Going through the motions

The past couple of months have been busy, both when teams have been here and in the times between teams. We had a 3-week break between the February and March teams but instead of staying in Ouaga we headed to Ivory Coast for a week to drill the wells in the village that we couldn’t get to last May (due to the horrendous road). We came in a different route this time – it took 3 days of driving to get there (including 6 hrs for a single 60mile stretch, and 4hrs for a 30mile stretch), but we got there. These were wells that had originally been surveyed and planned back in 1998, so it was a blessing to finally be able to drill the wells and encourage the believers in that village. The journey home took just as long, but we made it back in one piece….eventually.

The March team saw us heading out west again with our Envision (US) partners. Despite getting started a day late on the first week we were able to get 4 wells drilled that week (2 wells, in 2 different villages, in 1 day – that’s a first!), and another 3 wells the second week, including the deepest well that we’ve drilled in Burkina (400ft / 120m). One of these wells was at a Compassion centre, the rest were at existing churches – some just basic hangars, some small mud brick buildings, whilst others were well established churches…but all in need of clean water to help the local community, and to aid share the Gospel.


They are happy about the new well…honestly


Collecting water from the new well


A 400ft well needs a lot of liner.

A two-week break saw us back in the city doing maintenance on the equipment (this was the first time the rig, etc had been back in Ouaga since November), hosting a donor who came to see the wells that her organisation had paid for, and getting ready for our next trip to Ivory Coast. Yes – twice to the IC in the space of a couple of months… This time the roads were tarmac all the way (albeit with some truck-eating potholes), but it was still 3 days driving to get to the villages. That’s a long time to be sitting in a truck. The 3 wells were drilled without incident, though each took longer than expected, meaning that we weren’t starting our homeward journey until later than planned. One Landrover decided that it’d had enough and keeled over at the side of the road. Kudos to Sam (the cook) and Samuel (our Ivorian worker) who towed it the 370miles back to Ouaga – with a detour to Batie to drill a well for a missionary project there. I get the impression that our vehicles don’t like Ivory Coast…


Not our usual drilling set-up, and definitely a bit greener


Pets can be a bit different in Ivory Coast


Everyone loves their photo being taken (except me)

Now we’re back in Ouaga, a few more wells to try and get drilled before the rains come, lots of maintenance to be performed on the equipment, a house to pack up, the tools from the shipment still to be sorted…the to-do list never gets any shorter.

Whilst drilling the deepest well with the March team, I muttered to Mark as I took over the controls “I might as well go through the motions”. It was late, March temperatures take their toll, we were at 260ft (usually the deepest we drill to is 300ft), the geological change that we’d hoped to see had come and gone about 100ft (and a couple of hours) previously with no water. Though we suspected that we’d have to go deeper with this well I had no expectations of anything happening and just wanted to go to my bed. I was tired, and tired of seeing the same grey and red clays that we’d been looking at for the past few hours. But, we drill to 300ft, so that’s what I’d do… A few minutes, and 5ft of drilling, later water was starting to flow. Not much, but enough to encourage us. We called it a night at 300ft, and the next day drilled the hole down to 400ft. There was enough water flowing to make a well, and we pumped water for hours – it seemed that every container in the village that was capable of carrying water was filled by the time we switched off the pump.

