Last month Greg shared with you the story of El Naranjal and their need for a water repository. He told you of our internal struggles as we tried to discern the wisest course of action. This community had asked for our help in their journey of development. They needed clean water and so they asked us to partner with them. We struggled with this decision because, while providing clean water for people is something we all feel is good and right to do, simply making a gift to this community could bring trouble of its own kind. After a month of thinking, talking, and praying we have decided to make this gift to El Naranjal.
A few weeks ago, just before we had decided to make the gift, I was chatting with Manuela after lunch. We were talking about her new home and the progress she has made recently in adding a second room. At one point in the conversation I casually mentioned the repository and expressed my concern and regret that it was taking us so long to make a decision but that we would have an answer for her community soon. She chuckled at this and said “We’ve been waiting for water for years, another month is nothing.” Her chuckle was not cynical, she really thought it humorous that I was concerned for them as they had to wait. These people have done much that most of us would find unbearable, yet they can still smile and laugh at their situation.
The Sunday before last we went out to El Naranjal for the morning. We met with the community for a few minutes to let them know our decision and to lay out the groundwork for us working with them. It was important that we communicated that our strategy is not to make gifts like this, that we would be interested in making loans to anyone, and most importantly that we want our involvement in their community to far surpass any monetary donation. We hope to be present in their community as they build the repository, work on new and existing homes, build the road at the bottom of the hill…you get the point. Maybe in this way, by going the extra mile, some might think to ask us why. Why would gringos be this interested in this group? Why would those with money choose to work and play alongside those who lack it?
Our morning at El Naranjal ended in the best way possible, over a meal. Manuela made adobo for us and it was amazing. Like always. As we all crammed in around her little table and tucked the food away I couldn’t help but feel totally at peace. We had good food. We had good weather (and no noise!). We had good friends. God is doing amazing things here in Arequipa and has, thus far, allowed us to work alongside Him. The people of that community probably feel like we are doing them a great service but I think that, in the end, they will have done something even greater for us.