Forgive the cheesy title, I couldn’t think of anything good and I can never resist a bad pun.
Two years ago I went to Malawi, Africa for the summer. I was with Teen Missions International and my team was drilling a well in the remote village Rumphi. We didn’t quite finish the well, and long story short, it did get finished eventually and about a month ago I saw this picture of it, which prompted me to write the following. For a while I was busy with work and school so I didn’t get around to sharing it, but here it is now.
May 14, 2016
When we were at Malawi at times I got discouraged because we had no physical, visible reward for our efforts. We were drilling a well. We had a whole setup, and each of us got to work on and near the drill.
But every day the only thing that changed was how many pipes deep we had drilled. At the end of the day we would bring up all the pipes and put them away for the night, then start again in the morning. Our hole got deeper but unlike other teams, we didn’t watch an overgrown patch of ground become the first floor of a building, we didn’t think of all the shoes and eyeglasses we had given out, all the feet washed, bricks laid, or people saved. We counted up the miles walked and gallons of water hauled from the well a half mile away.
We did all celebrate with each bit of progress made on the well. We prayed over the special mud mix essential to drilling, when it looked like it wouldn’t last, and we saw God answer our prayers as it didn’t run out. But I was so selfish. I wanted to see walls grow, or brush cleared, and we did get to do a bit of that, but the well seemed so intangible. Each day the children came back from school and we got to play with them for hours. But I didn’t think of it that way. I didn’t get to play with them. I had to play with them.
It wasn’t until our last week in Malawi that I realized how selfish that was and how much our presence meant to the children. I was on a missions trip for goodness sake! That’s practically the definition of self sacrifice. I would begrudgingly play with the children and help teach Sunday school every day. Then as our departure neared, I realized how selfish I was being, how incredibly selfish. I didn’t think that I was getting enough. But I was thinking too much about myself and wasn’t focusing on helping others, pouring into them, and being a blessing. How sad it makes me to think of that time spent in Malawi thinking about myself and whether I got what I wanted, when my purpose was to help others. One thing I learned in Malawi was humility. Before the trip I thought, I’m pretty good, why don’t I have more friends? By the time I came home from Malawi (with amazing friendships made) my perspective was different. I’m so awful, how do I have friends?
But I still struggled with the well. We finished drilling the day before we had to leave. We didn’t get to install a pump so the people in Rumphi would actually have access to the water we had drilled hundreds of feet into the ground to. I knew in my head that what I could see didn’t matter compared to the love and encouragement we had given to the people there, and the eventual final result of the well for them. They would have water someday soon but I wanted to see it, to get credit for it. Several months ago one of the Teen Missions staff, Mr. Peterson, went to Rumphi to finish the well. The reason that drilling had been so tough for us was that we were drilling in the hardest ground in Malawi. We were also the first well drilling team Teen Missions sent out (other teams were able to complete their wells, thankfully). In the end, a big drill rig was sent to Rumphi and the well completed. Now they have water on the property, instead of a half mile away. Seeing this photo today brought tears to my eyes.
Look at those joyous smiles! Over the past two years I’ve slowly come closer to forgetting myself and thinking of the people in Rumphi. Seeing this picture and hearing what all took place to get Rumphi water, God has helped me to finally let go of my pride. I am so happy for the people in Rumphi, so happy for them to finally have this well! I was there for one month. I came back home where I have a bed, heat and air conditioning, a car to drive, a college education, flushing toilets, showers, washing machines, and as much water as I could dream of. The people in Malawi- Mr. Steven, Mr. Prince, Miss Hannah, Stan, Austin, Edward, Tapiwa, Austine, Israel, Godfrey- those are only a few of them at the Teen Mission in Malawi base in Rumphi.
They and everyone else are serving the Lord with happy hearts and enthusiasm, not thinking about what they don’t have, but what they do.
It’s easy to think that I went to Malawi to give and help the people there. And I did. But it’s not like they had nothing to give us in return. I spent thousands of dollars (thank you to everyone who contributed- over half was donated to me!) to go to Malawi, and let me tell you it was so, so worth it. I had the experience of a lifetime. But not only did I have a good trip, not only did I get to spend my summer working and serving the Lord and encouraging other believers, but I learned so much.
The people who we think have the least, often have the most to teach us.
That trip was not about me. Drilling the well was not about me. It wasn’t so that I could feel good. If I wanted that I could have gone on a few week long feel good vacation mission trip to visit an orphanage or to paint a church. The people in Rumphi- they’re not just ‘people’ but they are real people, with names and lives, real challenges and victories, real problems and blessings, and the same God, who loves us all. Over the past year or so I started feeling bad for the people in Rumphi more than for myself- like we gave them a false hope and then let them down. But that’s still about me! When I heard that they had a well finally, I was so excited for them! That was months ago. Today, seeing this picture, I am so happy for the people in Rumphi. So thankful for Mr. Peterson and everyone involved in getting this well in Rumphi. It was a big project with effort from many different people.
I realize how small I am- how I had a meaningful part in getting Rumphi a well, a part that was important and not at all about me.
As I look at this photo, I thank God for the well and for teaching me so much. That summer was not about me. It was for the Lord. To serve him and share His love with others. I am so thankful for all the people God has used to show me that. The people in Rumphi. My whole team. Everyone else serving the Lord with Teen Missions. Everyone along the way who has been an example to me of self sacrifice and humility.