Later, I reflected that at times in my Christian life I feel like I’m just ‘going through the motions’.  Life isn’t going the way I think that it should, and each day is a struggle. Praying seems really really hard work; prayers don’t seem to be answered, or even getting past the ceiling of my room. Reading the Bible doesn’t come easily; the words seem dry. It’s hard to join in the singing at church, or even be there. The life that Paul describes in chapter 7 of Romans seems very real.  At these times, giving up feels like a very attractive option. But, we’re called to press on; told “not to grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6 v9). When I’m at home I love to get to the hills to run. Running downhill is exhilarating; running uphill, for me, is awful. It’s drudgery. Every step takes effort, and I’m wholly focused on simply placing one foot in front of the other; just going through the motions. Sometimes, I need to take a moment to take a look back. To see how far up the mountain I’ve actually come. At different times, God told the Israelites to remember how He had brought them out of Egypt, how He had saved them from Pharaoh’s army, how He had provided for them in the wilderness. When I feel I’m just ‘going through the motions’ I need to look back over my life to remind myself of how God has answered my prayers, how He has directed my path, how He has blessed me, how He has sustained me. I need to remind myself that God will give me the grace that I need to face each day, and that His mercy is new, and sufficient for, each day. I need to remind myself that He understands my weakness, and deals with me gently when my faith is poor – “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear Him. For He knows our frame, He remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103 v13-14); “a bruised reed He will not break, and a faintly burning wick He will not quench” (Isaiah 42 v3). I need to keep going through the motions – keeping praying, reading, going to church – not giving up, trusting that it is just a season, and that I will come out the other side saying ‘Oh LORD, great is Your faithfulness’.




My mum had a saying that she used on a regular basis when I was growing up…. “there’s a sermon in that”. Some seemingly mundane event would have happened, and Mum would be able to get a biblical truth from it – sometimes it was a tenuous link, but my sister and I were still being well taught! Unfortunately, I can’t actually remember too many of the events that were conducive to giving sermons, but my sister & I still value that we were taught biblical truth from a young age. Saying that, I did scare myself the other day when I found myself saying (inwardly, I hope) “there’s a sermon in that”….

“We’ll have to be careful bringing the trucks in here – that’s a sharp ridge to drive over”. That was my thinking as we drove the Landrover to take a look at the next drilling site. The ridge beside the track looked high and steep, and I was concerned for the stability of the drilling rig as it was driven over the ridge. An hour later as we drove the trucks to the drill site I struggled to find the ridge that I had been so concerned about – from the higher seat of the truck the ridge didn’t look worrying at all, and we rolled over it without a second thought. And that was when the thought struck me….”there’s a sermon in that”!

As we go through life we face a myriad of situations that can threaten us and have the potential to make us feel overwhelmed. Global issues – terrorist attacks; wars; the militant rise of the LGB movement; the attack on our Christian faith and way of life; the breakdown of marriage…. Personal issues – the news from the doctor that is not good; the company that we’ve worked to for years is closing; the marriage vows that feel more and more difficult to honour; our children are rebelling; a trusted friend has betrayed us; the relationship that we’ve prayed for for years still isn’t happening; the “it’ll never happen to me” accident has happened. All these can make us feel that we can’t cope – we can’t see what way to go – we’re threatened – we can’t see how to get around the problem nor know how to respond to the situation.

The same situations, seen from God’s perspective – ‘He who sits in the heavens’ (Psalm 2:4) – take on a very different appearance. The wars, the attacks on our Christian heritage, the big & scary (to us) global issues are not threatening, nor overwhelming to Him because He is sovereign and knows the end from the beginning. His Word tells us that one day “at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow….and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:10-11). Though Satan seems to win many battles, the final outcome is inevitable – Jesus wins!

At the same time, the God who is sovereign over all tells us to “cast all your cares upon Him” (1 Peter 5:7) We read time and time again in the Bible of people who faced overwhelming or impossible situations – the disciples in a boat when the storm hit the lake; Daniel in the lion’s den; Sarai still waiting to have a child when she was almost 100 years old; the disciples needing to feed a crowd of 5000 people…. In each case, God steps into the situation and does the impossible – the storm is stilled with a word from Jesus; the lion’s mouths are shut; Sarai conceives; Jesus feeds the crowd with just 5 loaves and 2 fishes. And the list could go on – with our God nothing is impossible.

