I went on my first international mission trip this past March to Nicaragua with Living Water International to drill a water well for a community without reliable access to clean drinking water. I had absolutely no clue what I was stepping into.
Getting there in the first place was a challenge in and of itself. In the weeks leading up to the trip, the spiritual attacks began. From my previous experience as a camp counselor with Royal Family Kids, this didn’t surprise me. When you’ve got your mind set on doing something big for God’s kingdom, the enemy will pull out all stops to prevent you.
However, while the last minute dropouts and funds were resolved, the attacks on my family (including a devastating tragedy) had me seriously questioning whether I should leave for a week. I don’t mind so much when I’m the target – but when it’s my family, that is a whole different circumstance. I don’t consider it a coincidence that even after I left for Nicaragua, they all came down with a horrific stomach virus – an attempt to cast doubt into the wisdom of our decision. Nevertheless, by God’s sustaining grace and the support from the terrific team at home, we were able to persevere and on I went to Nicaragua.
I have to say, The Living Water team was fantastic – waiting to pick up the mission team at the airport to drive us across the country-side to our location (stopping to grab some delicious fried chicken to eat along the way).
Though I have been to many different countries, the wonder never seems to fade when stepping onto a foreign soil for the first time. I was immediately struck by the beauty of Nicaragua with its smoky volcanic skyline. At the same time, I was shocked by how incredibly dry it was there – a fact acknowledged by our driver who told us that the country had been in a drought for about five years.
Beyond the landscape, there is plenty else to absorb and process as you let your surroundings soak in. The culture is different. The buildings are different. Certainly, the garbage trucks are different.
Although I did manage to spot a Pizza Hut on the drive from the airport.
After dozing off in the warm, mildly-air conditioned van, we at last arrived at the compound. The accommodations were fantastic – far more than I humbly anticipated.
After a night of pizza in the town, we set out early in the morning towards a community outside of Leon that consisted of about twenty-five families. They called themselves “La Sagrada Familia” (the sacred family). As we came to find out from talking to the villagers, the only clean water source they had access to was a water well at a school over a mile away. They had 1 hour a day (at best) to fill up as much as they could. Since someone had broken into the school lately to steal the computers, even that was at risk.
After opening in prayer with the community, we got to work. We split into two teams – one started drilling operations.
The second group gathered the women and children to hygiene classes and share bible stories through various fun-filled activities.
It was work. Dirty, physical work. As a petroleum engineer, I’ve been to plenty of well sites. However, I normally don’t put my hands on anything. It was awesome.
We did, however, manage to squeeze in some play time too. It’s amazing how much fun you can have with a soccer ball and little bit of space.
Each day the incredible generosity of the community escalated. By the time we would arrive on location, they would already be out waiting for us. They shared their gratitude with sacks of fresh coconuts and the most amazing mangos I have ever tasted (as well as some other fruit I had never heard of that they called Nispero and Jocote).
Thursday, they cooked us a full blown meal (which resulted in one less chicken walking around the yards).
But though our relationships were prospering, we were having difficulty at the drill site. We encountered a hard rock layer, stalling 70’ short of our intended drilling depth. No problem. We thought. We will bring the bigger rig in. And that we did.
We abandoned the original hole and started drilling a new one beside it, repeating the activity of the day before. But even with the added horsepower, we still couldn’t get through persistent rock layer. We decided that we would attempt to complete the well in the thin aquifer layer above it. We prayed, signed our “casing” pipe, ran it into our well, and threw our gravel around the outside of it (the gravel acts as filtration).
We stuck down an air hose and attempted to “kick off” the well to test its productivity. You could sense the anticipation, clinging to the air like static electricity as we all waited with anticipation for a sign of water. When the first slug erupted out of the pipe, the crowd exploded into clapping and cheers. Victory!
And then…a trickle. The well paused, coughing up small, sporadic, intermittent slugs of water here and there. Concerned faces besieged the crowd. You could feel the entire community deflate. Not done yet, we ordered out an electric submersible pump that we could lower down into the water level. This would be a better representation of what the well could deliver compared to the air hose.
But even with our downhole pump, the well barely delivered above the minimum criteria. It was clear. We had to get through the rock.
We sent for “an air hammer” – designed to penetrate tough rocks like this – located several hours away. When the truck that was to deliver the equipment got in a wreck, it was readily apparent that there were forces working against us. Thankfully (and miraculously), the driver was not injured.
The accident sealed it. The well would not be finished that week. Committed to their cause, however, Living Water International made the promise that they would return the next week. That they did, successfully drilling through the rock and completing a prolific water well in the aquifer below – albeit without us.
It was easy to wonder, what was the point of us coming there? We certainly worked hard, established impactful weeklong relationships, and had a good time doing so. A deeper purpose materialized, however, on the final day, during our dedication of the (incomplete) well.
We sang a song of worship, shared some scripture, thanked the community for their generosity, and handed out a couple boxes of Spanish bibles. One of men – “Pecho” – who had been working effortlessly beside us the whole week came up to me afterwards, eyes watery with the bible clung close his chest. With emotion, he proceeded to tell me in Spanish that it was the first bible he had ever owned in his thirty plus years of life. With tears dotting my dust caked face, the reason for our trip became crystal clear: we were there to share the gospel and the love of Christ. We were there to lay down our lives in service, as a living testament to our Lord and savior. We were there because there were thirsty people in need and we cared.
As I explore my own personal calling towards ministry and missions, I cannot express enough gratitude to be able to participate in God’s mission in Nicaragua through Living Water International. Thank you, Bill, Sharon, Brandon, Cory, Yuan, Cynthia, Hagnier, “Jay”, Kenny, Douglas, and Jordan, for an incredible trip and life changing experience.
“Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples.” Psalms 96:3 NKJV
– Nicolas C. Day
Note: to join me in making a tax deductible donation towards the funding of this water well project, you can do so here: http://water.cc/shelloil
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