Field Notes

The Miracle Well

by: susanna donald
August 01, 2011


EL SALVADOR – San Lucas, Sonsonate Region GPS: 13 36.506 N, 89 38.810 W The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the LORD will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs...so that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the LORD has done this... (Isaiah 41: 17-18, 20) Carlos and Norma Molina have worked for Living Water International for many years, bringing clean water and teaching health and hygiene principles to villages in El Salvador, and celebrating with communities as they experience clean water for the very first time. “In my years of working with Living Water,” says Norma, “I’ve often cried for joy. I never cried for sadness until San Lucas.”

San Lucas is a community on a hill—which means that the women (whose work it is to fetch water for their households) had to go up and down the hill, several times a day, just to gather water at the river. Many of the women were older, and the task of hauling 40 pounds of water uphill each day was only becoming more difficult. The excitement in the community was palpable as the mission team from Highland Baptist Church rolled in. The villagers watched as the team worked on the borehole with a mud rotary drill. There’s an element of suspense to mud rotary drilling—unlike air drilling, you don’t know if you’ve hit an aquifer until you develop the well. So the team and the community held their breath as the well was developed. And they held...and held...and held... The first attempt didn’t reach water. But it was only Wednesday, and the team was determined. They gave up their day of sightseeing and relaxation to make another attempt, to drill another borehole—this time, with an air drill—so they would KNOW when they hit water.

They drilled Wednesday, Thursday, and as long as they dared on Friday, but they never hit water. The community fed the team one last meal before they left, and as the Salvadoran women served the team their food, tears glistened on their faces. They knew they weren’t going to get a well. Norma wept with them...tears of sadness. After the team from Highland Baptist left, Carlos decided to take his team of nationals back to San Lucas on their days off and try once more, to go even deeper with the air drill with the hope of hitting water. On this third attempt, they drilled to 70 meters—and that was all they could do. Still, no water. The in-country team had to stop before they lost all of their pipe, but they couldn’t bring themselves to fill in the third borehole. So they covered it with a tarp and placed rocks around the edge. For several days, that dry hole sat in the middle of San Lucas.

As the community waited for the team to return to seal the well (for safety), they decided to hold an impromptu meeting to decide what to do next. The meeting turned into a time of worship and prayer, and this community whose hopes had been dashed not once but three times—this community who still had no clean water to drink—praised God and prayed for his plans for their lives. Suddenly, the people heard a loud sound. One man described it as “an explosion.” The crowd turned and looked at the borehole. The edges of the tarp were fluttering as air began to rush out of the hole—because the well was filling up with water. Each time a community receives the gift of clean water in the name of Jesus...each time a child learns how to keep himself and his family from getting sick from hygiene-related illnesses...each time water rushes out of a new hand pump...each of these instances are amazing acts of God’s love and redemption. But this—this was a miracle well. Lew Hough, the Vice President for Short-Term Trips at Living Water, has seen many, many boreholes.

He has seen boreholes that wouldn’t produce water; he’s seen mud rotary drilling produce an effect like the one in San Lucas—a mud cake holding back the aquifer until enough pressure built up to blast the mud away. But with an air drill, like the one that drilled the third borehole, Hough says, “it can’t happen like that.” As soon as the aquifer is reached, water and mud should start blasting out of the hole. “This was just God reminding us that he is in control of providing the water, just like it says in Isaiah 41,” Hough says. Sebastian Ramirez, a farmer in San Lucas, agrees. “Three boreholes and no water...[then], the third hole filled with water! God works in mysterious ways...and this was one of them.”


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