When we ‘cast our cares upon Him’ we are giving our anxieties & fears to a God who cares for us, loves us, wants the best for us – “cast all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you”. God understands our fears, our worries, how we feel overwhelmed & threatened. How is that? How can the Almighty God know what it’s like to be scared, or worried, or overwhelmed? Because in Christ Jesus, God was fully human and is therefore “able to sympathise with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15)

The psalmist tells us:

“As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear Him.
For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:13-14)

Our God never mocks us for feeling afraid of something; of not knowing what to do; of despairing of which way to turn. Rather, like a loving father, He tells us to simply bring our worries to Him; to trust Him; to look to Him for the grace, the strength, the wisdom that we need; to rest in His promises – “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9); “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6); “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28). We may not know how situations will work out ‘for good’ – and we may never know that this side of eternity – but we know that God loves us, cares for us, and has promised never to leave us nor forsake us.

I know that when I am facing situations that threaten to overwhelm me, whether it’s related to our work out here in Burkina or to life in general, I usually try to deal with them myself – in my own limited strength & wisdom – allowing myself to become anxious and worried, before finally admitting defeat and asking God for His help – how foolish! Prayer, and giving the problem over to the Lord, should be my first priority – not the last resort!

Our God is the God of the impossible, and nothing that we face can overwhelm us if we face it with God.

What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear
And what a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer.

Oh, what peace we often forfeit
Oh, what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

(Joseph Scriven – 1855)

“The heavens declare…”

IC treesSometimes drilling wells can be tough. You battle for days to get one well – and those are long days…starting early, finishing late into the night by the light of work-lights; you’re shovelling mud that never ends, never goes where you want it to, and makes every step an effort; you end up putting the drill rods into the ground then pulling them out again several times during the course of the work because the hammer gets blocked; there’s the nagging doubt that you’ll not even get a well at the end of all the work; you’re tired, constantly….

Thankfully, the past 3 drill teams have been nothing like that! 7 wells drilled by the team from Carrick Baptist (my home church) before Christmas, another 9 wells with the team from Atlanta in January, and 6 wells with the team from Lurgan (NI) last month. And, on the January trip the work lights didn’t have to be used once! That’s 22 new wells, drilled at both established churches & new church plants, giving clean safe water to many thousands of people – God is Good!

One side effect of the easier drilling was that when I lay down on my camp bed (sometimes at 9pm – unheard of for me) my eyes weren’t closed before my head hit the pillow. Instead, I would find myself lying there, looking up at the stars – so much clearer than at home – and trying to find the constellations that I recognise. Without fail, my thoughts would turn first of all to Psalm 19:

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his
chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is 
nothing hidden from its heat.” (Psalm 19:1-6)

The beauty & majesty of the stars – spoken into existence by our God; the vastness of the universe – countless stars & planets, yet each one known by our God; the order of our universe – each planet moving in it’s perfect orbit, the sun rising and setting each day without fail, showing the wisdom and order of our God; the diversity of life on our own planet – created perfectly by our God. All these things emphasis the greatness of our God, the Creator – all-powerful, all knowing, infinite…beyond our comprehension.

Then my thoughts would turn to Psalm 8:

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honour.” (Psalm 8: 3-5)

Considering myself after considering the wonder of creation, and its Creator, is sobering. Its vastness emphasises my smallness; God’s power highlights my weakness; His wisdom is in complete contrast to my foolishness; His holiness reveals my sinfulness; and so the list goes on… And yet, this God cares for me. This God cherishes me. This God bestows honour on me. This God has forgiven & cleansed me. This God loves me; loves me enough to send His Son to this world, to be crucified to take the punishment for my wrongdoing; and I can call this awesome God ‘Father’…

How can I know this, because God’s Word tells me. The second half of Psalm 19 reads:

“The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;
the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.”
(Psalm 19: 7-11)

The heavens show us the greatness and splendour of God; however, it is God’s Word that tells us about God Himself, and about our need of a saviour – Jesus Christ.

And that is why we do what we do. Drilling wells obviously helps people physically – better health due to the clean water; more time for the children to go to school due to the easier access to water; more water for agriculture…. But, more importantly, the wells give the local pastors more opportunities to share the wonderful Gospel of Jesus Christ, and that Gospel can change people’s lives eternally.


