Mission Field: Living Water International
Outreach: Rivas, Nicaragua (Over 12,00 wells dug in 23 countries to date)
Mission statement: Living Water International exists to demonstrate the love of God by helping communities acquire desperately needed clean water, and experience “living water”-the gospel of Jesus Christ—which alone satisfies the deepest thirst.
Last month I went on my first mission trip.
Several years ago, I emphatically told a group of friends that I just didn’t feel God calling me to leave the country to minister to others. Certainly there was plenty to do right here in Austin, Texas. I would gladly provide financial and spiritual support for others, but I was just fine staying put in the good ole USA.
As only God can do, He changed my mind. I spent almost four years writing/compiling a daily devotional titled Dancing in the Drought. There has been an on-going drought in the Texas Hill Country and God placed the issue of the lack of water on my heart. I knew that He was working on something big, I just had no idea where He would lead me.
Last fall, as soon as I heard the missions pastor talk about an upcoming trip to dig a water well, I knew I was supposed to go.
“Do you know that at least 783 million people lack access to safe water?” he asked.
Oh, my! I couldn’t do anything about the drought in Texas, since only God can bring the rain, but I could do something to help others at least have access to safe, uncontaminated water to drink. So, along with my husband and ten other new friends, we went to Rivas, Nicaragua, with Living Water International over spring break.
For anyone who has never been on a mission trip, LWI is certainly the perfect organization to start out with. For over 20 years the faith-based 501(c) 3 has been helping communities around the world acquire life-saving, clean water, along with the opportunity to experience living water—the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Only God could have changed my mind about going out of the country, and He is also the only one who could have orchestrated the perfect mix of folks to make up our team. In our group of twelve, no one knew more than two others before the trip, so bonding with each other was part of the experience. We all just clicked!
At the airport in Nicaragua three employees of LWI who would be the leaders of our drill team met us. They were the perfect additions to our group. Three Nicaraguans who loved their job, but they loved the Lord first and foremost and, secondly, loved others, especially the folks who would benefit from the completed well.
LWI is responsible for bringing approximately 80 new wells to Nicaragua annually. The employees do the same thing week after week—the operation runs like clockwork. However, our team leaders treated us as if we were the most special group of Americans to ever be there. They answered all of our silly questions. We laughed and cried together. We had morning devotion time together. We sang and hung out. We worked side by side.
Monday through Thursday of that week we drove to a tiny village of 25 huts. 400 square foot, one-room, dirt-floor structures with holes cut out on the sides for windows. The latrine was out back, along with the fire pit for cooking.
As soon as we got out of the van that first morning, the residents of the village greeted us with warm hugs and bright smiles. Though our Spanish wasn’t the best, there was no communication barrier. A heartfelt hug is a heartfelt hug in any language.
The women proudly invited us into their homes. We met their kiddos and their husbands; if they were around during the day. Some of the men were helping with the well and the children went to school for a half day. The men not working with the drill crew were out in the fields where they grew fruits and vegetables. They also raised cows, pigs, goats and lots and lots of chickens. Why was their self-sufficiency and work ethic so surprising?
Along with opening their hearts and homes to us Americans, they also opened their Bibles. Yes, these folks knew the Lord. Why did that surprise me too? Did I not think that Jesus could live in this tiny village in the middle of nowhere? Did I go to Nicaragua with the assumption that I would be the one to present the Gospel to someone?
I can’t even begin to tell you the joy that abounded from the people in that little village. It didn’t seem to bother them one bit that they lived in one-room, dirt-floor huts. The women hauled water in buckets balanced on their heads from their shallow hand-dug wells to their homes
for cooking, bathing and washing clothes—with the sweetest smiles on their faces. And the children! Oh, goodness! They stole our hearts! They laughed and ran and played with each other, and with us too. Can you imagine your kids hanging out all day with their friends, climbing trees, playing chase and communicating verbally? No video games or texting.
On our last day, the women prepared a meal for us. Yes, we were a bit apprehensive about eating it because we knew that the water they were currently using wasn’t exactly the cleanest, but we were assured that the vegetable soup had been boiled for hours to kill all germs.
It was delicious.
The leaders of the village prayed for us on that last day. They prayed for our safe travels back home. They praised God for humbling us and bringing us from our country to their village. They were most appreciative for the life-saving gift of a deep well that would provide uncontaminated water and thanked the Lord profusely for His abundant blessings.
Before heading home the team members pondered the same question: why had God sent us? Yes, we provided a new water well, but why us, sent to that particular village during that specific week? While we all had different high points and special moments, there was a common thread that we all agreed was the most profound—the overwhelming joy that hovered in and over that tiny village in Rivas, Nicaragua.
Joy. Unending joy. Joy despite the dirt floors and poverty. The folks we spent time with didn’t feel deprived because they had something more valuable than any material possession. They had Jesus. They might not of had clean, uncontaminated drinking water when we got there, but they possessed His living water that will lead them to an eternity spent in heaven.
By the end of the week, they had life-saving clean water because of a new well. Our gift to them. But we realized that God had given us a gift too—witnessing an entire community living in complete joy with Jesus.
A few days after returning home, the Holy Spirit led me to the following verses:
“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you…You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.” John 15:11-12,16 (NIV)
The folks in Nicaragua were certainly filled with joy and loved well. And while we went on that mission trip with the intent of bearing fruit, I don’t think that was God’s purpose for us. The folks we went to serve bore the fruit—serving up a platter overflowing with it.
Did God send us to them so we could learn what complete joy looked like? I think so.
Brendahave you participated in something that showed you the true meaning of joy? Please consider leaving a comment.