Thursday, May 28, 2009


After our initial meeting in which we got acquainted with Pastor Romaldo and the Consistory of the Getsemani congregation, we returned to our hotel in nearby Tecultan, ate supper and prepared for the next day. For some of our group, preparation was quiet time or bedtime. For others it was a competitive card game of Tic. Morning brought renewed energy and enthusiasm and, after breakfast, we boarded the van to return to the village of El Jute.

During our absence and over the course of the evening, the Consistory of Getsemani had decided that option [b] building an additional room onto the front of the church building, was their best choice. Having decided that, we sat down to work out all the details necessary for the installation, education, and operation of a water filtration system. The first order of business was to collect samples for immediate and laboratory testing. The day before, we had established that their water was from a reliable and high pressure source. Now that we needed to collect samples, however, the water had mysteriously stopped flowing.

How can you test water that won’t flow? With ingenuity, of course. One of the elders, who lived a few blocks from the church and received his water from the same source, still had water pressure at his home, so we sent Joseph and Robert with him to collect samples.

The first order of business was to fill a Whirly-Pak—a sealable plastic bag containing “bacteria food”—with sample water. When properly filled and sealed, Whirly-Paks accelerate the growth and accentuate the visible presence of a particular strain (fecal coliforms) of bacteria and serve as a marker species for other harmful bacteria. A positive Whirly-Pak test indicates that the pathways for the introduction of harmful bacteria exist. After 24-48 hours at room temperature, a positive sample in a Whirly-Pak will turn dark and stink to high heaven, as the “germ food” accelerates the growth of the marker contaminants, providing very powerful visual and olfactory evidence of the possible need for a filtration system.

In addition to this most dramatic test, there are other important tests that can be done on-site that indicate a water source’s levels of other elements of concern. In chemistry-lab fashion, Joseph and Robert dipped, swirled, and color-charted test strips to get preliminary readings for calcium, total dissolved solids, chlorine, free chlorine, and other elements whose presence and concentrations help determine not only the need for a filtration system, but the particular type of system that will be successful and sustainable. Finally, we collected a sample to send to a testing facility in the USA, for more detailed analysis.

© 2009 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Let's Do It Again!

“That was fun. Let’s do it again.” I cannot tell you how many times I have heard these two statements in my life. I remember them most often with my children—when we were enjoying ourselves with some game or activity. Once is never enough when it’s something good. So it goes with Living Waters for the World, as joy at the depths of the human soul supplants “fun.”

One installation and one relationship are not enough. After we completed our check-up and renewed our friendships at Iglesia Presbiteriana El Dios Vivo in Guastatoya, we set out to repeat the process. Twenty-five or so miles from our first installation, in the state of Zacapa, lies the small town of El Jute. In this town there is a Presbyterian Church: Templo Evangelico Presbiteriano “Getsemani.” This congregation had been a part of our initial survey in October, 2007. Getsemani was one of six congregations where we had taken water samples and left a copy of the Water Issues Survey for completion.

Prior to our 2009 trip, we reviewed the completed Water Issues Survey and made contact with Getsemani’s pastor to confirm their congregation’s desire to form a partnership and install a water filtration system. Pastor Romaldo and members of his Consistory (Session) were waiting for us with open arms. They had done their homework—having visited several nearby LWW installations, and given some creative thought to a suitable location on their own property.

We spent the first afternoon getting to know one another—finding out about families, vocations, and other personal information—as well as explaining the workings of both the system and the covenant partnership of the Living Waters for the World program. Both locations they suggested were suitable. One would use an existing classroom at the back of the building, and the other would have required a three-wall and roof addition to the front of the existing building. We departed the first night, leaving them to decide: [a] use the existing classroom at the back of the building, and require filled water bottles to be carried all the way through the building, or; [b] build an additional room onto the front of the building and have a convenient distribution point near the street.

© 2009 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Open Wide & Say "Ahhhhh"

Our first priority was to do a check-up on the system installed in Guastatoya, GUA, by the Fayetteville Rotary/First Presbyterian team in April of 2008. We arrived at the Guatemala City airport, by way of Nashville & Houston, right on schedule. Knowing that the filters, bulbs, and coffee in my carry-on could not only arouse suspicion with Guatemalan airport security, but might also result in the assessment of somewhat-arbitrary fees/taxes, I did my best imitation of confidence and self-assuredness and walked directly toward the airport exit without being diverted into the optional Customs queue. Avoiding an awkward Spanish/English attempt to explain what I was carrying and why was a great relief, and the air outside seemed exceptionally fresh.

After a brief delay, attributed to our failure to adjust for Daylight Savings, we were reunited with old friends and introduced to new ones. The 2 ½ hour drive to El Progresso/Guastatoya was punctuated with typical interpreted questions/answers, as well as standard-fare Guatemalan driving—something that feels like “Cross Country NASCAR” for those of us unaccustomed. By the time we arrived at our first night’s destination, there was time for little more than check-in and supper, though we did manage an after-supper walk around the town square/park.

Tuesday was dedicated to an in-depth analysis of the system and a querying of its operators to determine their operational proficiency and adherence to a business plan. Before the trip I was skeptical about the need to carry several repair parts, including an extra bulb for the ozonator. My skepticism was erased when it was determined that every spare part we brought was needed to restore the system to full functionality.

Tuesday evening began with a worship celebration at the church. We used music from a variety of instruments and sources, Scripture, prayer, and a full quiver of both Spanish and English to give thanks and praise to God for our ongoing partnership centered on the gospel and Living Waters for the World. After worship, the community’s Health and Hygiene instructors were assembled for a review with our group. This was a very productive meeting that lasted late into the evening.

© 2009 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

We’re Baaaaack!

Our week in Guatemala was a truly amazing experience. The more I leave the comfort zone of my controllable surroundings and venture into the great-beyond of the rest of God’s creation, the more I realize how vast, diverse, and glorious God’s world and plan truly are. A 5:30 AM airport arrival for TSA/Homeland Security baggage check is always an adventure, especially when you are carrying-on water filtration components.

As my carry-on went through security-screening X-Ray, a flurry of airport employees assembled to greet its exit from the machine. “This your bag?” “Yes sir.” “What you got in there?” “Carbon water filters and ozonator bulbs.” “Looks just like pipe bombs to us, so we’re going to take a closer look.” “Okay.”

As the entire contents of my bag were dumped onto a table, I suddenly realized that the pound of Hawaiian coffee I had purchased from my favorite hometown barista as a gift for our Guatemalan host might trigger an additional search for hidden drugs. Agents scrutinized each filter, bulb and box, being careful to swab every crevice for explosive residue. Once the swabs produced negative bomb-residue results in the TSA scanning equipment, I was allowed to re-pack my bag and proceed.

Thus began a week-long journey in mission that also served as a lifelong lesson in appreciation and letting go. I once saw a bumper sticker that read: Life is what happens while you are making other plans. This was definitely a week of “life.”

© 2009 Todd Jenkins