My brother’s death: A year later

Today, March 16th, marks the one year anniversary of the death of my brother Ben. He was 28 years old.

This has easily been the most stinging grieving experience I’ve gone through so far. It got me reflecting on ways that our culture experiences grief, as well as the ways grief is processed in Mexico, where I spent a number of years.

Mexico has a number of traditions surrounding the mourning of a loved one who has passed away. The deceased person is usually buried within 48 hours of his or her death, but family members and friends gather for nine consecutive nights at the home of the deceased one to carry out the “novenario”. An “altar” with flowers, candles, religious objects and photos is set up for the family member who has been lost. Those gathered each night say prayers for the deceased person and eat together. At the end of the nine days of the novenario a religious ceremony takes place, with those in attendance taking up the flowers from the altar and carrying them to the grave of the deceased afterwards, followed by a special meal together.

Further traditions and rituals are prescribed for various points of time throughout the first year and beyond. These traditions give structure to the mourning process. They ensure nothing is rushed; everything happens at its prescribed time throughout the year.

One important ritual following the death of a loved one is the “cabo de año” taking place on the first anniversary of the person’s passing. At the cabo de año family members attend a mass in memory of their loved one. Afterwards they gather for a celebratory meal together.

After the cabo de año, Mexican tradition says family members of the deceased should go back to wearing colored clothing and no longer wear black. The black bow that has hung over the entrance to the house of the deceased, signifying his or her passing, is taken down. The family member who was lost will continue to be honored, however, each year on the Day of the Dead.

Though grieving is a fluid process that can continue in some ways for many years, the cabo de año marks a transition and some level of resolution to the grieving process.

Now one year removed from the passing of my brother, I can really appreciate the rituals and traditions that accompany the mourning of a loved one in Mexico. I’m not sure that most of us Americans are all that good at grieving the loss of a loved one. It feels at times like we try and gloss over or sugarcoat the painful reality we’re experiencing, and the process can feel rushed.

At some funerals it seems more time is spent trying to get God off the hook for taking away our loved one than is spent remembering the loved one and acknowledging the pain of losing him or her. After the service is done, and possibly a potluck, precious little structure exists in our culture to facilitate the ongoing mourning process.

Those first few grief-stricken days I spent together with my family for my brother’s funeral were incredibly healing. The pain was intense, but simply being together and sharing the pain with one another felt like it did wonders. We laughed and cried together as we shared stories and celebrated Ben’s life. It didn’t seem like anyone tried to dismiss the pain we were experiencing with a trite comment about him being in a better place or, “We can’t understand why God chooses to do these things, so we just have to trust Him.” We were in the moment, we felt the pain, we mourned the loss, and we shared it together.

Here are a few other thoughts and reflections I have related to Ben’s death and the grieving process:

  • As stated, the freedom to simply experience the pain and mourn our loss was paramount. I think Americans in general and evangelicals in particular need to learn better to feel pain when pain is real and raw without having to try and quickly make it all better or explain it away. These things just take time, and I think on some level it’s dehumanizing to pretend that it’s okay that someone close to us just died. I’m deeply comforted by the conviction that my brother has entered into an eternity in God’s direct presence, but that doesn’t mean I have to be okay with our losing him at such a young age.
  • On that note, I don’t buy into a way of defining God’s sovereignty that says that God is the orchestrator behind everything like this that happens. God is a good God, but the aftereffects of the curse are such that we live in a world where crappy things happen sometimes. It doesn’t mean God is the one doing the crappy things, and I don’t think it’s an offense to God to feel that losing my brother is crappy. Because God is sovereign and God is good, He can work the most awful situations for good (and He has certainly brought much good out of Ben’s death). But I’d still prefer to have Ben here for many more decades, and I refuse to blame God for his death.
  • The first week or so after Ben’s death felt like a very healthy time of grieving for me as I was with family and friends. Among other things, it’s amazing how much comfort came from having my two older daughters along with me on the trip out to Kansas for the funeral…seriously, so much of it is about just being with loved ones in painful times. In the months following the funeral, though, I felt more disconnected from loved ones. I sensed that my spirit had more grieving to do than was happening on a conscious level during the days. On a handful of occasions over the past year I woke up at night crying hard in my sleep for my brother. This, too, felt very healing.
  • I appreciate that we had an open casket funeral. I’m fairly uncomfortable with death and dead bodies, and I’ll wager that the majority of the people reading this are as well. But I never got to say goodbye to Ben while he was alive, and seeing his body in the casket somehow seemed to make it a little better. Even though I didn’t believe his spirit was there anymore, the day of the funeral I hung around his casket as long as possible before the lid was closed. I wanted to see Ben, and I put off saying goodbye as long as I possibly could. I dreaded taking him to the cemetery and leaving him there, and that was indeed the hardest part of the entire process.
  • Ben died of a medical event associated with the epilepsy from which he suffered most of his life. I believe that Jesus has broken the curse of sickness and death that entered the world in the Garden of Eden. Losing Ben has strengthened my resolve that we who belong to Jesus must keep pressing until we walk in such a measure of victory that everyone upon whom we lay hands is healed. I believe it is part of our inheritance in Jesus. I don’t think someone like Ben should ever have to die for the reasons he died. That doesn’t mean I carry around any guilt over Ben (or anyone else) not having been healed – I don’t. But nor am I willing to accept people being sick and dying when Jesus has set us free. It’s not about beating ourselves up over what we lack in our experience, it’s about accepting an invitation Jesus is giving us to a fuller kind of life. We must press forward.
  • Many people would think being one of six siblings sounds like a very big family, but it’s amazing how small that number feels when we used to be seven. We’ll always be missing a part of us until we’re together again.
  • I’ve never been prouder of Ben than I was the week of his funeral, hearing numerous accounts of ways he touched lives, inspired people, and persevered in the face of discouragement. It was so encouraging. I felt like hope was the word God gave me the day of his funeral. I can’t imagine mourning a loved one while having no hope.

