Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Dying for Living Water

I opened the refrigerator a couple of days ago to get some water. I pulled out the pitcher and there was less than an ounce sloshing around in the bottom. I caught myself as I started to say, "Uh! Who didn't fill up the pitcher??"

Really? Who didn't fill up the water pitcher that purifies the clean water that flows from the tap every time I turn the handle?

I was surprised at myself considering I had just spent 10 days in a place where clean water is scarce and water-borne illness is rampant. A place where people not only drink dirty water, they die from it.

My mind went immediately back to the Sunday morning we walked up into the tribe to receive word that the night before an infant had died.

At first the details were unclear. We knew that the child had been dehydrated but that was about it. Then we found out that our friend and photojournalist Rachel had been invited to attend the funeral. To our knowledge, she is the first "outsider" who has been asked to attend this intimate ceremony. Her experience gave us a unique look into the culture and a shocking reality of their need for the Truth.

Rachel was able to gather some details about the child's days before his death.

This particular culture is very spiritual and they believe there are good spirits and evil spirits. When this child become ill, they believed that an evil spirit had come upon him. He had diarrhea and desperately needed water for hydration. The parents chose not to give him water, believing that was a source of evil spirits.

Where would this thinking come from? Why would they associate something so vital with evil?

Keep in mind we are talking about a place where the only source of water is a river that is filled with bacteria and a people with no way to purify it. They drink it because it's all they have and it's all they know. Obviously drinking dirty water leads to illness. So this tribe is accustomed to seeing people become ill and die from drinking water. Unable to make the connection between hygiene and illness, myth and circumstance have led them to the belief that evil spirits live in the water and come upon a person at their own discretion.

So was this case with this child.

We were told last year that the leading cause of death in this region is dehydration caused by diarrhea. That tells us that this is no isolated case. It also reiterates the importance of what we had come to do: give clean water and through that share the Living Water.

(SIDE NOTE: Some argue against meeting physical needs before spirtual. Those people have never seen first hand tragedies like this and they've never read the New Testament. A major part of Jesus Christ's ministry was healing the sick. Besides, it's really hard to share the Gospel with someon who just died of dehydration.)

When this happened, the team had not yet begun construction of the water purification system, but it gave even greater motivation for them to get in and get the job done. The system was installed in the home of a missionary by the name of Jhon. Jhon is one of the godliest, most humble people I have ever met. Time wouldn't permit me to share of his giving heart and servant spirit but I'll suffice it to say that God is using this man in a great way to reach this village with the true Living Water.

The reason it was installed in his home rather than a central location in the village is two fold:

1) Because the people don't recognize or understand the value of clean water, it's unlikely that they would care for and maintain the water system adequately at least until they are taught the importance.

2) The people are very relational, meaning they highly value personal communication and family. By installing the filtration system at the home of the missionary, the people will have to come through Jhon to get clean water and therefore will need to communicate with and build a relationship with him. THIS IS KEY to reaching this people group!

Below are some photos from the funeral taken by Rachel. As you look at them, of course thank God for His blessings, but also ask Him what you can do and what sacrifices you can make to bring truth to these tribes.

A father watches his older brother build a coffin for the child who died of dehydration during the night.

Family members surround a baby boy during the wake.

A baby lay surrounded by candles at a wake. He died of dehydration.

Iranda mourns the loss of her child before walking to the cemetery.

Family members carry the coffin to the cemetery on top of a mountain.

Missionary Jhon scoops dirt out of the grave with a plate.

A father says good-bye to his baby son. It is very uncommon for men in this tribe to show such emotion.

Iranda and her husband weep before burying their oldest child.

The father and his brother lower the casket into the grave.

Family surround the grave and light candles before saying a final goodbye.

A bowl of fish and farinha sit on a grave of the recently buried child. The families leave things associated with their loved one's life with the belief that they may need them in the afterlife.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Bring on the Rain!

Ever heard the phrase, "When it rains, it pours"?

We found out the truth behind that on our recent trip.

When you think of the jung|e, you likely think of rain.... lots and lots of rain! And for most of the year, this is very applicable. Someone once told us that the difference between rainy season and dry season is that during rainy season it rains all day and during dry season it rains every day. In other words, it's always raining!

But, as with anywhere in the world, there are still dry spells. And it just so happens that the area we were installing the water filtration system was having a dry spell. This was good for the team as they were working on a dirt covered hill and rain would have only served to complicate matters. It wasn't good for the locals, however, as they relied on the rain for their "clean" water source. No rain means no water.

Now, water is something that we ALL take for granted here in the States. As a matter of fact, most of us flush our toilets with cleaner water than most of the rest of the world has to drink. One of the ladies in the village told me that during times that they were without rain and unable to go upriver to buy fresh water, they would walk to the river, fill a bucket, let it sit for 24 hours to allow the mud to settle, and then drink the top half that was "cleaner". They don't have electricity or gas so there is no way to boil the water. They just drink it and pray they don't get sick.

This seems like a good time to insert a picture of what this water looks like:

Notice you can't see this kid from the chest down? Now, think on the fact that everything--EVERYTHING-- goes into the river. People bathe in it, do laundry in it, wash dishes in it.... and yeah, they see it as a giant toilet.

Would you drink it?

Before you say no, remember, there are times when it's that or nothing.

Anyway, it hadn't rained our whole time in the Jung|e. It was Wednesday night and the men had just completed the water system that day, giving the village 5,000 gallons of water storage and a system to clean it.... something they had been praying for for YEARS.

We were having our evening devotional time together and sharing about how good God was to allow everything to go so smoothly and with no injuries. It was decided that the only thing left to do was to pray that God would send the rain to fill the three huge water tanks.

Everyone was tired so it was off to "bed": hammocks for most. Keep in mind, it's nighttime and we're on a houseboat in the middle of the river. Within two hours, we started to hear the sound of rain drizzling down the boat. Then the wind starts to pick up. Then the lightening commences.

Then comes the rain!

Next thing we know, water is pouring into the sides of the boat through the windows. Michael, the missionary whose boat we were on, was pulling up the anchor and heading up river to keep the boat from being tossed too much. The speedboat attached to the side of the big boat was taking on water, so my hubby and Andy had to jump in the boat in the pouring rain and lightening to bail it out.

This hard rain lasted for about 30 minutes. By the end of the storm, everyone was soaking wet, the boat interior was soaking wet, and we were wide awake at midnight (including our 6 month old baby boy)!

What was everyone's first reaction to this abrupt awakening?


The next day we were back at the village and found out the tanks were filled almost completely. The water filtration system worked like a charm. And for the first time in years, the missionaries had clean water to use and to offer to the village.

And guess what. It didn't rain the rest of the time we were there.

Isn't it good to know that we have a God who controls the rain and sends it at just the right time?
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