Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A day of Glorious Joy, Part 1

Adigbo Tournuu -- What a glorious day!

We shared breakfast at the Chances hotel, where we’d spent the night after our visit to Labo Labo and Kpeve. Fresh fruit, oatmeal, omelets, tea, milo, coffee -- we had our fill, then piled into the van and moved on toward the village of Adigbo Tournu, where we planned to install a water purifier.

Pastor John Johnson is one of the most dedicated servant leaders I have ever met. He is the “motorcycle minister” of Christ Harvests, and pastors the Kpeve church while training and mentoring new pastors and assisting in planting new churches. It is through him that we learned about the village of Adigbo Tournu last year. When he took us there, the villagers explained to us that while they had the lake as their water source, it was contaminated; the people there suffer from shistosomiasis -- a parasitic ailment that causes blood in the urine. Clean, pure water would help that village overcome a host of health issues. When we held the initial training on setting up and using the system, Pastor Johnson paid rapt attention, asking questions and practicing over and over until he felt confident that he could set the unit up himself and teach others to do it as well.

We turned off the paved road and bumped along for several miles down the dirt road that snaked its way through the bush toward the edge of the river. For quite some distance, we saw nothing but tall green grasses and a few trees. But once we caught sight of the river, the road widened and we began to see a hut or two. Rounding a curve, we could see the school. I noticed some improvements to that facility since last year: one wall that was crumbling had been restored, and a new tin roof now covered the whole building.
There were kids of all ages there, dressed in their traditional uniforms. We waved as we drove by, and the kids returned our greetings with big smiles and more waves.

Just past the school was the village itself, a cluster of clay huts on either side of the road. Most of the huts had thatch or palm-leaf roofs. Smoke drifted from small cookfires, filling the air with the smell of charred wood. Here and there, articles of clothing hung on trees or small shrubs to dry in the sun. The day was pleasantly warm, and gentle breezes blew. At one end of town, young men and boys wove kente cloth; we could hear the clack-click-clack-click of their shuttles and foot pedals as they deftly created colorful patterns of bright blues, oranges, reds, greens, and yellows into the narrow strips. Dun-colored dingo dogs roamed around, scrounging for whatever scraps they might eat.

Ben parked the van by the side of the road, and Pastor Johnson led us through the village past several huts and into a small clearing. Quickly, some young boys brought several wooden benches and plastic chairs for us to be seated -- we had to pay a visit to the town elders before any work could begin.

Speaking through interpreters, the elders asked us the purpose of our visit. We explained that when we visited last year, we’d been concerned about their water problems, and God led us to seek a possible solution. We requested permission to begin work; the elders gave the nod. All of this is simply a formality -- they already knew we were coming and quite honestly I think they were as excited as we were! But in African villages, the protocol of establishing relationships is a huge priority.

David, Pastor Johnson, Chief Takyi, and Ben began unloading our equipment. In preparation of our coming, a 400-gallon polytank had already been delivered and placed in a central area. People began to cluster around, watching our team carefully. Small children crowded in, and every now and then older kids would sneak away from school to see what was going on. Once they were discovered, however, they would be greatly chastised and sent hustling back to class!

First things first: plugging two of the ports in the polytanks, and installing the service connection. We recruited the help of a small boy, who crawled inside the tank and attempted to push the fittings through. The connector didn’t fit. (This was the first of many challenges -- nothing is ever easy in rural Africa.) David grabbed a knife and began shaving the edges of the hole, carving it out bit by bit until Small Boy could shove the fitting through. He was very proud when his task was accomplished, and emerged from the tank grinning from ear to ear. One of the older men watching noticed that now there was some dirt in the tank, left from Small Boy’s feet. He grabbed a long pole, wrapped a rag around one end, dipped it in water, and instructed Small Boy to clean up after himself, which the child quickly did. When he completed that task, he emerged from the tank to a round of applause, then joined his playmates to watch the rest of our activities.

Becky & Davi began working with the children, in an effort to distract them from the work area. They played games, blew bubbles, and sang songs -- so as the men and women worked, the laugher and singing of the happy children drifted through the air.

The community began to come together to help us. While Small Boy was helping in his way, several young men hauled and stacked concrete blocks to build a platform that the tank could sit up on. Working together, a group of men hoisted the black tank into place, underneath a tree. As all of this took place, women delivered water to us, bringing tub after tub up the hill from the edge of the river. We could begin filling the tank now.

Using the hand pump, David and Pastor Johnson showed the villagers how to quickly move the water from the basins, through the filter, and into the tank. Using the pump was not easy, but as David explained, it would become easier once the pump was mounted onto a post. Almost immediately, two men brought a long thin post, and another fellow began hacking a hole into the dirt by the tank, using a long machete. It took him a while to dig the hole deep enough to hold the pole steady, but he eventually accomplished the task. Meanwhile, the men worked together to fill the tank by pouring the water from the basins into buckets, lifted high to a young man perched atop the tank itself. He poured the water through a makeshift filter made of a t-shirt stretched across the top of the tank. Before long, the tank was nearly ¾ full. I couldn’t imagine hauling 300 gallons of water atop my head, basin by basin, nearly a half-mile up a hill -- but a handful of women had done just that!

Setting up the purifier is a quick process, but David and Pastor Johnson took it step-by-step to show a couple of gentlemen in the village how it is completed. These fellows will be the point-men in the village, and it will eventually fall solely upon them to run the system. They paid rapt attention, and I noticed a few others who were concentrating on the set-up as well. Once the unit was in place, they poured in the salt, connected the power -- and we began to watch and wait. Soon, the bubbles began forming -- indicating that the system was “cooking.” A simple test, using a pool chlorine tester, showed progress. We were elated!

Our first complete system, in operation, purifying water for the people of Adigbo Tornuu -- I cannot begin to describe the joy that began to flood through me, when I realized this was working!!! And to say that David was excited is an understatement of dynamic proportions! He began to sing and clap his hands and, much to the delight of the 70+ children , started distributing lollipops we’d purchased the day before. The sucker sticks were small whistles -- so soon the sounds of whistles filled the air. David made up the “happy water-man dance” and those kids mimicked his every move! He’d play a rhythm on his lollipop, and they’d imitate it! He’d say “I love you” and the kids would all respond “I love you.” He’d say “I love you more!” and they kids would repeat that, too! Then he’d say “Jesus loves you most!” and those kids would parrot it as well! We all were joining in the laughter, the singing, the clapping, and the dancing.

It was one of the most joyful afternoons I’ve ever experienced!

Once the system reached it’s peak, Pastor Johnson and David showed the fellows how to take it down. They were instructed to let the water gas off for a day-- to allow some of the chlorine to dissipate -- and we told them we’d return in a couple of days to check it.

Amid laughter and toots from the kids’ and their lollipops, we loaded back into the van, and drove away, our hearts soaring with the joy of sweet success, thanking God for the opportunities He’d given us.

It was around 6:30 pm when we left. It was dark, and we had a long way to travel. But our Joyous Tuesday was not over! I’ll continue the story on my next blog entry!

Anita <><

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