Sunday, March 5, 2017
“Doing the right thing for someone else occasionally means doing something that feels wrong to you.” ― Jodi Picoult
This month marks the fifth year anniversary of the three-villages well project, a project initiated, financed, and worked solely by our son, John, with some help from Shaban. John, who is now 42 years old, came to visit us for a week in 2006, and has never left, serving as a missionary here for the past ten years. John has Asperger’s Syndrome, a mild form of autism defined as “ a high-functioning" type of autism. This means the symptoms are less severe than other kinds of autism spectrum disorders, but include difficulty with social interactions and exhibit a restricted range of interests. John almost never initiates a conversation with a stranger and prefers not to talk at all if possible. What happened was shocking and touching to Karen and I when we heard about how this whole thing got started. It seems Shaban was driving John back to Bunda on a dusty, rutted back road about forty kilometers from our mission when they passed a mud hut that had a woman sitting in front of it surrounded by three small children. The woman was weeping (which is rare here except at funerals), and John asked Shaban to stop the car. Shaban was surprised to see John get out of the car and walk up to her and ask why she was weeping. She stopped crying long enough to explain that she was a new widow and had to walk ten kilometers (6.2 miles) to get water for herself and her children every day. She had just come back with all the water she could carry and tripped and dumped all the water onto the ground which soaked it up almost instantly. She was now faced with having to make the trip a second time while still exhausted from the first one, but her children had to have water. John asked if there was anything closer, and she told him there was a well that used to supply three villages, all within one kilometer of the well, but the pump had been stolen five years ago. It was a deep-water well, so the pump was very expensive and no one could afford to put in a new one. John had Shaban drive the woman to her water source, fill up her containers and take her back to her house. Then, she showed them the location of the well. John had been touched by her story and began to investigate what it would take to put a new pump in the well. A good pump from India that would work for that deep-water well would cost about $3,000 USD. John got on the internet, wrote up the story of the three villages that needed water and got his friends all around the world with whom he played video games, talked to, and interacted with on podcasts. It wasn’t long before he had raised all the necessary funds through PayPal thanks to his geek friends. Next, Shaban had to arrange to buy the pump from a dealer in Nairobi and get it bussed to the Tanzanian border. The logistics would have stumped me, but not John and Shaban. Shaban drove up to the border on the appointed day, paid the fees and taxes, and brought the pump back to Bunda. Next, John had to figure out how to put it together (it came in pieces and without Ikea-type instructions) and then find a welder with a portable generator to go with them to put the pump in place. John had devised a welding plan so that no thief would be able to just unbolt the pump and make off with it. He found a welder with a generator that looked like it dated back to World War I, but it worked, and John, Shaban, and the welders got the pump installed and secured to keep thieves at bay. The picture at the right is of John manning the pump and seeing the water coming to the surface for the first time in years from almost 200 feet underground. There was going to be trouble with local cattle trying to get water and contaminating the well, so John arranged with the leaders of the three villages for them to work together to build a cattle wall of mud bricks and mortar and for the villagers to both build and pay for the wall—and they did. For the last five years, every morning and evening, women, children, and a few men, come to the well and get all the water they will need for the day—none of them having to walk more than one kilometer (instead of ten). John hasn’t been back to the well in over four years, but we get reports that everyone remembers him, prays for him, and will be forever grateful to him. John, well (pun intended), he’s off onto new projects all the time and quickly forgets the ones he’s already done. There are solar lights in villages and homes here in Bunda, Tanzanians learning programming, and numerous other helpful things with which he’s been involved and is still working on new projects. The three-villages pump project only took him a couple of months from start to finish with those villagers still benefitting every day, but to this day we don’t know, and he doesn’t know why he approached that crying woman to find out what was wrong. People with Asperger’s just don’t do things like that. Of course it was God at work, but John not only had to be willing—he had to go against all the things inside him telling him not to do it. Sometimes the “right thing” is just the right thing, and there is no avoiding it (there was a blog just a few days ago about doing the right thing). Are we proud of him? Do you have to ask?