A few weeks ago, our friend Allan stood in his rain galoshes and spoke with pure joy about the science behind his newly finished water project here in Uganda. Allan has had a team working toward providing fresh water near our Arise Africa Secondary School for over a year now. Actually, it’s been several years. He spent time studying the water paths, the land, and understanding the geography so that he could tap into natural springs that already existed on our land.
I don’t understand it all, but here is what I do: He found a way to place a filtration system amongst a natural spring that was already running down through the mountain in order to provide a seemingly limitless amount of clean water to the surrounding community (and eventually our Arise Africa Secondary School).
As he was explaining his work, one thing stuck out far above the others. He said, “You have to work with what God has already given you.” He went on to say that many people want to “turn the water off” or make the water perform in a way other than it is…but you just can’t. In fact, I even felt like it was odd seeing the water running all the time. But I had to shift my thinking.
For many years, we have seen successful missionaries and some not-so-successful missionaries. We have seen good relationships and some not-so-good relationships. And, it was like in that moment I was given a living parable as to why some missionaries fail and why some relationships on the mission field go sour.
Because, even if they came in with good intentions, they most likely came in and didn’t work with the momentum and the resources that were readily available. Most likely, they came in with great new ideas, overlooking or even tossing out the gems lying right in the path of their bulldozers as they cleared their way to start from scratch.
I surely don’t want to be that story, but I don’t want to dwell there. What I want to remember is the success that Allan had working alongside the resources that God had already given him to provide this limitless clean water. I want to be a team player. I want to understand the culture I am in. I want to work alongside missionaries that have been here long before me. I want to be a part of something that doesn’t begin or end with me. I want to work smarter, not harder. I want to be behind-the-scenes helping Ugandans on the front lines. I want to quit saying “If we were in America…”
And as much as I am thankful for Allan’s clean water project, I am also grateful for his presentation, spoken in his Australian accent and wet rain goulashes, that painted such a clear perspective that will, Lord willing, stick with me for years to come.