My grieving process has included doing a lot of talking sometimes. I’ve continued it here, in written form. I hope something I’ve shared will resonate with you or encourage you in some way wherever you’re at. There may also be a thing or two I’ve said here that rubs someone the wrong way. That’s okay. The important thing isn’t that we all agree, the important thing is that we’re all together. That’s what makes grieving bearable.

The impact of a family

I saw this story posted a couple of places today about a study on how many of what gender kids in a family works best. The story said that parents of four girls report more noise and fighting than parents of two girls. My response? Duh. A two-girl family only involves one relationship between siblings (A with B), while a four-girl family involves six different relationships (A with B, A with C, A with D, B with C, B with D, C with D). Get it? When you have six times the amount of relationships going on, there is bound to be more conflict. The cool thing is there is an opportunity for a lot more love to be shared, too!

This got me thinking about my family of origin. I’m the oldest of seven siblings. So between the seven of us we have 21 different one-on-one relationships. Throw in my parents, and our family of nine has 36 different relationships. Wild, huh?

Let’s say Erin and I end up only having our four daughters. That’s 15 different relationships in our family. Now let’s say that each of our daughters marries and has, on average, 3 kids. Each one of their families would then have 10 relationships within it. Four daughters, that makes 40 relationships. If each of our 12 grandkids were to then have three children, add another 120 relationships to the mix. All in all, that’s 175 relationships just between those who are immediate family members of one another. Now watch this: One relationship – the marriage Erin and I have with each other – will profoundly affect all the rest. What an impact we have!

Erin and I are are coming to a greater understanding of the tremendous importance of family heritage. We receive an inheritance from our parents and grandparents that we can pass along to future generations. And we as parents can add to that inheritance that we pass along, as well. I’m becoming more grateful all the time for everything good I received from my parents. It will live on!

Of all I’ve received from my parents and grandparents, I’ll mention just one thing at the moment: In my young, formative years, I think my parents handled discipline really well with me. This had a positive impact on my forming character, and it gave me a healthy model that I am now able to use in training my daughters. I recently recognized (and this may sound a bit strange) that some of the times I most feel God’s love are the times when He is disciplining me. That is a gift from my parents. Hebrews 12 says that God disciplines those He loves, and I learned this because I felt my parents’ love when they disciplined me.

As parents, we cut off the negative things that inevitably get passed along from our ancestors, we receive the full inheritance from them, add to it, and pass it on. Who else wants to do that? Let’s not underestimate what loving our spouses and children will do to make this world a better place!

“A good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children…”
Proverbs 13:22

(And by the way, I don’t for one minute receive what that study says about having four girls. We are so blessed by our four girls and experiencing and expecting so much good through them!)

