Tag Archives: Africa

The Price of Integrity

The day we were to leave for the bush country, our local missionary host and translator, Pete, had taken one of the vehicles to the shop to have some repairs done. We were driving through Ouagadougou (the capital city of the nation of Burkina Faso) picking up a few last minute items, and we passed his vehicle on the side of the road surrounded by local law enforcement.

Sure enough, the mechanic had taken the truck out for a test drive to check on the repairs he had made and, while out, had run a red light. Pete informed us that this could mean as much as a day in our departure as he would have to drive into town and take care of all the paperwork and then make arrangements to get the vehicle released from the impound lot. We couldn’t believe this was happening to us.

Pete pulled our vehicle off to the side of the road to see if he could plead our case to the officers. He was going to try the ‘ol famous excuse:
*I’m a missionary,
*I have all these people from America who are here to identify villages to build deep water wells in,
*we are trying to leave soon,
*this is the mechanics fault not mine so please don’t punish us and keep us from helping others in our country”

Come on, be honest, how many of us have tried that old lame excuse…

Well. to make a long story short, the officers would have nothing of it. They were bound and determined to write this thing up and impound the truck. Pete persisted in stating his case and was pleading for them to make an exception.

Eventually the officers decided that Pete could make the whole problem disappear if he would just make a “cash donation” right there on the spot.

I am embarassed to admit that I thought this was a great solution to the problem…let’s just pay a bribe to the officers and be on our way…after all we had lives to impact!

Pete, unfortunately, would not budge. I couldn’t believe he would be so selfish as to ruin the start of our trip by not simply paying these guys off.

The officers clearly wanted to make a quick buck (and I wanted to help them so we could get moving), but Pete was not not about to cave in to their demands. The officers payoff amount then started to diminish as they asked for less and less money until finally, in exasperation, they said, “Just give us one American dollar.”

I thought to myself, “Pete, you da man!!! I would have caved 20 minutes ago and had to pay a whole lot more, but look, you got them down to a buck! Pay ’em and let’s go…here, I’ll even give you the dollar.”

You can imagine how shocked I was when he not only flatly turned them down but now he was getting angry and his voice was getting louder and louder. Honestly, I was thinking to myself, “Pete, it’s a buck…who cares…we’ll never miss it.” Sadly, I was also thinking, “This could be an answer to our prayers…look, they are letting this go away for 1 dollar. Pay them and let’s get going.”

Then Pete made a statement that I will never forget, “My character and integrity are not for sale…not even for one dollar.”

I am so glad that my son, Logan, got to see what a real man of integrity acts like when times are tough and the pressure is on. But I wish it had been me.

You Are Our Voice

After driving six hours across some of the worst “roads” in Burkina Faso (dirt paths with holes the size of Volkswagons) we finally arrived in the village af Kareena. In all that time we only saw 2 other vehicles. We had been told that this community was one which had great need for clean drinking water. It is a very large and remote village with over 850 people and only one working well.

When we arrived we met a pastor there named Pastor Jacques. He gave us a tour of his village and shared their desperate need for water. Well, needless to say when the people of this village saw their pastor walking around with some white guys, it was quite the buzz, and before long we had well over 100 people following us around.

This amazing and articulate man said some of the most profound things to us during our entire trip. At one point we were sitting around an old well which had dried up, surrounded by his fellow villagers, and he challenged us by saying, “If all of the people of my village came together and screamed at the top of our lungs, no one in America would hear us. We have no voice…you are our voice.”

Logan and Conner filmed an interview with this pastor for possible use on their website www.drytears.org or in a DVD that could be shared back here in the states. One of them asked Pastor Jacques what impact water would have on the people of his village. He said that you could not even begin to realize just how powerful and impactful water is to their very existence. Much of every day is trying to figure out how to get, use, conserve, store, and ration water…it is their very life. He went on to say that not only does water meet the physical needs of his village, but even more importantly, it opens the door to help meet the spiritual needs of the people.

When asked how this was possible, Pastor Jacques answered, “Water is evangelism without words.” He went on to explain that when the people of Kareena (or any remote village) inquire as to why Americans would come to Africa, find them, and build a well, he gets to tell them about how much God loves them and that God put the desire in our hearts to do this for them to show them just how much He loves them. This is such a strong message of hope for these people who have no hope that they are drawn into wanting to come to know this God who would do this great thing for them.

Raisin’ the Roof

One day we heard of a bush village called Kiira that had built such a large church building that they did not know how to put a roof on it. For three years this church had been waiting on God to provide someone who could do it. And for three years the building had gone unused while all the people continued to cram into their small facility. While this was not part of our official itinerary, being flexible is one of the keys to being on a mission/humanitarian trip like this. The thought of these people waiting for a miracle and having the chance to be that answer to prayer for them was just too good to pass up.

We decided that we were going to be the ones to finish the church. We got word to them that we were coming and asked them to get all the building materials ready for us. (The materials had already been delivered by the Christian Ministry Alliance)

The men sat on one side of the church and watched all day as we roofed the building and the women sat on the other side. The kids were running around playing all over the place. We took turns, working in shifts on the roof as the temperature was well over 100 degrees.

Logan at one point had 50 children around him and he was was teaching them how to play the “mirror game”. Whatever Logan did, they would do. Whatever Logan said, they would say. It was hillarious!!! Once the kids caught on, he had them saying and doing all of the craziest things. He taught them some “smooth” dance moves (think washing machine, sprinkler, the worm, etc.) He also taught them how to say cool “American” things like “WHAZZZZZUUUUUP!” and “Logan is the man!” and “Tampa Bay Bucaneers are the best!”. At one point he had them all singing Jesus Loves Me. He was like the Pied Piper and you should have seen the looks on their faces as they followed him everywhere. In fact late that night, after the singing, dancing, and drum beating finally died down (after midnight), we could still hear packs of children running through the bush chanting “Heeeyyyy Logan”.