Settling back in…

It feels that I haven’t written anything to my blog in a while, and I suspose that that’s because I haven’t . There’s no real reason for this, maybe just a feeling of a lack of anything new to say – there’s only so many times that I can say “we drove to a village (on terrible roads), we set up the rig, we drilled, we broke something, we didn’t get water – not good”, or “we drove to a village, drilled, and got water – great”..! Though the excitement of hitting water, and knowing the impact that this will have on people’s lives doesn’t diminish, putting it into words on a regular basis can quickly become very samey… Anyway, all that to say that we’ve been working away even if I haven’t been writing about it – whether at home over the summer when we were purchasing equipment to ship out to the field, speaking about the work in churches and schools, and planning the work for the next season(s); or over the past few weeks out in Burkina as we get the equipment up and running, meet with our mission partners, prepare for teams, drill, plan….all the usual stuff.

So far this season we’ve drilled 5 holes and been blessed with 4 great wells. The one dry hole was a prime example of the fickle nature of drilling in granite – we drilled 5m away from an existing well and got next to no water….we then went 5m to the other side of the existing well and got a great flow of water! We then drilled at a project site in Ouaga where we had the strange experience of seeing the water level in the new well come right up to ground-level – you could literally scoop the water out of the well with your hand… The final 2 wells were on a greenfield site just outside of Ouaga, where a new church is going to be built along with a retreat centre for pastors and their families. The plan was to drill one well that would support a handpump which would be used be the people from the local village (they’re currently taking water from hand-dug wells, that are both unhygienic and run dry in hot season), and for the construction of the church; the second well would be for a submersible pump that would give a good source of water for the retreat centre, irrigation for crops, and further construction… Drilling the first well went smoothly and we got a good source of water that is more than adequate for a handpump. The second well went reasonably smoothly, but we weren’t getting the flow of water that we expected. We kept drilling deeper, and discussed our options….will it make do? Do we put a handpump into this well (as we probably had enough for that) and use the first hole for the submersible pump? How far do we keep going with this hole as it’s a bit discouraging? Do we start again? Anyway, we pushed on, and kept praying….. At 255ft there was a change in the cuttings coming out of the hole, and a couple feet later there was a lot of water coming out of the hole… A few more feet again and one of the biggest flows of water that I’ve seen was coming out of that well, flooding the place! Needless to say, there was a lot of rejoicing and all the questions of that morning disappeared.


One very happy pastor!

A few days before we had drilled those wells a friend had sent me a message and included the quotation “the God of endurance and encouragement…” (it’s from Romans 15 v5). That phrase was in my head as we worked, and I believe that God showed us the reality of it – He gave us the endurance to cope with both the heat those days (it was stinking hot!) as well as the disappointment of not seeing the results that we were expecting; and then He gave us encouragement by answering our prayers for water with an abundance that far exceeded our expectations. We serve a great God!

Drilling that well also caused me to consider similarities with my life – am I content with ‘just enough’ in my Christian life, or do I earnestly seek to know God more and more and have an ‘abundance’ of Him? Do I have the endurance, or even pray for the endurance, to keep pushing on and staying faithful when things aren’t going the way that I expect? Do I allow discouragements to drag me down? Am I an encouragement to those around me? How wonderful to have a Heavenly Father who knows us; who loves us despite all our weaknesses and failings; and who gives us the endurance and encouragement that we so desperately need!


NB. Due to my lackadaisical attitude to my blog, I’d written this post a couple of weeks ago, then forgot to upload it! Subsequently, we’ve hosted our first team of the season – 4 guys from the States who came out for 1 week – and we managed to drill another 4 wells!

The next team coming out are from my home church of Carrick Baptist – I’m really looking forward to seeing them out here, and for them to have the opportunity to experience the work that we do out here…I just hope that we manage to send them home in one piece at the end of the fortnight!


