7/22/15 Update from Sintaro (written by team member, Debbie Wyne)
Today we celebrate the arrival of fresh, clean water in the village! It’s a day that is much anticipated and has been several years in the making. As we approach the main meeting area of the village, I see flags erected. This is where the celebration will occur!
We have some time before it begins, so we continue on to the school. People are starting to gather, and we see a group of village elders sitting nearby. Lori has begun a conversation with them, and the rest of our team joins in. We have been hoping to have a more casual encounter with them, and this seems to be our opportunity.
Once we get past some opening greetings and remarks, we are able to begin asking them some questions about life in the village, and their role as an elder. We are told that they have responsibility for helping to resolve conflict and to pursue reconciliation. Part of this process is that they will cover the two parties in conflict with their shawl, and then the two parties will drink a cup of honey, and after that, they are reconciled. I find this fascinating, because it explains the significance of their attire. After they have told us more, they ask us questions about our culture, and it is an enlightening exchange as we learn more about one another.
The time has come, and we’re ready for the water celebration to begin! We hike down the road to the village gathering place—underneath a giant tree. A few chairs have been set up and the village elders take their seats. There are additional chairs with tables in front of them, and this is where our team is directed to sit. We spread the interpreters among us so that we have an understanding of the various speeches to be given. There aren’t a lot of people here yet, but I have no doubt they will come. The students are lined up and the teachers direct them to sing. They sing, and sing, and sing. The villagers have come in mass, but we’re still waiting for one of the local government officials, so the students continue to sing. Poor things, they must’ve been exhausted after all of that! The interpreters tell us the gist of each song, and Sarah and I have a good laugh when we realize that one of their songs is the same concept as “9 Bottles of Beer on the Wall”! Finally, the ceremony officially begins.
A choir from a local church is introduced and there is more music. There is a battery operated PA system, and also an electronic keyboard. Here in a rural area of Africa, it seems so out of place to hear accordion sounds with an electronic back beat! The choir looks stoic, but soon begins moving to the beat. This goes on for quite some time and then they begin to sing. Some of the lyrics are interpreted: “Jesus is the friend of the poorest of the poor” and “Let our praise cover Your holy place”.
The ceremony goes on for two hours and there are various speakers. I have the privilege of being CPC’s spokesperson and I have to pinch myself realizing where I am and what I’m doing. It feels like something straight out of National Geographic!
I have a prepared statement from the Pastoral leadership of CPC that celebrates the answers to prayer that have been witnessed through this water. We are reminded that God loves us and provides good gifts. The presentation firmly places all of the focus on Jesus as the living water, and refers to the passage from John 4:1-14 of Jesus with the woman at the well. Afterwards, Pastor Mattewos preaches on this same passage. We also hear from Worede, representing Hope Enterprises, local officials, village elders, church elders, the water engineer, and more. Throughout the entire presentation, everyone in attendance is very quiet and respectful. The students barely make a peep, despite the length of the ceremony. I note, as I have in the past, that the women and men sit separately from one another and that the crowd has swelled to hundreds.
Finally, it is time to start the flow of water! Villagers crowd around the distribution point as the CPC team has the privilege of turning the tap to release the water. There is significant water pressure and we have to back up to keep from getting splashed! We have brought empty water bottles and we each fill one up and take a few sips. Soon, training begins and villagers learn the importance of sanitizing their Jerry cans to prepare them for the clean water. I take lots of photos and videos to commemorate the occasion.
After a bit of time at this distribution point, we walk to where the storage tanks are, and then to the other water distribution points. It is a procession of hundreds as we hike throughout the village. One of the most remarkable moments is when I witness a nursing mother being handed a bottle of the well water, and she puts it to her baby’s lips. It is such a symbol to me of how this precious new life is going to be significantly altered because of the presence of this water.
Our last stop is to the well itself, where more presentations are made and finally a plaque is revealed dedicating the well. On it is John 4:14: “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him, will never thirst”. Groups are gathered together for official photos, and then it is time for the long hike back to the school. The parade of villagers continues in the procession with us and my heart smiles when I look ahead of me and I see Rachel and Sarah linked hand-in-hand with a string of children.
While walking between distribution points, I am approached by a woman who has clearly sought me out. As I turn to look at her face, I realize that it is Hanna! Hanna is the mother of my sponsor child, Hailu. I had the opportunity to meet her and visit her hut when I was here in February. It is a joyous reuniting of a woman who has come to be my African family.
It’s late now and our team is tired from the festivities and hiking through the village at almost 7,000 feet elevation! We return to the school, and finally have lunch. This is the end of our day in Sintaro, and it’s been a very momentous one! This is a day that will truly change lives and I feel incredibly privileged and blessed to have been a part of it.