On being an ‘aleluya’

I’ve been in Mexico six years, and I’m only just beginning to grasp the stigma in the minds of locals associated with being an evangelical protestant. Catholics and other non-evangelicals in our area often use the term ‘aleluya’ to refer to an evangelical. For them this is a somewhat derogatory term, whose origin is in the fact that local evangelicals are prone to frequently saying, “Hallelujah!”

Three weeks ago when the new church group had its first Sunday meeting, I asked those present what their vision for the group is. Several people, especially those who have less experience in evangelical churches, referred to the stigma as a reason that many people here don’t want to ever attend an evangelical church service. Our local friends want to create a group that doesn’t have the kind of baggage associated with it that keeps Catholics from participating. That this point was emphasized so clearly during the discussion made an impression on me.

Then came the meeting this past Wednesday. Among those in attendance was “Grant”, an auto mechanic invited by Henry and Nancy. Grant is interested in the things of God, though he’s not exactly a believer yet. This is what he said: “Nancy invited me yesterday, and I said I would come. When she called me today to follow up, I realized I couldn’t get out of it, so I came. I wasn’t really sure I wanted to come, because I thought, ‘I don’t want people to call me an aleluya!’ I’ve asked myself before whether I would be more ashamed to be passed out drunk on the street or to be seen as an aleluya…[pause]…and I’m not sure.” Five minutes later he repeated that last sentence.

Certainly some of the ideas locals have of evangelicals are unfair and unwarranted. But the stigma is very real nonetheless, and is carries lots of implications for our work. What to do when people want to know God, but don’t want to have anything to do with a traditional church? My current sense of things is that more people around us possibly feel this way than I’ve ever imagined. It has us asking ourselves tough questions about what is and isn’t absolutely essential when it comes to following Jesus and being the Church. How can we leave as much unneeded baggage by the wayside as possible, in order to bring as many people as we can along on a journey of knowing and being transformed by Christ?

What would you do if you were in our shoes? What is and isn’t necessary when it comes to being Jesus’ Church and His disciples? Do we have to attend a “worship service” each week? Is it necessary to call ourselves ‘Christians’ or ‘evangelicals’ or some similar term? Other thoughts?

Serving in a cross-cultural context has opened our eyes to many challenging issues we may not have grasped otherwise. The interesting thing for those of you living in the USA is that we’ve created such a distinct Christian subculture there that you too have to do cross-cultural mission work if you want to reach the lost. So jump in and join the conversation as we discuss the issues!

What one newly forming simple church wants

In the past couple of weeks we have found ourselves in the middle of a new church group that is suddenly coming together. I described one of the first meetings in my last post, “Cool stuff about Wednesday’s meeting“. We met on Sunday, and I asked the group to share their vision of what they want the group to be all about. The most common theme in the discussion is that they really want to reach people who need to know God. They recognize a number of reasons that many people won’t ever become part of a traditional evangelical church. They’re not critical towards traditional churches, but they want to do something different that will connect with people outside of traditional churches. Here’s a list I made during the meeting, based on their responses. It is written in the voice of the group:

  • There should be a change in our lives. We will first and foremost focus on our own spiritual growth. Seeing us changing for the better is what will draw new people into the group.
  • After I shared that we missionaries are only there to support and empower the group and not to lead or control anything, the group agreed. One woman said, “When people see foreigners up front leading a church, they say, ‘That’s a religion of foreigners. We don’t want that, because they already conquered us.'”
  • We want to help people who are hurting and have problems and needs. Lots of people won’t ever go to a traditional church, but they will come to a meeting in someone’s home. For this reason, we’re not particularly interested in building a church building or having rigid, formal meetings.
  • We don’t want to create a strict regimen of religious rules and lots of pressure to show up at every meeting. Instead, we want to have an internal commitment with one another and most of all with God that impels us to participate and do things.
  • Our schedules can make showing up to church meetings very tough. We want to schedule these meetings at times when people can come, and we want to keep it flexible and change the time and location whenever we need to in order to accommodate people.
  • Church people tend to get labeled by those on the outside. Outsiders say things like, “I don’t want to be part of that, because then I’ll be an ‘Alleluia'”. This is because we sometimes do strange things or use strange language that people on the outside don’t understand. As much as possible, we want to use simple language that people understand, and avoid doing things that unnecessarily separate us from people.
  • We want to have a humble attitude. We don’t want to be proud and stuck up with people who don’t know God.
  • We want fellowship and conversation to be defining characteristics of our meetings. We don’t want to just sit quietly and listen to one person preach all the time and not ever talk to the person sitting next to us.
  • We want to create an atmosphere where people feel like they’re with family and feel like they can ask any question. For example, lots of people have questions like, ‘I worship the Virgin Mary, but does she have power?’ We want people to feel like they can ask those types of questions, and we’ll be able to guide them as we go along.
  • Dave, Rhonda, and I emphasized one more point, which is this: Everything we do will be based on the Bible, as taught to us by the Holy Spirit. The Bible contains the truth of God. Without the Spirit to teach us the Bible, we’re just dealing with man’s interpretations, which is what leads to so many different religions who all say they practice the Bible. Each person in the group will be equipped to study the Bible and hear from the Holy Spirit. We will not depend on one certain teacher; everyone at different times will be able to teach others something, based on revelation given by the Holy Spirit.

