This article was originally published in the September 2016 edition of ITMI Monthly.
Being a missionary sure exposes you to a lot of strangeness. Strange cultures. Strange customs. Strange perceptions. Strange ethics. Strange multiplied. It’s true even for the missionaries in big city areas. The strangeness multiplies exponentially as you move further from the densely populated areas into the bush.
For the last couple of years we’ve hit the “STRANGE” wall over and over in attempt to give safe and clean water to the far western Zambian people on the western side of the massive Zambezi River.
There is no destination whose travel starts so strange as the 14-hour drive West-Northwest from Lusaka through small two-lane roads, dirt one-lane roads, wild animal game reserves that stretch for miles and miles, and mud hut communities that just seem to float aimlessly in the barren Zambian bush.
Timothy Keller's field vehicle.
A mud hut village in the middle of nowhere, on the way to the Zambezi River.
After that long drive, you have to maneuver your 4-wheel drive vehicle down through the knee-deep river sand to a small, one or sometimes two vehicle, flat barge that hopefully will keep running until it gets you safely across the 200-meter wide, crocodile infested Zambezi River.
Vehicle being transported across the Zambezi River.
Deep sand west of the Zambezi. You need a running start from the barge to avoid getting stuck!
Once across the river, you need a running start off the barge to get enough momentum to - hopefully - plow through the deep white river sand. If you make it through the sand, the water-filled lows, up and down the sand hills, you make it to the alternating flat patches and reeds that cover much of what these isolated and forgotten people call home.
Two-track roads sure make travel interesting!
The canoes used by the locals give a whole new meaning to "Tippy."
Yay! We made it across!
The river creates such a barrier to these survival-only people that they have almost no access to what we would call clothing stores, food stores, doctors, schools, churches and that daily need – clean water.
ITMI, with your help, has been able to revolutionize villages west of the Zambezi because we drilled water wells - or bore holes - as they call them. The bore hole project was one of the most rewarding projects that ITMI has been involved in, due to the overall impact that is made in the physical and spiritual lives of these very simple people.
They drank from the Zambezi...where they also bathed.
They carried heavy buckets of water - sometimes miles.
Then your support let us dig boreholes for a couple of the villages. Their lives were forever changed.
Both physically and spiritually...the wells opened the door wide for the gospel to be preached.
...and many began a relationship with Jesus.
It’s also been one of the most difficult.
No well driller really wanted to go that far from Lusaka, away from the safety net of spare parts and mostly paved roads, to the west side of the river – where the need for clean water is most needed. We tried to be the best stewards possible. To keep our costs down. But that didn’t exactly ensure we were working with drillers who would do what they promised.
The main thing we needed was a trusted, experienced partner who could be onsite, run things from there and hold everyone accountable for their commitments and work.
I am excited to say, after a hiatus in our water well project, we are now back in the sand, so-to-speak. Our new ITMI partners, Johan and Lesley Leach, have 20+ years of ministry experience. They’ve also been called to live on the river and evangelize those hundreds of small villages west of the Zambezi!
ITMI's Johan Leach has been called to live on the river and share Jesus with those west of it.
Johan is ecstatic. He knows what putting a water well in a village does to open wide the doors to bring the gospel of Jesus’ salvation and discipleship to these unreached and uncared-for people.
There is not enough paper here for me to type the number of “Thank yous” Johan has spoken and written to me since we agreed to allow him to run and oversee our re-vitalized water well project.
Lord willing, I will be with Johan in early October, encouraging the village people that are the recipients of your gifts of water. Pray that through the translators, I can share the love of God and the truth of your care and concern for them, as evidenced by these water wells.
Thank you for your priceless help and encouragement.
In His Service,
About the Authors
Steve Evers has advocated for and served the ITMI partners as ITMI Director since 2001. Approximately once a year, Steve visits with ITMI partners in their countries and brings stories back to encourage supporters. Steve enjoys photography and mechanics, (both hobbies that have greatly benefited ITMI partners!) Prior to becoming ITMI's Director, Steve served on the Board of Directors for 4 years. Steve lives in Arizona with his wife, Darlene.