DO Diaries: Day Four

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Our day started off with a debriefing meeting at Living Water International’s (LWI) office in Chipata to talk about the first LifePump™ installation. Water ministry officials from around Zambia that were joining us for the training/refresher were from places where there were some LifePumps already installed. There were many praises for LifePump and a desire to get more in their districts. Some are promoting LifePump to their local government and NGOs who are interested in a better solution. There was much talk about how they liked the remote monitoring aspect of the LifePumpLink. We loaded up the trucks and started to head to the next community that was getting a LifePump. This time it was an official LWI installation with the LifePump provided by a generous DO donor. Distance traveled was about 25 km, but it took over an hour to arrive. The roads were better than the previous day but ironically, we still got a flat tire. Thankfully we had a spare tire and within 10 minutes were back on the road. The Zambia pump technicians knew exactly what to do and replaced the tire quickly.

We arrived in the community called Msiyankhuni and talked with many community members including the village headman named Standford Mbewe. This community is quite remote, as we drove for miles from the main road down a dirt path. There were mud and homemade brick homes with grass roofs. They were expecting us since LWI had already been working in the community on the pump base and concrete pad installation. As part of LWI’s programs, they also share the Gospel while working on the pump projects and follow up after the project is completed with more evangelism. There were hundreds of people gathered to see what was going to happen along with lots of kids. They were all so excited. Our pump installation crew knew exactly what to do and started installing as Beatrice, Victor (LWI’s local office director), and I started talking with the community members who gathered in the shade under a grove of trees. Victor shared the Gospel and about how God had sent us to help provide water. Beatrice also shared about how this pump will help their community, and there was much hand clapping and occasional spontaneous dancing. Even though I’m far from fluent in the local language, it was clear that people were very happy. During the interviews, we learned that the village had a previous India Mark II pump, installed in the late 1990’s. It’s had lots of breakdowns since, and thus LWI decided this would be a good location for a retrofit with LifePump.

While we were wrapping up interviews, Ray came over and delivered the news that the pump wasn’t working. There were 1620 people (according to the village headman) who were going to benefit from this well, so it had to work. I walked over to the pump, praying again that this would be a solvable problem. I arrived and they were already taking the pump out to find the issue. After removing 18 pipes (the full depth) in the hot sun, there was no apparent reason for the pump to not be working. So, the team started putting it back in the ground again. An hour later, when almost done, discovered that the rods dropped down suddenly. This shouldn’t have happened – so I called a couple of our colleagues in Ohio to get their insights, too. Long story short, a pipe had unscrewed, but thankfully the rods were connected, so the pump would not fall into the hole. That would have been the worst-case scenario (it’s like trying to reach down a 100 foot, 6-inch diameter hole to pull out a 1000-pound pump). We then had to pull the pump out for the second time. The pump crew was sweating and tired but determined to get this pump working. They took a brief break to eat some nsima in the shade and regain their strength. Ray and I stood back, advising when asked, but watching the pump crew problem solve and determine the best course of action. Morale was remarkably high, and I thought that as it was getting dark, we would come back the next day to finish. To my surprise, the pump crew started to reinstall the pump for the third time, after retightening certain joints they suspected to be an issue, and the DO and LWI trucks pointed their headlights at the pump to give light.

Before proceeding, I insisted to Moonga (our installation leader) that we pray again. He of course agreed and asked one of the LWI’s workers named Grace to pray. It was very powerful, and in fact I was nearly in tears. With stars shining brightly overhead, the pump went in this time without any issue, and Victor from LWI turned the handles to prime the pump, with a crowd eagerly pushing in to see water for the first time. I wasn’t too worried but had confidence it would work this time. Walking away from a pump that isn’t working is one of the worst feelings I’ve experienced – but somehow the Lord gave me confidence it would work this time. Just when Victor stopped turning the handles, the water started coming out, and we knew God had answered our prayers. There were lots of cheers and people enthusiastically shouting “woye” (roughly translated “it’s a great time, everyone rejoice”). Kids were pushing in to turn the handles. Little do they know how much this LifePump will change their lives.

Because the installation took longer than expected and it was late in the evening, we returned to Chipata but needed to find last-minute hotel rooms. We originally had planned to drive about three hours to another district for the night. To our surprise, there was “no room at the inn” at several hotels, but we finally found one that had exactly the right number of rooms we needed. It was late as we ate a small dinner around 10 pm and went to bed. Life in Zambia!

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