It is a glamour job when you see if from afar at the conferences…doing incredible things for impossibly poor people in places that could be Biblical times if people weren’t dressed in thrift shop clothes. Today we are doing to get dirty, on top of already sweaty and smelly. Not something usually mentioned at missionary conferences, the sweaty and smelly. We put the culvert under the road for this irrigation canal a couple of years ago knowing full well we didn’t have the money to connect the canal with it and bring the water through. Now we have a little bit more money do some of the canal–not enough to get water flowing, but closer. We have learned to do what we can knowing or hoping that another year we can finish this canal and make a much more effective irrigation canal system for hundreds of people.
It took a long time for us to figure it out. Or for God to open our eyes, whatever happened. There are a lot of things that could be done to grow a lot of food here in one of the poorest driest parts of a place that wears out a lot of adjectives. A LOT of food. It is the ‘could be done’ part that is the fine print. Things have to be done. People can’t eat potential, which means someone has to plan and work with people and communities, and have the equipment and the technicians and the expertise. All of it as far out as you can get in a country that is already challenged for infrastructure. And then, get something done.
By American standards it isn’t that much money or big a project. And from here, you might miss the urgency. After all, while food from Miami is expensive, it isn’t prohibitively so, and it’s currently plentiful. But that won’t last, and famine conditions are clearly on the horizon. So we have to dig down next to the culvert which is buried under runoff from the hill and find the elevation for the bottom of the culvert. From there we can do the grade for the rest of the canal upstream and downstream. We brought the backhoe to hopefully save a couple of days of digging by hand. We keep digging deeper and deeper.
Finally, we are down in the hole with one of the men, digging the last little bit with a machete, the all-purpose tool of choice in most of the developing world. The hole is nine feet deep and sliding down in it’s clear that the soil is good all the way down. All it needs is water. Runoff is not an issue because the same rich soil is 100’ deep.
We find the bottom and mark a spot on the top of the culvert to use for a bench mark for surveying. It looks hopeless. There is nothing here but scrub mesquite and the canal is going to have to be deep, expensive and hard to build and we aren’t even going to see the water flow in this iteration. This project is a building block to get closer to one day having a canal: a canal that will be a game changer for hundreds of families. We have to keep that goal in front of us, or we might lose hope.
The irrigation canal project before last looked more hopeless than this one. For months we were dreaming about putting in an irrigation pump on the big river 12 miles away. There are 23 big pumping stations on that river. Nearly all of them don’t work now if they ever did. I had it all thought out in my head how we could try something different. Not complicated, just different.
Then on the day we were going to go over there and start working, reality hit. The brush had grown up and we couldn’t even walk to the site without hacking through the impenetrable brush. All of the sudden it didn’t look very possible or very promising. Self-doubt showed up then, saying: What kind of crazy harebrained idea is this anyhow? Who are you to think that you can do an irrigation canal over here when no one else has succeeded? And by the way that is solid rock you are talking about cutting a slot in to bring the water in to the pump. But God is faithful. That project works, and this next one will too. It’s time to practice perseverance.
There is no book. There are no plans. There is no one to go to and see if this is a good idea at this stage. It is you, God, and a crew that is has taught you the meaning of the word ‘loyal.’ You do the next thing next because this is what you said you were going to be doing at this stage months ago when it looked so much more possible from far away. Feel that gentle urging of God to just do a little bit more and keep going. Keep telling yourself that the other one worked so this one should too. You just have to do the next thing next. If God is in it, it has to work even if you aren’t so sure.
Two of the men from the community are present and helping enthusiastically. As they work, they point out that it hasn’t rained in months, the drought is two going on three years old and there has not regularly been any water in the river that feeds this canal for months.
You have to remind them (and yourself) that there are off years here which is why cactus grow so well. But there are years when there is plenty of water. In the plenty years you can’t be building canals because there is too much mud. So if you are going to work, you have to work now when there is dust in your teeth from the wind and dirt in your shoes from sliding down into the hole.
Today just worry about measuring to build this little section of canal as far as the money flows. Tomorrow will take care of itself.
As for the worries the team discussed? A week after we did the digging to check for the elevation there was a surprise rainstorm that didn’t show up on the weather forecast. It rained all night. At our house we got an inch of gentle rain. At the canal site and in some areas that feed the river that feeds the irrigation canal they got five inches of rain overnight- more rain than had been received in the last year. So we work, So we trust in God. Not so glamorous, but good work all the same.