We’re pretty excited about this list. It’s not quite a comprehensive expression of all that a church is and does, but it’s a great start for a simple new church that is being founded on some really good desires.

Cool stuff about Wednesday’s meeting

So here’s the gist of what happened this past Wednesday:

Rhonda has a friend “Nancy” who meets with her occasionally and has expressed interest in gathering people to study the Bible. A week and a half ago, Nancy brought “Saul”, who Tucker used to meet with a lot. Saul had heard Nancy was changed when Rhonda prayed for her to receive the Holy Spirit, and Saul wanted the same thing. Rhonda prayed for him as well, and they agreed they wanted to meet the following week (this past Wednesday) and bring others to study the Bible.

Wednesday five people came, plus Rhonda and I. Rhonda noted that Saul was a completely different person from the guy she had prayed for a week before. He brought his sister, “Lily”, who is having a tough time. Saul is worried for Lily and wants her to encounter God. Nancy’s husband “Henry” came (they’re believers), as did “Beth”, a 19-year-old girl Nancy knows. Nancy was the common link in the group–she knew everyone there. Saul and Lily didn’t know Beth, who didn’t know any of us besides Nancy.

The meeting included reading passages Rhonda suggested from the Bible, lots of sharing and mutual encouragement, spontaneous sharing of passages by others, and prayer. Here were some of the really neat dynamics in the meeting:

  • Lily started the meeting in lots of brokenness, crying as she shared her struggles. She was greatly ministered to through prayer and encouragement by several people at the meeting. She was humble, transparent, and hungry for God in sharing her struggles.
  • Beth seemed like a wall for the first half of the meeting. She finally started sharing a bit, and then the dam broke. The tears poured as she confessed some huge struggles and messes in her life and how she’s not sure God can even be real. The group reached out to her wonderfully. They were loving, accepting, and very encouraging. Henry had told Lily that her sorrow was going to turn to happiness. We witnessed this happen as Lily took Beth’s hand, shared intimate details of her own life where she had been through similar struggles, encouraged Beth, and offered her friendship and help. It was so neat to see. Others in the group prayed for Beth, prophesied over her, and shared Scripture with her. By the end of the meeting, you could see hope in Beth’s eyes. Lily said that even though she had never met Beth before, she now felt like they had know each other all their lives.
  • The group (with no prompting from us) expressed their desire to keep meeting together. Wednesday’s meeting was at Rhonda’s clinic, but they said they thought it would be nice to meet in someone’s house. Nancy offered her house for Sunday’s meeting.
  • The group wants to meet as much as they can. They’re currently planning to meet Sundays at Nancy and Henry’s house and Wednesdays at Rhonda’s clinic.
  • They talked about how many people in our town need to know God and agreed they should make a point to always be inviting more people to the meetings. Someone said matter-of-factly, “This group is going to grow a lot.”

Rhonda did a little bit of facilitating, but everything in the meeting was driven by the group. They’re a hungry bunch. This is very exciting for us, because is it not our desire to be running things ourselves. We want to help facilitate a disciple-making movement by empowering local leaders.

This afternoon we’ll meet at Nancy’s house. I’m excited to see where things go from here! Please join us in praying that Henry, Nancy, Saul, Lily, and Beth come to know God in a greater way and reach many others for Christ.


“August 22–Neither forgotten nor forgiven”

“Blood does not get erased”

These phrases are prominently scrawled in red graffiti right now on the central square of our state’s capital.  Slogans such as these regularly pop up in our region, visible signs of the anger some have towards the government.  Graffiti-marred buildings receive fresh coats of paint, only to be vandalized again within weeks.  On and on the cycle goes, with slighted people insisting they will never let the government off the hook.

