What an extraordinary adventure! Even though this was my second trip to Ecuador with Agua Viva it is still impossible for me to return to Kansas without the different languages, culture, scenery, customs, foods, elevation, experiences and people keeping my head abuzz for some time. So much to sift through and absorb. Even with all the different and exciting experiences, four topics top everything else.
First. The water filtration system is a lot simpler without sand filters! Actually I learned a lot about the assembly, installation and operation of the water filter. That is all thanks to the patience of Curt. This trip I had the opportunity to work side by side with Curt through the whole assembly process and I learned a lot from that. Curt has an infinite amount of patience working with our Operators through two and more often three languages, ingenuity when encountering the inevitable “Oops”, and cheer and humor for every situation. That man is incredible.
Second. Before this trip I knew the Quichua people were at the bottom of the Ecuadorian social order but that was about it. I am sure my awareness is not close to complete on the topic but this trip opened my eyes (and filled them with tears) to the true plight of these people. The discrimination, prejudice, rejection, injustice and scorn these people live with is heartbreaking. Not only is the discrimination social but only until recently it had been official. The Quichua in Ecuador did not receive the right to vote until 1978. I heard their story partly from them, partly from other Ecuadorians but mostly from Maritza. What a passion that woman has for these people. She can not hide the depth of her emotions when she speaks of the Quichua. When she speaks of the vast needs of the poor she is speaking for the Quichua. They have a true champion in Maritza.
Third. It was so much fun watching barriers between us and the Quichua come falling down. It was later confessed to us that when we first arrived their emotions were basically fear and suspicion. Why not fear? We stood head and shoulders above them! We are giants! Suspicion because of the long history of outsiders taking advantage of their people. I think the first person to totally accept us was not yet four year old, filthy dirty little Marvin. Socially acceptable and expected handshaking was the limit of our first physical touching with the Quichua at Gompuene. But it was Marvin that put his arm around my leg, leaned against me and looked up at me with his bright friendly smile and first broke the touching barrier. Countless other small and seemingly insignificant things continued to close the gap between us. Praise for plumbing accomplishments. Laughing together at the gringo’s little goof ups. Trying out words in each others language. Sitting down to our first bite of cuy. Group photos. High fives! Curt even got asked for a date by one of the elderly widows! All little things that worked to transform fear and suspicion into trust, acceptance and friendship. Our farewell finished with hugs and tears. Just as it should between good friends.
Finally. At the Water Party, Curt read 1 John 3: 16-18, ” This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” One word in that passage really strikes me; pity. How can anyone see people without something as basic and essential as clean water and not feel pity? But this passage is not about pity. It is about love. Not simply talk about love but love in action. The kind of love in action when, “Jesus Christ laid down his life for us”. The kind of love in action when a group of diverse American Christians gather some of their material possessions and set off to far off places to bring clean water and Living Water to brothers and sisters in Christ who are in need. That is Agua Viva. Love in action. I count it a great privilege to be a part of Agua Viva.