19 October 2012

Working Water

Edith Caballa, the neighborhood president of the Rosario de Fatima slum in Lima, Peru, stands next to a water spigot used for washing outside the door of a resident's home. The conditions may still seem primitive for those families who have yet to install bathrooms and sinks, but access to clean running water just outside their door is a dramatic improvement over previous living conditions. The water project headed by International Mission Board missionaries, Quentin and Gina Roberts, has improved sanitation and living conditions for all of the residents and opened doors to share the Gospel. 

LIMA, Peru (BP) -- "Please, can you help us?"

The woman's plea was the first thing Quentin and Gina Roberts heard as they entered an inner-city slum in Lima, Peru.

What they found shocked them.

Lean-to shacks and cracked adobe homes lined a narrow, dirt path in the small community of Rosario de Fatima. There was no water system; the 350 residents used large buckets to collect their sewage. The buckets sat in the sun, covered with pieces of cardboard or empty egg cartons. Once they were full they were emptied into a large hole at the neighborhood's entrance.

Beside the hole was a large sink -- the only place in the community with running water -- where the residents washed their clothes.

Edith Caballa, the neighborhood president and lifelong resident there, said living without running water was nearly unbearable, especially in a community so small and crowded as Rosario de Fatima.

But today the community's unsanitary conditions are mostly a memory.

"We had no water system. We brought buckets with our waste and just poured it in the hole. Then we would wash out the buckets and use them to bring water back to our home for drinking and cooking," Caballa recounted. "That was every single day. And there were so many of us and so much waste, there were fights and people insulting each other. It was very hard."

The Robertses, as International Mission Board missionaries to inner-city Lima, have shared the Gospel and started Bible studies throughout the city. Connections they made in one of their Bible studies brought them to Rosario de Fatima where they hoped to begin another outreach. But they quickly realized the dire water situation provided an opportunity to be Jesus' heart, hands and voice to the community.

"I'd never seen anything quite like that," Gina Roberts said. "I've been places where they didn't have bathrooms, like in rural areas. But in the city there are no trees, no place to dig a hole, no rocks to hide behind. People living there had no sense of dignity.... [T]hings were just totally exposed to everybody. There was a lot of sickness because of it. Our hearts were totally broken by this place."

Thousands of Peruvians in downtown Lima live in quintas like Rosario de Fatima -- individual slums that range from small neighborhoods to large apartment buildings. Sometimes as many as 900 people live in a community without a single bathroom.

"They live very close together," Gina said, "and that breeds social problems as a result."

With financial help from Southern Baptists, the Robertses arranged for a water system to be installed throughout the community. The $15,000 project took nearly two years to complete. Every family was then responsible for installing a bathroom in their home. 

Today, about half of the houses have bathrooms. Some residents still use outdoor disposal systems but each family has a private area that can be cleaned using the water that is piped just outside every home.

During the water project, the Robertses started a Bible study in the community. About 20 people meet to learn God's Word every other Friday night. Although the Robertses still attend, Peruvian believers from the community now lead the study.

"It's sometimes hard," Quentin reflected, "but you have to find that balance between demonstrating God's love in people's physical needs and, then, meeting more than just those needs. Jesus fed the hungry, but there has to be a spiritual component."

Caballa said since the water system was installed, many community members are more open to hearing the Gospel from missionaries who cared enough to help. She attends the Bible study and encourages others to join.

"I was very far away from the Lord for a long time before the [missionaries] helped us," she said. "I didn't have the kind of Bible study that I have now. Little by little, I have been growing in the Word through these studies.

"The neighborhood is still a little bit rough around the edges," she added. "We have a lot of work to do. But now it has a great advantage because it has the water system. It was very tough for us. But now, thanks to the [Robertses], things have changed. We have the Bible study, and we have water.

"Thank God those days are over."

Check out more about mission work in the Americas at Americanpeoples.imb.org. 

Feliz CumpleaƱos Mama!

Today is a special day: Friday! Woohoo! Some weeks you really need a Friday. This was such a week.

But that's not all. Today is also.... my Mama's birthday! Yay!

However, I am not celebrating it today. Nope. I refuse. Her birthday has been postponed. At least until TOMORROW since that's when (Lord willing) her plane will land in Peru!

I can't wait! Although it still doesn't seem real. I'll believe it when I get to hug her!

But in the meantime, in honor of her celebrating many years of life (since I am a nice daughter I will not tell you how many, although I think she should brag because everyone guesses she is younger than she is) and since she will be here soon, I thought I'd share some photos and a bit about how awesome my mom is. I mean, sure, I'm sure your mom is awesome too. But mine is really really awesome. And I'm not just saying that because people tell me I take after her... ;-)

Anyway, she's a little bit crazy (nope, I'm not like her at all) but quite a bit of fun and a very caring person. She's a great godly example and sticks to her convictions even when it's not the easy thing to do. She's also a tremendous servant, the one who takes the jobs that no one else wants, and doesn't go looking for recognition. She's a hard worker and pretty creatively brilliant and artistic. She will figure out a way to do pretty much anything she puts her mind to - although she never did figure out how to stabilize the shelves that she built in the garage. (Seriously, these shelves should be studied as a modern engineering marvel of having every possible support and brace affixed while still maintaining their flexibility. Although, as she pointed out, they are still standing, AND they were strong enough to catch dad the time he fell through the garage ceiling from the attic.)

I also like to think I get my adventuring spirit from her. :-) She taught me to play in the rain and climb things and go exploring. And through (almost) 27 years of my life she's been a ready companion on many an escapade. She usually wasn't the parent complaining about me doing crazy things because they were potentially dangerous, she was only complaining because she wanted to come too. So I'm very excited that she is finally able to come visit Peru and we can have some more adventures on another continent!

Here are some photos over the years:

Golden Pavilion in Japan
Headsmashedinbuffalojump in Canada. 
Backpacking the Chattooga trail- 2005

Easter in Prague

Neuschwanstein castle in Germany
Mission trip to Haiti after the earthquake
Preparing for the jungle of Peru? Heheheh. 

Stay tuned for the continuing adventures of Betty and Lyndsey in Peru. :-)