For the past 10 months, I have been preparing to lead a team of 11 to Guatemala to drill a water well in a local village. Our trip was the last of 4 mission trips our church committed to in 2014, and as we prayed for each team and heard the amazing stories from their return, I grew that much more excited about this trip. I had no clue what to expect, as I had never been to central America, nor had I been on an international mission trip, let alone led one. I was anxious, but extremely excited.
On Saturday November 1, myself and my team met at 5 AM at our church, loaded up 2 vans and headed to the airport to begin our journey to Guatemala. We arrived in Guatemala City, got our luggage, proceeded through customs, and met 2 of the most amazing guys I have ever had the opportunity of knowing; our hosts, drilling engineers and staff members of Living Water International, Rudi and Manuel. These guys loved their country, their jobs and the Lord, and you could see it in how they lived their lives.
After meeting we loaded into the van’s for our “short” 1 hour drive to Antigua, Guatemala. Although, we were unaware that November 1st is a national holiday for “The day of the dead”, where all Latin Americans go and celebrate their loved ones since past, which meant that our 1 hour trip turned into a 3 ½ hour trip. Yikes!
The next morning, we woke up, went to eat breakfast at an incredible restaurant in town and went to a local bi-lingual church in Antigua. It was such a treat to be lead in worship in both Spanish and English. It was something I will never forget. After church we headed back to the house, had lunch and packed up the van and truck for our drive to Nueva Conception, where the local village is located. The trip was roughly a 3 hour drive, which we came to realize was because nobody in Guatemala drives over 40 mph. But it was nice to take our time and enjoy the amazing local sites (volcanoes, mountains, local plantations, etc.). Once we arrived in Nueva Conception, we checked into our “hotel”, which was basically just a bunch of rooms with beds in them (and a few bugs), but they at least had window A/C units... which come to find out, my room was one of the only ones that actually worked. My roommate and I learned really quick to keep that knowledge to ourselves, lest we have a coup.
The next morning we woke up early and headed about 20 minutes down a dusty old country road to the village that we would be drilling in named Las Pampas. We arrived to the school that we would be drilling in front of and were greeted by all of the amazing people of the community. We were quickly ushered into the school open air auditorium for a welcome ceremony, where the locals told us how glad they were they we had come, and how long they had been praying for this. It was quite the pep rally.
Our team was divided into 2 groups, 8 drillers and 4 hygiene teachers. As the hygiene team started meeting the locals and inviting them to their classes, my team started to prepare the drill rig and site for our work for the next 4 days. The first day was our exploration day: we would drill to about 200 ft in order to explore the soil/rock samples to find the best and cleanest water depth. The village did have a well that they had dug, but it was around 40 feet and would easily get contaminated by waste and pollutants. Finding water isn’t a problem in Guatemala, the water table is about 7 feet down, but finding clean Agua Pura is the real challenge. It took us all day to get down to about 180 feet. We would drill 5 feet and take a soil sample and preserve in a ziplock baggy. Once we got down to a safe depth, Manuel laid all of the bags out and reviewed the type of rock at each depth. He concluded that we would drop our pipe 160 feet in order to get the best water quality. We headed back to the hotel, had a late diner and crashed from exhaustion.
The next day our plan was to bore out the hole to about 7 inches all the way down to 160 feet. This process took a lot longer than expected. As it turns out the ground was a lot harder and rockier than expected. We had to slowly drill each 5 foot section, and about half way down we realized we had broken our drill bit. Luckily we had an extra, but that meant the slow process of removing all pipe, replacing the bit, and drilling back down again, which was very slow and tedious. After another long day, we headed back to our hotel for a much needed nights sleep.
The plan for the next day was to prepare the pipe and drop it down to depth, and then pack the cavity around the pipe with gravel to help with stabilization as well as filter out sand and dirt. The first 40 feet of pipe is perforated and allows for the water to be absorbed into the well. As we dropped the pipe we didn’t realize that some of the hole had collapsed around the perforated filter section, not allowing for the gravel to drop down and protect the screen from sand and dirt. Unaware, we dropped all 160 feet of pipe into the ground, and started to flush the well out with an air compressor. We quickly realized that the perforated pipe was clogged and was not going to allow water to flow properly. After about an hour of discussion between Rudi and Manuel, and hearing the word “problemo” way too many times, Manuel told us that there was a possibility that we may have to start all over again and re-drill another hole. Although this was frustrating news, we were ready to do whatever we needed to do to complete our goal. Manuel said he had one idea that we would try first. We would drop the drilling pipe down inside the pipe and once we got down to the perforated section we would flush with clean water to try and push all of the debris out of the screen, and allow for the gravel to settle around the pipe. By this time our hygiene team was there watching, and we took advantage of an incredible moment to gather our team, the Living Water team and all of the locals together and pray over the well. We prayed in English and Spanish and asked God to perform a miracle and allow this long shot to work. One of the local pastors in the community came and we all prayed in faith that God would do an incredible work. After about 3 hours of flushing, and adding more gravel, it was decided that it had worked and could now properly flush the well. We left instructions for the locals to make a concrete slab form and create a concrete base for the well to sit in, and we headed to the hotel.
We arrived back for our last day at Las Pampas to a completely formed and cured concrete slab with the pipe sticking out of the middle. It is incredible to see the ingenuity and talent of these people. We spent the rest of the morning flushing out the well, and cleaning the rig, equipment and drill site. After lunch, we had an incredible dedication service with the entire community filled with prayers, thank yous, and songs. We packed up and dropped the drill rig at the next drill site for a group coming back the week after next.
These guys have the most amazing job. We came in for one week and experienced, in my opinion, a trip of a lifetime, and Manuel and Rudi get to do this all over again in a couple of weeks. How rewarding!
The next day would be our final day and was designated as a tourist day in Antigua. It was an amazing time, visiting some incredible sites in Guatemala, with a group of amazing people, both Guatemalan and American that I had grown to love as brothers and sisters!
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