Unforgiveness is a significant spiritual stronghold in our region. Feuds dating back over a hundred years between villages flare up with regularity, leaving new blood spilled each time.  Family members refuse to speak to one another for years over wrongs committed long ago.  Villagers still carry noticeable bitterness over the Spanish conquest of the 1500s.

Wrongs are exactly that–wrong.  No excuse exists ever for hatred, injustice, and oppression of one person or group towards another. But until the cycle of unforgiveness is broken, a people always live in bondage.  Every person who walks this planet has wronged another and been wronged by another.  Only the forgiveness made available through Jesus Christ breaks this cycle and brings freedom.

Once I heard a Mixed-language Bible translator in our region relate a legend told in the villages where she was working.  I don’t remember the whole story, but the gist of it was something like this: A boy is wronged by people close to him. Later, through an encounter with an animal in the mountains, he gains power and wealth.  His mom then comes to him and asks his forgiveness.  His short, blunt answer to her is, “No.”  End of story.

Jesus told a story of his own about forgiveness, recorded in Matthew 18:23-35:

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.  As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents [this is, millions of dollars] was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

The servant fell on his knees before him.  ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’  The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii [that is, a few dollars]. He grabbed him and began to choke him.  ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’

But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.

Then the master called the servant in.  ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.  Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

The Mixed people of southern Mexico aren’t the only ones who struggle with unforgiveness.  Maybe some of us also need to forgive someone so that our heavenly Father can forgive us as well.

Please join us in praying the spirit of unforgiveness in our region will be broken.  Pray that people here come to know the loving forgiveness of Jesus Christ and begin to forgive one another from the heart.

Prayers for bringing the truck home

Thanks to all who have prayed throughout our process of raising funds and finding a truck to buy to pull our well drilling rig. We were able to buy a good truck in Texas and have spent the last few days fixing it up in preparation for driving it back to Mexico. Tomorrow morning we plan to to arrive at the border, legalize the car, and then be on our way home. We would sincerely appreciate you keeping the following things in prayer this weekend:

  • Pray for favor with the customs officials we’ll be working with to legalize the car. Pray they charge reasonable tax rates and the legalization process goes quickly and smoothly.
  • Pray for divine protection as we drive home, especially in passing through the border states that have had lots of drug violence. The cartels like strong trucks (like ours) and have been known to hijack them. Pray we would pass through without any attention from them and that the truck would run well all the way back home to southern Mexico.

Thanks so much for your prayers! We appreciate your partnership in the things God is doing among the indigenous of Mexico.

Two year tale of the well drilling project

For those wondering how the well drilling project is progressing and what the time table for it is, here's how it has gone until now and how we hope to see it go from here. This has been a very slow process, and I've definitely gotten impatient at points, but we're on the right track.

  • In 2007 and 2008, Global Frontier Missions raised the funds for buying a well drilling rig. While we were raising funds, the rig we were originally looking at almost doubled in price. So in 2008 Dave decided to build the rig himself and save us about $15,000 USD. He had to wait to start construction until finishing Mission Training School and spending a few months concentrating on language learning.
  • Late in 2008 and early in 2009 Dave bought most of the parts and materials for the well drilling rig and began construction on it.
  • After being at home for three months in the spring of 2009 for his daughter's wedding, Dave spent countless hours in the summer and fall building the well drilling rig. Throughout that process and in the time since we have had people visiting us wanting to know if we can drill them a well.
  • In December of 2009 Dave was able to fire up the rig for the first time and test it out. It worked well, but Dave realized we needed to order some more parts and make a few changes.
  • In January and February of this year, Dave made the necessary adjustments to the machine.
  • In February we started drilling our first well, this one at the GFM base. We used all our pipe going 43 meters deep, then decided we needed to go deeper. Dave also realized we needed to order a safety valve that would keep the drilling assistant (which has been me up to this point) from losing a finger. I thought that was a great idea.
  • The part got here in March, and we immediately found out we would need another part to make that one work properly.
  • The second part took a few more weeks to arrive, getting here in April.
  • In late April, we were able to start working on the base well again. The machine is now working very well, but we found out we needed a different type of bit to complete the job. (Anyone see why it's been hard for us not to get impatient during this process? The learning curve has been steep, but very valuable.)
  • Dave has to go to the U.S. for a couple of weeks right now, so he will bring down the new bit we need when he returns. We hope to finish the well at the base the last week of May. Then we hope to do a free well we owe someone and two wells that we get payed for during the month of June. It can take us a week or more to drill a well at this point, so if we're able to pull that off in June we'll feel really good about it.
  • My family and Dave and Rhonda plan to be in the United states for a lot of July and August. So when we get rolling again in late August into September, we hope to start drilling regularly and work on bringing one or two employees on board.

