Sunday, July 24, 2016

Greetings From Mindoro!

Two years, one month, and twenty seven days from the fateful morning, we are
finished. The well is done. We have a steady supply of clean water. It's

Balangabong is a two or three hour hike from the nearest steady source of
water. Years ago, a development agency put in a water system, piping water
to the village from a river in the mountains. There was no way to fully
capture the spring from which the river flowed, however, so the water was
always contaminated from the very source. Highlanders often, to this day,
flee to this area when witchcraft threatens to wipe out an entire village.
They bathe in the water, and use the area as a bathroom. Frogs, eels, and
fish get sucked into the intake, then lodge in the pipe and rot.

These were all problems which I could solve, however, if the people would
allow me. The real problem in Balangabong, and all of the border area
Tawbuid villages, is that discipline has nearly ceased to exist. In the
highlands, discipline is maintained by authoritative chiefs who wield the
power of sickness, life, and death over their people through sorcery. When
the border area Tawbuid accepted Christianity, they left these
spiritualistic forms of discipline, but they failed to adopt the Western
forms used by the lowland Filipinos, such as prison or corporal punishment.
The result is that, after a generation of no discipline, everyone does
whatever they please and no one does anything about it.

Say, for example, I was washing clothes at the end of the hose and someone
else wanted to fill up a jug. Rather than wait for me, the other person
would simply go upstream of me and cut the hose open. People do this every
day, until the hose is simply a mass of holes. Further, as people walk to
and from their fields they cut the line to drink. Wherever people cut the
line, a mud hole forms which the water buffalo love to wallow in, mixing
their feces into the mire which gets into the hose. The result is that,
very little water ever reaches the village, and when it does, it is filthy.

For two years I endured this system. Often we would have no water for a
month. We would walk for up to an hour to fill up our jugs with water which
gave me almost continual diarrhea, even after using a filter to clean my
drinking water. Often I would bathe for six days in an eight-gallon bucket.
How easily I could have fixed the water system, but the lack of discipline
would have caused it to be broken again almost immediately. Indeed, during
this time two different agencies came in and fixed the system from the
source all the way down to the village. Each time, within one week it was
broken again and there was no water in the village.

Finally I concluded that the only way I could get clean and reliable water
for myself and the village, would be to put in a well.

Our first attempt to put in a well here began on May 14, 2014. I hired a
local drilling company to drill a well for us, explaining that we were
situated in the foothills, and that we had quartz and marble boulders to
drill through. They guaranteed that they could manage no problem. When
they arrived, it turned out that they only had a jetting rig, which uses
high pressure water to displace dirt and sand, but which cannot handle rock
at all.

After the jetters left, we attempted to dig a well. After three different
teams gave up digging, the excavation caved in on a fourth team at 25 feet,
and we gave up digging as too dangerous. The most water we found was a
trickle from the wall of the hole that produced about a liter of water in a
week, and then dried up.

From the bottom of our 25 foot hole, we attempted to pound a well. Here, a
common method of making wells is to weld a point on the end of a pipe, and
simply pound it into the ground until it reaches water. We attempted to do
this, thinking that we might be able to reach water from the bottom of the
hole, but to no avail.

In July of 2014, the Carolina Conference asked me to present on missions
each evening during their camp meeting. The offering which was collected
allowed us to purchase a locally built well drill that used diamond coring
bits to drill through the quartz and marble rocks.

We began drilling in January, 2015. The company which sold us the drill
sent a man to operate the drill for us while we learned the ropes. I
thought that the process would be somewhat like how we drill wells in the
States, and that in a few days to a week we would have a well. Well
drilling here, though, is a long and tedious process. The drill itself is
made from parts scavenged from junk shops. The various parts of the drill,
not designed to be used for drilling, are continually breaking. True
well-drilling bits are not available. Coring bits are substituted, which
are purchased from companies that take core samples for mining or
construction operations. Because they are core bits, they must be taken out
and cleaned whenever they clog, unlike the bits that drillers use in the
States which can drill continuously. In the States we use bentonite clay or
a type of polymer which solidifies the wall of the bore hole to prevent it
from caving in. Here, it is very difficult to find bentonite, and polymer's
simply don't exist. In addition, any type of rotary mud drill must have
circulating water to cool and lubricate the bit, and to bring cuttings to
the surface. The main reason that we needed the well was because of a lack
of any kind of water, so supplying sufficient water to drill nearly made me
go bald.

Overcoming all obstacles, however, we finally hit water after a month of
drilling. We joyously celebrated, disassembled the drill, and poured a slab
around the well. Sending the driller home with many thanks, we returned to
find that the pump had stopped producing water. Undaunted, we pulled the
riser, found that the silt which we had been steadily pumping out, had
ground the valves to pulp. Replacing them, we tried to put the riser back
in, but found that the bottom of the bore hole had collapsed and there was
no water to be had.

At this point I returned to the States for furlough. When I returned, we
started drilling again. Since the fall of 2015 we have been drilling off
and on again, but problem after problem prevented us from reaching the water
level at 120 feet. In the process we broke one bit off inside the borehole,
started a new borehole, and lost another bit in the new hole, which we were
able to recover, however.

Early his year, we decided to make one last attempt. We contacted the
operator who had taught us, and asked if he would come back and help us
again. He arrived and began drilling in May. Just as before, the drill
broke several times a week. We were continually short on circulating water.
The bore hole kept collapsing, or rocks would fall into the hole. We broke
off three bits in the hole, losing one of them forever. By God's grace, and
a lot of perseverance we were able to recover the other two bits, however.

Through this whole process, I have continually asked God what His purpose
was. I wanted desperately to give up, by always the conviction was strong
that I must continue. "What is it that you want to teach me through all of
this," I cried. "Why won't you either give us water or release me to give
up? There seems to be no point, whatsoever, in going on and on and on with
no results. Surely we should cut our losses and simply endure the water

But God would not give up, nor let me give up. Today, just two days after
we finished, I'm still not sure why God has allowed this. He could have
given us water, flowing from the rock above my house, just like He did for
Israel. Why did He make us struggle for two fruitless years? I'm still not
sure. But I have a suspicion that this well is an allegory of our mission
to reach the Tawbuid. On an even larger scale we often seem to be spinning
our wheels with little to show for the years and tears we have poured into
the people. Often I have begged God for release. I have pointed to my
flaws in character which, in my eyes, make me unworthy for this work. But
always the conviction returns, "Go, it is in my hands. Keep working until I
release you."

And so I have hope, which will not disappoint since it is from God. I have
this hope, that as the well produced its clear, life-giving water after two
years of fruitless labor, even more, God will bring forth springs of living
water among the Tawbuid after we have endured for a time.