The November Envision team.


Taking a (brief) break from the sun

Is that the finish line..??

“I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:7&8

With our drilling teams we have daily team-times, when someone will share a devotional thought from Scripture (we persuade team members to fully participate in this as Mark & I are both tired of hearing our own small collection of 4 talks apiece!) Usually towards the end of the trip I’ll roll out my talk on the above verse, trying to encouraging the team that though things have been tough, the work hard and the hours long, the finish line is in sight and we will have the reward of knowing that we have impacted the lives of many people. For myself, this season has felt a bit like one long race and over the past couple of weeks, just as the finish line was coming into sight, there have been twists and turns in the course which make the finish line seem as far away as ever!! However, we know that the fight we are involved in is ‘the good fight’ – seeking to demonstrate God’s love to the people we gift wells to, and giving opportunities for them to hear the Gospel – and that when we face difficulties, the strength we need will be given to us. Over the past couple of weeks we’ve needed a lot of strength…!

With my last post, I asked if anyone had any questions about the work; these are what I was given:
• Funniest moment in the last month.
• One answer to prayer in the last month.
• Most frustrating thing about the last month.
• An example where you’ve operated outside of your comfort zone.

With the March trip everything went smoothly, and it was difficult to see where I was operating outside of my comfort zone – the most frustrating thing was a broken trailer hitch, which was soon fixed (though our prayers for ‘safety on the road’ were definitely answered in that case!) Everything went pretty smoothly and we were blessed with 5 wells. One incident that stood out from that trip was having the opportunity to help a village, beside where we were drilling, with their broken well. Joanna, who works with one of our partner missions wrote this about it:

“On occasion, I refer to myself as the “world’s worst missionary”. What I really mean when I say this is that I am human and mess up like any other person. I struggle with people pleasing & jealousy, get mad and respond in my frustration, sometimes talk negatively about others, am selfish, don’t always want to help others and the list could go on. On my most recent bush trip to drill wells, I found myself having one of these “world’s worst missionary” moments.

We had finished drilling the first well of the week and were making plans to return to a village about 20 minutes away to install the pump for a well that was drilled by a previous team. Once that was done, we were going to head to the next village and set up to drill another well. However, some leaders from a nearby village stopped in and asked if we would be able to come check out their well (that another organization drilled) because it was no longer working. My response was one of frustration and irritation. You see, everywhere we go (whether drilling wells, building hangars or something else) people come and ask for help. And the truth is, sometimes it gets old and frustrating because it seems people always want something from you. Thankfully, not everyone had the same response as me. The FIA guys (our well drilling partners) agreed to go check things out and see what we could do. So, after we installed the pump for the one village, we made our way to the village with the broken pump.

Before I go on, let me give you a little history about this area. A couple weeks before, the FIA team had been in the village nearby where we had just installed the pump. The Muslims there were not happy the team was there, were ridiculing the Christians and were not open to them using water from their pump to help with the drilling process. The team was there working on that well 5 days before they had success. Fast forward a couple weeks and we were at a village down the road where God had given us an opportunity to show His love to this group of Muslims by repairing their well. We were there for 2 or 3 hours while a crowd gathered and watched as the team worked to repair the well. Some of us were able to pray for these people while the pump was being repaired and before we left we all gathered together and prayed that God would use this situation to reveal Himself to these people and open their eyes to the truth of His gospel.

It was dark by the time we finished and so we stayed in the village where we had just drilled the well for another night. The next morning the same leaders came to thank the team for repairing their well and to see what it was going to cost them. At this time some of the missionaries were able to explain that we did this for them because of the love of Jesus Christ. They were able to speak words of truth that we are praying will lead to life change in that village.

Later that morning, we left for the next village and were able to complete 2 more wells this week and another 2 the following week. So, even though God changed our original plans, He still helped us complete 5 good wells in 2 weeks.