And now you know where we've been and where we're headed with well drilling!

Bi-vocational leaders

I’m getting more convinced all the time this is something God is doing in our region. Why? Starting with the obvious, it has been strong on our hearts and has a lot to do with our well drilling project.

A bi-vocational Christian leader is someone who leads in a church, but supports his family financially by working another job.

Biblically, I see no problem with Christian leaders earning their income through the church. Practically, that hasn’t worked very well in this region. Churches are small and money is often very tight, so even churches that are good at giving often don’t contribute enough to support their leaders. This has too often resulted in key leaders moving away to another state or country to try and earn enough money to support their families. In churches that are very dependent on their leaders (pretty much all the ones I know around here), this leads to great struggle or even the church completely falling apart.

Tony was one of two key leaders in a good village church in our area. He survived an intense season of persecution in his village during the 1980s. I believe his brother was martyred during that time if I remember correctly. Tony faced attacks and serious death threats. He and a few other believers came through that time well, though. In recent years, the church was pretty strong and growing. Tony, however, struggling to support his family, moved away for a year to work. After returning to the village for a short time, he moved his family to another state for good. They have no plans to return, and their church has lost an important leader.

I’m talking to more and more pastors, missionaries, and church leaders around here who are thinking about if not already trying to start businesses to support themselves.

  • Henry is a Mexican missionary pastoring a church plant who has thought about starting a photo shop. He feels that working a business would help remove a significant barrier between pastors and not-yet-believers.
  • Hugh is a Mexican church planter and Bible translator who has started a well drilling business.
  • Fred is an indigenous church planter who has started a construction business to support himself and eventually some of his disciples.
  • Gary is a Mexican missionary who has supported himself for 16 years by raising rabbits, chickens, turkeys, sheep, and growing tomatoes. He has trained hundreds of other people to support themselves the same ways. He told me that one of the best ways he’s found to disciple people is doing it as they work alongside him.

Bi-vocational leadership came up again today as I had a drop-in visit from a Christian leader and his wife from a nearby village. It turns out Bernie has been thinking along the same lines, also. His idea would be to start a tortilla shop and use that as a way to work with people and disciple them.

Everywhere I turn around here, I hear people with the same thing on their hearts. I have to believe it’s something God is doing. I’m getting excited.

What a well could mean to Josh

Monday I went to a village to investigate an area for a man I’ll call Josh who wants us to drill him a well. I enjoyed connecting with him. Josh is the kind of guy we want to help with our well project.

Josh has a wife and two young boys. When his youngest was a year old, he left them for several years to work in the United States. He returned with a bit of money in his pocket, but his family is still fairly strapped financially. He doesn’t want to go to the U.S. again and leave his family. If he can’t find a way to make a better living, though, he’s afraid he’ll have to go.

His village has a lot of underground water, but very little on the surface. A spring used to feed the water lines running to the houses in the village, but it is now virtually dry. During the six months of the year that it doesn’t rain, his family has to walk a kilometer away to bring water. While I was there, his aging father returned to the house with five gallons of water on his back, hung by a strap on his forehead.

Josh wants to help himself and his parents. He thinks if they could just have a good water source, he could work the fields and produce enough to support the family. Then he would not have to go to the United States again. I told him I thought this was a great idea. Imagine his boys spending the most formative years of their lives without a father and his wife struggling to make ends meet in difficult circumstances.

Josh and I had a nice talk on the ride back to our town. He thinks about ways to help people around here. He feels like people could better provide for themselves if they just had a little startup capital to get small businesses going. He had even thought about trying to earn enough money in the United States to give small, low-interest loans to people like himself for starting businesses.

The conversation stirred me, because we share the same burden. We are trying to establish the well drilling business to employ local men and raise startup funds for more businesses. I can definitely see us establishing a microloan bank at some point to help local entrepreneurs get up on their feet. I don’t want to keep seeing families destroyed and churches struggling because of men leaving for years at a time to work.

Will you pray about how God would use us in the transformation of these circumstances?

This photo isn’t great because I just snapped it for reference, but this is Josh’s parents’ house where we would drill the well.
Josh's House in the Village