a little hole cover to help keep flies away. It may not sound great, but I'm telling you, if you've seen other bush bathrooms, this one is impressive! 


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Drilling Questions

I have received several questions in regard to the water drilling that we've been doing a lot lately, so I want to share the answers as a blog post so that all of you who may be interested in well drilling, too, will also be able to see the answers to some things that we may not have shared about before. I also asked for some input from our Envision leaders, as they have spent much more time doing missions work and have some insight that I don't have, so you'll see two answers for some of the questions.


Local believers gathered around to watch.  Many were dancing once water started coming out.

Q: We have been watching the posts concerning the drilling of wells in your area. Just wondering how this changes the lives of the people in the villages now getting clean water. Often we hear that people walked miles to get even bad water. Now that they have a well that is closer to them, how has it changed their lives?  

A: First, it saves a tremendous amount of time by not having to walk or bike a distance every day just to bring back a few gallons of water for your family. Here it is mostly the women who prepare food and pull water for the day. This allows women more time to focus on food preparation, family life, and general living needs.

Having a drilled well also gives them a cleaner source of water within the village. Even if people had been walking a distance to get water, it may not have been from a good clean source. There are so many waterborne diseases in this country that can cause grave illnesses in children and adults. Clean water also aids in people's recovery during sickness, as dehydration during malaria or diarrhea can be worsened with contaminated water sources.

Q: I understand the health benefits of clean water, but my question is what are the people doing with the hours of time they use to walk for water?  And are they being more productive?

A: Not sure if I can give you a good answer on that, but it would be reasonable to think that they would be. The amount of time that they now save from getting water from a source that is nearby allows them to use more time on other things. Less time gathering water from a distant source frees up more time for farming, family, and food. They will be more productive, but it won't be in a checklist kind of manner.

It still takes a good amount of time to walk through the village and wait in line for water. The wells we do have a hand-pump and it will still take time to draw water. Time will be saved, but collecting water will still take time out of the day.

Answer from another missionary:
This may not be a question we can answer. I would assume that if we were to imagine having to live and collect water like this then we can imagine all kinds of possible uses the free time might give people. More time with their children, more rest, more time to work in their fields, to collect fire wood for cooking, improved quality of life with cleaner water, improved health, sometimes they are able to plant community gardens near the well and pump which improves their diet and health. The American term productive and the way they might translate to the incredibly hard life here in Burkina Faso is not truly something that anyone could answer from our end.  

Some parts of Burkina are more barren than others

Q: Are the wells being drilled in any frontier missions areas?

A: All of the wells are drilled in locations where there are at least a few believers. Some of the wells are by established churches, while others may be by the home of the only believer in the area. This gives that pastor or other believers a way to witness to others and share the gospel as people come daily to get water from what's often the only clean source of water for several miles.

Teaching one of the local believers how to use the equipment.

Q: Are there any stories of people coming to Christ because of wells?

A: We usually meet the local pastor and some of the believers when we first enter a village to drill at a certain location. They are always excited and will usually tell us why the well is important to the ministry and well-being in the village. Muslims and Animists may not share their wells or will charge for the use of the well, but the wells we put in are free to everybody. The well gives them an opportunity to share the gospel and love on other people. I would be surprised if there were not people coming to Christ through the wells because of the way that we work so closely with local believers to equip them with this as an evangelism tool. We do not always have the opportunity to return to all the villages and gather these stories, as putting in a well doesn't instantly equate to new believers, but I imagine the stories would be incredible!

Answer from another missionary:

Yes. And we drill wells where we have established groups of believers, new church plants, or on properties where we have churches and pastors. The water is shared with the village and this giving of water enables our local believers to present the gospel, to share love, to demonstrate sharing and concern. 

We have had wells drilled where there were some wells in the area but they were Muslim wells and they would not allow our Christians to get water from their wells. When our wells went in, in two villages that I know of, their wells went dry and our believers shared the water with them, despite how they had been treated before. This lead the Muslims to ask questions about why they would share, opening the door to sharing the gospel. It is our job to share the gospel and God's job to work in hearts and give a harvest. The wells are allowing the gospel to be preached to the lost of their areas.  

Local believers helping to carry drilling rods.
Praying over a new well with the local believers.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Greeted by Joy

Here is a video from one of the villages that we drilled in this past month.  As we drove up, the church members were gathered together to greet the drillers.  The church danced around our vehicles then gathered by the church hangar and danced in a group.  This is one of the songs that they sang upon our arrival.