After the incident with the broken pump, I had some reflecting to do in regards to the attitude of my heart. It was not a good feeling to realize the pump wouldn’t be fixed and the truth of the gospel would not have been shared if I had been the one making the choice about whether to go check the pump out or not.

During this week, I was reminded of the verse in Galatians that says, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” The reality is that we cannot help everyone in a country where we are surrounded by need everywhere we go, but this was a good reminder that often God brings people to us who have needs and I need to see these situations as opportunities to do good and not just as an interruption to our plans.”

Fast forward to May, and we found ourselves in Ivory Coast to drill at 2 villages in the north of the country – villages that Mark had visited & surveyed 20 years ago, but never had the wells drilled due to the civil war. We arrived in Gogo on the Monday evening, and by the Thursday evening had drilled 3 wells – it’s always nice when the drilling goes as smoothly as that! It’s hard to believe that in a town of over 2,500 people that there was one working pump, one partially working pump, and a poor hand-dug well…and yet there was electricity – someone has their priorities mixed-up!

Gogo also highlighted to me the many different facets of missionary work; whilst Mark, Matt & I travel to many villages throughout the season, staying in each place maybe a day or 2, Paul & Marina Briggs (good friends of ours from NI) have lived and worked in Gogo for 30 years – building relationships, learning the language, translating the Bible into that language, evangelising, discipling, helping the people in practical ways…..the list goes on & on. It is a very different way of working (and probably not for me!), but vitally important and it was a privilege to be able to help them in their work in Gogo.

With Paul in Gogo

The Friday morning saw us hit the road for the next village, and 14hours later we were still on the road – still a long long way from the next village; traumatised(!) by bits of the ‘road’ that we had inched our way along, and now looking at a Landcruiser that had a broken clutch and a big trailer that had a cracked spring. It was a case of not knowing whether it was better to turn around and retrace our steps, or push on in the hope that the road ahead would improve. In the end, after an exploratory trip, our only option was to retreat… Cue a 3-day ‘rescue operation’ to get the 2 trucks and 1 small vehicle out of Ivory Coast and across the border into Burkina! Definitely an occasion that counted as ‘very frustrating’ and ‘operating outside your comfort zone’! Throughout it all, though, we could see the Lord working in the details, and knew the Lord’s strengthening and guidance…. if you ask Mark, he’ll probably say that the biggest miracle of the time was that I went for 2 days straight without food…and didn’t complain once!!

We’re now back in Ouaga and fighting our way through more technical issues – not what we were anticipating, or wanting, as we try to wrap things up for the season, but thankful for the timing of it – no team to keep occupied, we’re in Ouaga, and folks who can help us are just minutes down the road. The finish-line is there, but it still feels like a long way off! Our prayer at this time is one of gratitude – for the 36 wells that have been completed; for the safety we experienced as we worked and travelled; and that problems are being overcome. I’m also praying that we will reach the finish-line in one piece! My flight home is scheduled for Saturday night (20th), and though I hate leaving whilst there are lots of things to be done, I am so looking forward to getting home and getting some rest, and catching up with all my family & friends! See you soon….!

(as for funniest moment of the past month….it could be the fashion-sense of some of the locals….or the driving (if you didn’t laugh, you’d cry)….or the 3 fellas rollerblading (very badly) along one of the main roads out of Ouaga…!!)


A very brief synopsis of the February & March teams….

February saw a team of 7 men coming over from Edinburgh. This was the first time that any of them had been out with FIA (the first time in Africa for most of them….) One of them was a child evangelist, and his focus was to hold outreach events in the churches where we drilled. With that team we drilled 6 wells, and held 4 or 5 meetings which attracted hundreds of children (and adults).
The March team was much smaller in size, since we had originally planned to be in Ivory Coast (some unrest there in January put paid to those plans). The first week saw us drill 2 wells – not the easiest we have drilled, but pretty straightforward – then we moved to the third village on the Friday, and stayed there for a week! It was a tough hole to drill as the rock was very soft and kept collapsing, but we got there in the end!