As we prepared to leave, a man came riding up on a bicycle with a white ram wrapped around his shoulders and a guinea hen in one of his hands. These were our gifts from the village. They had given us their very best. The ram had even been bathed (using their very rare and precious water) and was white as snow. Not accepting their their sacrificial gift was not an option, but we had no idea how to transport it…so they tied him on to the roof of our car. Since these animals were going to be joining our team, we had to give them a name. So Bill the ram and Louise the guinea hen became the newest members of the Dry Tears team. Bill rode around on the roof of our Land Rover until we got to the next village which was hours away and Louise ran around in the backseat of the vehicle with us. We gave Bill to the folks in the next village as a gift from us, and we ate Louise for dinner that night.

The Birth of a Well

As usual, I am an early riser, and on the morning of our second day in the bush I awoke to the sound of metal clanging against metal (not what I was expecting—drums maybe, wild creatures maybe, but not metal on metal). I followed the noise and found that the drilling crew had driven back to civilization during the night, obtained the needed part for the drilling rig, and were now back in the village making the necessary repairs. In no time, they cranked the rig on and began drilling.

While it is possible to dig shallow wells by hand, there is a layer of bedrock that runs under the ground that prevents most hand dug wells from getting deep enough to where the larger water supplies are. Most hand dug wells in Burkina Faso are unable to produce water year round. Dry Tears goal is to be able to provide a year round source of water for a village.

We were all now standing about 50 feet away watching the drill do its thing when all of a sudden the workers started yelling and sure enough SPLOOSH!!!! Spraying 50-70 feet in the air came water!!! We were all running around whooping and hollering and high fiving all over the place. It was sooo exciting!

The disappointment of the previous night, at learning that the well was not finished, completely evaporated as we witnessed a Dry Tears well come to life. Honestly, it was much more fun to witness this than to have just pulled up and seen an already working well.

I expected to see beautiful crystal clear water come spewing out of the well but it was very muddy (actually it looked like more mud than water). I learned that once a well has hit water, they need to let it “bubble out” for about 4 hours which means get all of the mud out of the pipes as it was being dug.

Here is the great news, not only did we see a Dry Tears well come to life, but it was also a gusher. A gusher has so much water that it can serve not only as a well, but they can actually us use it for irrigation and possibly even a water tower type application.

Conner and Logan filmed some footage for their website www.drytears.org as the water continued to spray in the air behind them.

As we left, the pastors all came to send us off with a gift. It was a handmade ceremonial outfit that was beautiful (pants, shirt, and hat). We had not seen anyone wearing one as nice as this and it looked like it took a long time to make. Logan and Conner gave each of the pastors a Dry Tears bracelet and we were off.

It is simply amazing to see how something we take for granted (WATER) can have such a profound effect on a community. This is so much fun!

Partying African Style

No, I didn’t get eaten in the bush. I did, however, get so deep into the bush that we were hours away from the nearest electricity so I was unable to post any new entries. So here goes.

Our first day we traveled to a village called Bonzan. It is the location of the most recent Dry Tears well and we had been told that it was completed just the day before. We were so excited to see it and especially to meet the people whose lives were going to be changed by clean water.

After 5-6 hours of bouncing across dirt roads and paths, we finally arrived right at dusk and to our great disappointment the well was not finished. Apparently the crew working on drilling it were so confident that they would be finished by the time we got there that they told us it was completed. The deep water drilling rig had broken and they needed a part to get it up and running.

We were all pretty disappointed but kept up a good front. That night, in anticipation of our arrival, the village had planned to throw a huge celebration. Pastors from 4 neighboring villages all showed up to have a kind of “tribal meeting” with Logan and Conner (the 2 Dry Tears guys who were on the trip with us). It was amazing hearing them tell how the water was going to impact their villages…not only physically, but spiritually as well.

You see, as people come to draw water, these pastors visit with them and tell them about Jesus, The Living Water, and the hope He brings. These pastors told us that they would need bigger churches because there would be so many people accepting Christ once they heard the about Him and His love for them.

As is their custom, the villagers brought out buckets of warm water that they had heated over fires for us to bathe with before dinner. Knowing that water is such a precious commodity, it was such a gracious gesture for them to share it with us like that. Bathing was interesting…it was basically go stand behind a 5 foot wall and use a cup to pour the water over yourself. It took a little getting used to!

Dinner was rice, spaghetti noodles in a peanut sauce, chicken (cooked whole minus the head and feet), and toh (sounds like toe). My son, Logan, describes toh as a cross between jello and rubber. The village fed us first and wanted us to stuff ourselves and, only after we had eaten, would they eat (assuming there was still food left—if there was no food left then they would go without).

After dinner the party began!!! Hundreds showed up for singing, dancing and banging the drums. It was amazing. Logan and Conner led the way for all of us as they jumped right into learning the African dances. It was kind of like doing the electric slide but in a constantly moving circle—way fun!!!! The natives greatly enjoyed laughing at the white guys as we tried to grasp the complex dance moves. Heck, we laughed at ourselves as we felt like total doofussses. But it sure was fun! Well we danced until around 1:00am and then we crashed on our cots underneath a breathtaking African sky.

The pastor had to ask the villagers to take the party down the road as we had to get some sleep. So they moved about 100 yards away and continued to sing, chant, dance, and bang the drums until 3:00am!!! They were so excited that we had come and that a well was being dug.

I fell asleep staring at the most stars I have ever seen in my life listening to the poorest people I had ever met sing songs of joy over the prospect of clean water arriving. I couldn’t help but think about how rich and blessed we are in America and how we take so much for granted.