by Jorge Moreira
My father used to say that simply being concerned about a situation or about someone doesn’t make a difference. You can either act or don’t. If you act, you will make a difference, especially for those that can’t do it on their own. These words have always stuck with me when confronted with life situations, and today I use them to guide my life. By nature, I am not a person who openly talks about my feelings or emotions; however, I am going to share with you some thoughts with the hope that I can inspire someone to take action.
About two years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting a great man who is known in Guatemala as “Juan El Grande,” aka: John “the big” Hurd. John spoke to me about his passion to serve the poorest communities in our hemisphere by sharing his talent, his time and his income. Immediately, I was inspired by his generosity and his example. I told John I wanted to hear more about it and I wanted to be part of his team. Last year, I experienced one of the greatest joys of my life serving as a member of John’s team and the Living Water mission.
During this mission, we went to a remote community in Guatemala named Caballo Blanco, which translates to English as White Horse. Within this community, we arrived at the elementary school to build a much-needed water well. At the school, we were greeted as heroes by the students, the teachers and some of the community members. Because I speak Spanish, my presence was noticed immediately. Although I was doing my part helping my team to build the well, I took the time to listen to everyone that I came in contact with.
Miss Hortencia Cabrera, the school principal, requested to talk to me because she wanted me to translate and communicate to the rest of the world. Miss Cabrera said to me, “Mister, seeing the work that you are doing I can feel the presence of God. I think that you, Mr. Juan El Grande and the rest of your team are angels sent by God to save us.” I said, “Yes Miss Cabrera, God is great, but we are not angels.”
She continued talking. “See, most of the people here don’t have much education. Some of them only attended school until 3rd grade. Their children are continuously getting sick and the adults are dying from kidney failure.” I listened to her story trying not to interrupt her. “Mister, they don’t know, but I do. Children die each year from diarrhea as a result of unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation.”
I also inquired about the condition of the adults, to which she explained that many people dug small water wells in their small portion of land on which they live; however, many of these water wells were made with rustic tools and were not more that 10 to 15 feet deep…the same depth of the latrines built within proximity on the same property. My stomach revolted while I was thinking about the contamination of that water, but then she added, “That is not all, Mister. People are struggling with the economy. They buy fertilizer and then pour it on their land with the hope to get faster or better crops.” I thought that I understood Miss Cabrera, I thought that she was talking about the possibility of contamination of the food, but she clarified it to me, “No mister, some of them don’t know how to read. They don’t know what chemicals are in the fertilizer. They just pour it on the soil and with the rain the fertilizer leaks into their family water well. They are just drinking a small dosage of poison every day.”
I mentioned to Miss Cabrera that we were not doing this alone, but that there was a congregation. I told her that there were many people of faith contributing to the purchase of the pump and helping to make the mission possible, to which she said, “Well, tell them that they are saving lives. Tell them that we will thank God for their presence, that we will never forget them.”
I think we found safe drinking water by the third day of work. I have never seen people rejoicing so much at water sprinkling into the air. The children, the teachers and everyone in the village wanted to touch the water. Some people said that it was a miracle. A man, whose name I cannot remember, asked me to take a photo of his son pumping water. He said to me, “I have never had running water in my life. I want my son to remember the day that the people of God brought us water.”
The stories I heard from the people were sad, but I was not sad. I was very happy, and they were happy. I cannot explain the joy I felt watching the children and people of all ages pumping water and asking us if it was ok to drink. I am still in contact with Miss Cabrera. By using the WhatsApp texting app, she is always telling me how thankful she is the children at her school have a chance in life and she is thankful the children she loves have safe drinking water.
I am going with John on my second mission to Guatemala this summer and intend to keep doing it. There are many other stories of thousands of people struggling, of people getting sick and dying because of a lack of safe drinking water. I hope you don’t just feel concerned about it. My hope is that you take action and join us. Together, we can make a difference in people’s lives with so little, just by sharing a little bit of time, a little bit of talent and a little bit of income.