Well Digging, Relationship Building

From the field

October 10, 2020

God has placed YWAM Ships Outpost Panama in such a special location. We’re out here in the isolated regions of Panama. This places us near several indigenous Ngäbe villages, which has given us the opportunity to partner with a few of the more isolated villages. 

Recently, we ventured out to a village about an hour and a half boat ride away called Saltcreek. Not surprisingly, this isolated village has similar needs to our isolated location: adequate amounts of clean water.

Whenever we’re at a new place, we always value partnering with the locals to gain understanding in what they see they need the most to flourish. In the past, people have come and assumed this village needed clothes and other material resources. The locals told us that is not what they need. 

What they really need is clean water.

They have a few small wells and natural springs, but it’s not enough to sustain the vast amount of people there. The locals are only able to retain about 20% of the water from one of their natural springs, which they call: “Ojo de Agua” (Eye of Water). 

When we arrived in Saltcreek, we first walked over to the natural spring. Along with the locals, we stared at it. We told them we could help with their situation and they were excited. Together, we brainstormed how to improve efficiency and how to collect more than the 20% of water.

Then we walked over to a site close enough to the water table to drill a well. The water table is the level below which the ground is completely saturated with water, also called water level. You would want to drill a well near here. 

We used a hand tool and got started. We all took turns, locals and missionaries, getting into the mud to dig a deep hole together. You see, we don’t come to do things for them. We come to empower them and help them by working alongside them. We want them to understand the process of drilling the well so that they can be a part of their solution.

What is that old phrase? “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” 

And we were able to dig a functioning well. 

We tried to dig two other wells that day but were unsuccessful. The wells were unsuccessful because of a huge limestone patch several feet down that spanned widely across the property. Our drilling set has a tool for breaking up rock patches, but this rock was just too thick.

If we had not attempted those wells, then the locals would have only learned what it looks like to dig a well and have no problems or barriers. That limestone patch may not have given us a successful well, but it did provide the locals with knowledge about their land and about the barriers they may face in the future. They got to learn about the rock breaking tool, how to use it and they learned when the rock is just too thick to get through, when it’s time to pick the tools up and when to move down to another location to start over.

The time we spent trying, however, was not a waste. During that time, we built relationships, modeled the love of Jesus, got our hands dirty alongside each other, played with the kiddos, and even learned about their land together.

Honestly though, more important than the successful well was the time we spent building relationships and empowering the people.

The next morning, our men worked together to build a rainwater catchment system much like the one on our own roof from the local family that hosted us. The Lord sent the blessing of a huge rain that morning. The catchment tank was immediately put into use, and we spent some time underneath the house singing worship songs until the rain passed enough for us to safely hike out.

God is opening doors here at Outpost Panama. This village had invited us to come back more in the future to dig more wells and share about the God that we serve. Living in the jungle isn’t always easy, but it is an adventure that Jeff and I are happy to be on.

Emily West
April DTS Co-Leader
To read more about Emily and Jeff’s adventures, click here.
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