The ‘stand-out’ well over that time was the third well of the March trip. Anywhere that you have spend more than a couple of days tends to stick in your mind, and this one was no different.

Austin Keeler, a missionary with Envision, was on that trip and this is what he wrote about that village:

We recently spent two weeks out drilling wells in different villages. Drilling has been one of our great pleasures in Burkina Faso – travelling to remote villages, working hard, eating well, sleeping under the stars, and helping to provide clean water for the precious people – it really is an amazing experience. Wells do not always come easy, however. There is often much opposition in the heavenly places (Eph. 6:12). Unlike a trip we went on earlier this year on which ten wells in two weeks were completed (a new record), we returned from this trip having completed three wells. Is ten better than three? By no means! Each well drilled is a gift from God and we trust in Him as the source of our success. The first two wells were drilled with only minor complications. The third well took five full work days. The hole kept collapsing, so we needed to use the mud pump. The mud pump connects to a large hose that sits in a large tank of water or in a hand dug pit several feet deep. It uses water pressure, instead of air pressure, to clear the hole. The issue was that water was not close by. There was another well in the village, but it is apparently controlled by the Muslims who would not allow us to retrieve the necessary water from it. The Christians of the village also reported that some of the Muslims were mocking them, rejoicing that we had not hit water, and telling them that we would not be successful. We therefore had to make a two-hour round trip to get water for the mud pump, so that the drilling could continue – a trip that was made several times. By the grace of God, we were not discouraged, but spent time in prayer forgiving them and praying for them. On the fifth and final day of drilling this third well, an old man came by the worksite. Dressed in black, he had many fetishes about him, snake skin around his arm and the like. He sat away by himself and watched the drilling, waiting for the work to fail (as the Christians reported). We could see that he was murmuring things, undoubtedly praying to the spirits, as there was much spiritual warfare in the atmosphere all that day. On the evening of the fifth day we hit water. Everyone at the scene rejoiced and celebrated and praised the Lord, except for that old man. He got up, looking quite upset, and walked away. We did not see him again but the villagers reported that he had returned home and told his son that we had hit water, implying that both were rather astounded that we had success despite his prayers against the work. God provided a great well, and we pray that it will be a witness to the truth and power of the God of the Christians, both to the Muslims and to the Animists, and that they would receive living water, and never thirst again (John 4:14).
I will pour out water on him who is thirsty, and streams on the dry ground (Isa. 44:3).

..and my Facebook post after that trip:

It’s really not much of a photo, but it represents so much….
For us, it represents 5 days of hard work in hot-season temperatures; a collapsing hole that had to be drilled & redrilled multiple times; mechanical issues with the rig; 5hr round trips on pretty horrible roads to get fuel & supplies; the gnawing uncertainty that there still may not be any water at the end of all the work.
For the villagers, it represents a new source of safe clean water that can change their lives.
For the pastor, it represents new opportunities to share the amazing Gospel with his neighbours.

Above all, it reminds us that that we have a faithful God; a God who gives us the strength that we need to do His work; a God who hears and answers the prayers of His people.
Thank-you Lord.

And the well at the second village:

Loving the clean water!

Over the past couple of months, one thing has stood out to me more and more clearly…… We have a Sovereign God.
It really struck home on the last trip that God has directed our steps…. around Christmas time I was a bit discouraged at the number of holes we had drilled – it wasn’t as many as we had hoped. Looking back now, I can see that we’ve always been in the right place with the right team. In December, when we spent 4 days at one village and 5 days at the next playing in a mudbath, we had a small team who could cope with that work. However in January, when we were in a region where wells came easily, we had a big team (actually two 1-week teams) and were able to push on with the work and drill 10 wells. In February, when we had an evangelist with us, we were in a region where 2 of the villages were beside each other, and the other 4 were grouped together very closely, and therefore he was able to easily travel from one village to another for the outreach meetings. With the last team, when again we spent a long time in one place, it was a small team (mostly other missionaries, and Ivorians) and therefore easily managed. With each trip, we were in the right place with the right team – God is in control!
Now, I just have to remind myself that that truth applies to all of life…!

