On Monday, we visited a project that Messiah funded through our 2012 Christmas offering.
I will admit that I take water for granted. I assume there is more than enough water and every bit of it clean enough to drink. Maybe one needs to live in a region of the world where that is not the case to fully appreciate Jesus’ words – “I am the living water.” On Monday, we visited Nyarigano Primary School. It was about a 15 minutes drive down a bumpy, dirt road. Fortunately, it had not rained since Friday or I’m not sure the car in which we were riding would have made it on the dirt roads.
We arrived during the lunch break. With us were staff persons from the Kenya Rainwater Association, a non-profit that works with schools, farmers, and small communities to utilize rainwater for personal needs and irrigation. Much of their funding comes from sources in Europe. Together, Messiah (through our US partner, H2O for Life), Kenya Rainwater Association, and the local community, we have constructed a system to collect and store rainwater for drinking, food preparation, hand washing and irrigation. We have also funded 18 latrines that are currently under construction. This partnership includes parent participation so that there is a local investment and a sense of ownership and responsibility for these resources. Persons on three continents have come together to make this happen. Sometimes it takes a world to make a village.
There are moments in this trip when I wish all of you were with me. You are the ones who should be honored and thanked. As we arrived, the entire school gathered in the area between classrooms. Amanda and I along with two of the girls from Imara that we brought with us and the staff from Kenya Rainwater Association were seated in chairs before the student body. We were welcomed, a teacher offered a prayer of gratitude, then each teacher introduced him or herself. After each introduction, the students applauded. Then each guest introduced him or herself. I described you as a people with a heart to help others around the world, a people who have been blessed by the opportunity to give and to serve. A small group of students provided a song and a dance. Then I presented gifts: soccer balls (prompting a cheer), pencils, books, bars of soap (a visit by others from Messiah three months ago included a hand washing demonstration), and perhaps most importantly over a thousand sanitary pads (applause by the girls and snickering by the boys). Don’t underestimate the importance of sanitary pads for families unable to afford such things. Often school is missed during a girl’s period each month or we were told how girls often resort to using corn cobs in order to remain in school. The staff person from KRA was most impressed that you would provide such items.
The program ended and we were given a tour. The head teacher was extremely proud of what he could show us, even demonstrating the hand washing himself, wanting us to see the first hole dug for the latrines, and then demonstrating for us how the garden is irrigated from a system that collects rainwater. The garden is maintained by the students with the produce supplementing the school lunch. One teacher took me aside to show how they are growing trees from seeds and then selling the trees to earn money for the school. Kenyan children are provided schooling through the 8th grade as long as a family can afford the cost of the school uniform. But each day, we see many children who are not going to school.
Water is not everything, but without it, how is anything else possible? The school existed before we arrived on the scene with the funding to make water and sanitary latrines possible. But on your behalf, I witnessed the gratitude and the pride in what you enabled. It isn’t just water, but living water has been offered. It is being the hands and feet of Christ to children you will never meet and never see. Does that really matter? Matthew 25:35 – Jesus said, “I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.”
And a postscript to our visit: as we prepared to leave, the teacher of disabled students began describing the children in his class. His plea was for help so that a child who cannot hear could receive a hearing aide. Sadly, we had to tell him we could not meet that need. It is a reminder that the needs are great. Everywhere we turn, there are needs and prayers that so far have gone unanswered. And on this day, we could not provide an answer for them all. But we could do something – and in the name of Christ, you have.
If hearing loss is a common problem maybe we should reach out to the Starky Foundation.
What would be needed first is a deeper relationship with the school. In my visit I don’t know that I felt a level of trust. I would need more time, and currently I’m being prayerful about next steps. Like so much of what I’m experiencing, it is complicated.