Saturday, December 06, 2008

A Christmas List from the Women of Chad

“Old women need water close by”, said a tiny, wrinkled grandma in the village of Bedjaoumian, in Chad. “Four miles is a long walk to get water”, she added. Glenda sat on the ground with this grandma & listened
through two interpreters, as she talked about the village women walking to a contaminated river, to get water for their families. The village elders also explained, how they didn’t have the funds to line a hand dug well with cement rings. So, in desperation they dug a big hole, as deep as they could make it. However, the sides kept caving in, making it dangerous for those digging as well as for small children who might fall in & get hurt. They finally got discouraged & gave up. The women now take the “Long Walk” everyday to get the water they need.

Steve & Glenda traveled to Chad recently, to see the water needs of this country. Bill & Sonja Shaw, veteran missionaries were our hosts. These are friends we consider among our “missionary heroes” in Africa. The Shaws showed the Evans four of the 10 water projects, which are in extremely needy villages. Some of the villages were a 2 days drive from N’djamena, the capital.

Glenda enjoyed taking pictures through the dashboard of the Shaw’s STL vehicle. The reality of getting to these villages meant, driving through rivers, driving on footpaths where the grass was taller than the car, sleeping in a hut at a mission station & having no water for a shower at the end of each hot day. Most of the bathrooms along the journey, were “fully air-conditioned” behind any African bush, with curious eyes always watching!

Wherever we went, the village elders and pastors gathered around, under a tree, to discuss the water needs for their village. They also fed us boiled millet mush with fish stew, served on a large tray, for everyone to enjoy together. On the Sunday, after church, we visited 4 villages and were served the same 4 meals, all 4 times, in about 4 hours! Yes, we REALLY did eat the food from this large tray!!!

Every village that we visited, Glenda asked the women how they coped with limited water and how they would feel, if there was a clean water source in the village. A long journey was made to the village of Bitoye, the last village before the border for Cameroon, Central Africa Republic and Chad. Pastor Abel greeted us & told us there were 5,000 people in his village with only 2 wells.

The women wait over 4 hours in line some days, to fill their containers at the well. There was lots of fighting among the women, to be the next in line.

Pastor Abel then shook he head and said, “My wife comes too late with my supper!” When Glenda asked Pastor Abel how his wife would like a well near the church, he gave a big smile & said, “She & the women will be so happy....YES, she will certainly dance!!”

On the Sunday, Steve preached on “Living Water” in the village of Beganbe.The shallow hand dug well in the village dries up every year during the dry season. For 6 months, the women have to walk over 5 miles to the contaminated river to get water. “We suffer much” they told Glenda, and they would be full of joy, to have a clean, deep well in the village. While Steve and Bill Shaw went to inspect the dry well, Glenda & Sonia Shaw enjoyed meeting the women after church.

In the village of She 2, we met Pastor David & his wife, by their village church. She didn’t say a word to us, but her eyes showed her grieving heart. One week earlier, they had buried their 7 year old young son, who died of a water related illness or malaria. The Shaws then told us, "Too many children in Chad never reach adulthood." We found the water situation in this village to be quite severe. The hand-dug well was full of contaminated mud & was making the people very sick. We will always remember seeing the pain on the pastor’s wife’s face. Her silent grief touched us deeply. We spent time praying for this family before we departed.

Now for the good news... The estimates for the wells in Chad have come in under $5,000 each. This is the best price we have found in Africa. Bill Shaw located a drilling company that uses incredibly simple technology for drilling wells. It does not require transporting a huge drilling rig, which normally causes the price of drilling wells to be expensive. A well was drilled recently, at the Chad Bible School’s new campus, using this technology. We found the local builders using the well water to mix the cement & make the bricks. The well will also provide water for the students & faculty, when it is officially opened in January 2009.

Traditionally, Christmas lists can have many items on them. For the women of Chad, clean water could be first on their list. Said one of the women, “We will come to the well with MUCH JOY, we will thank the Lord & the donors!”

God's gift of Jesus, is the real reason for this season. May our gifts this Christmas also have eternal value!