Dear Supporter, There’s So Much More I Wish I Could Tell You

I saw this post and I felt that I could relate to quite a lot of it…. (though not the part about snorkelling, or an exotic location….)

Dear Supporter,

I wrote you a newsletter today. I told you about the success in our ministry, about the lives being touched and the happy stories. Everyone was smiling in all the pictures. But there is so much more I wish I could tell you.

I wish I could tell you that lots of times I feel like a total failure. I’ve asked you to pray for the Big Event, or the Camp Sign-Ups, or the Grand Opening. You might not realize that afterwards, I don’t always tell you how it went. That’s because sometimes, despite weeks of hard work and lots of prayer, the event is a total flop. Five people show up. Or no one. And I can’t bring myself to tell you.

Then there’s the time when I realize that I’ve hurt a national friend. Or a missionary colleague and I are having a huge conflict. Or I’ve made a major cultural mistake. Or I’m just not learning this language. Or everything blows up in my face. There are many, many times when I wonder why I’m here, or if I really am the right person for this job. But I’m afraid to tell you, because then I think you will wonder why I’m here or if I am the right person for this job.

I wish I could tell you about my personal struggles. Sometimes I feel like you make me out to be more spiritual than I am, but I wish you knew that becoming a missionary didn’t turn me into a saint. In fact, sometimes I think it brings out the worst in me. I wish I could tell you about the immobilizing depression or the fights with my spouse. I wish I could tell you that my anxiety was so bad that I needed to travel to another country to see a professional counselor. I wish I could tell you about that time my friend was robbed at gunpoint in his home, and I couldn’t sleep for weeks afterward.

I wish you knew that I hate it here sometimes, and there’s nothing more I want than to go home. But I know I need to stay, so I don’t tell you because I’ve heard the stories of friends forced to go home because they confided in the wrong person. I don’t tell you because I can’t imagine you would want to support such a flawed person.

I wish I could tell you about the perks. We live in an exotic place, so sometimes that means that we take our kids snorkeling the way you would take your kids to the park. Sometimes it means that our conferences or layovers take us to exciting places like Thailand or Johannesburg or Dubai. Sometimes it means that lobster is cheap or the historic castle is just a day-trip away.

But I am afraid to tell you about these experiences, because I’m afraid you think missionaries are supposed to suffer. After all, we often live in poor countries and we always subsist on your financial sacrifice. I’m worried you will think we are being extravagant. And I’ve heard stories of missionaries who have lost support because of their vacations. I fear your judgment.

I wish I could tell you that I long for more connection with you. The first couple years were great because we got lots of care packages and Christmas letters and everyone asked us how it was going. But time goes on and people move on and we realize that we’re really not that exciting anymore. It’s hard to come home and feel like we have to be pushy for opportunities to share. It’s hard to feel like people are intimidated to talk to us because we are so different now. Our newsletter program tells us that only 60% of our list open our email updates, which isn’t that surprising since we only get a handful of responses.

Part of that is okay because we don’t need care packages as much anymore, and you’ve made new friends and we have too. But I wish you knew how much it means to me when you remember to ask about a detail I wrote about, or when you continue to send me your Christmas letter. When we are together, it makes my day when you ask about my life in my other country—when you really look me in the eyes and want to know how it’s going. Listening is the best gift you can give me. And the scariest part of feeling disconnected is wondering if people are still praying for us. So when you tell me that you are still praying for me, that makes all the difference.

I wish I could find a way to express how much you mean to me. Despite how hard this life can be, I have the tremendous joy of doing God’s work in the place I am called. And there is no way I could do it without your sacrifice. I hope you know how important that is to me. How important you are to me.

Thank you.


Your Missionary