- About Us
We woke up to a crisp and beautiful 60-degree morning in Antigua on our last full day in Guatemala. It was a refreshing change from the unrelenting heat and humidity of the drill site area where we worked near the coast. In some ways, it feels like it’s been much longer than a week (in a good way) and in some ways, it seems like it’s been so quick. We have had so many incredible experiences with the people of the community we came to serve, and we feel like we’ve gotten so much back in our appreciation for these people and this place.
We had the most relaxing day of all, with breakfast at the Living Water compound in Antigua at a leisurely 8 am, along with another team who just finished a well project at another site in Guatemala. We then had a devotional to reflect on the week, followed by some emotional goodbyes with our local teammates Casi, Rudy, and Nestor. We also had to say so long to Evan, who had to leave for the airport for a class in Houston this weekend.
Andre, the local trip coordinator for Living Water, took us and the other team to walk around several sites of Antigua. We experienced a panoramic view of the city and volcanoes from Cerro de la Cruz (Hill of the Cross), we went to a Jade museum, waked through a coffee plantation, sampled some extra-dark chocolates, and had lunch at a local restaurant. We did a little shopping at a fun-but-overwhelming handicrafts market and walked through the huge maze of the farmers market.
We then had a choice of either driving back over the bumpy roads to relax and change before dinner or hanging out more in downtown Antigua. We decided to stay in town and explore the ruins of the old cathedral. It was built beginning in 1542 but had multiple interruptions from strong earthquakes over the centuries, and eventually was in ruins. It still seemed breathtaking on this beautiful crisp day in Antigua.
We enjoyed a delicious dinner with Andre and our new friends from the other Living Water team with members from Milwaukee, Nashville, and Denver. We loaded into the van to go back over the bumpy cobblestone streets to the Living Water compound. Time to pack up to prepare for leaving at 4 to drive to Guatemala City for the airport. Ugh, that’s a little early but it’s ok!
Feeling grateful for an incredible week!
Today was our last day in the community of San Juan La Noria, Guatemala. We got to sleep in a little later than usual because we had breakfast at 7:30! What a treat! After eating breakfast and packing we were on our way to the community. Today we had the special commissioning for the well. We were welcomed by a lot of people from the community. They had a whole celebration planned for us. This celebration included music, dancing, and speeches. The local news even came out for the event. We felt so loved and appreciated by the community! Some highlights included a group of young girls doing a group dance for us and then getting gifted kites they had made for us. The team also had the opportunity to get up and address the community individually. We each got to express our love and appreciation for the community in our own way. After all of that we handed out Bibles to the community and Russell cut the ribbon for the well. After a few pictures were taken we were eating a nice home-cooked meal. We then said our goodbyes to everyone and were on our way back to the Living Water Compound in Antigua, Guatemala. This was about a 3 and a half-hour drive. Once back we unload the truck and van. From there we washed and cleaned the vehicles. Fun fact the compound is surrounded by two volcanoes, one active and one not. We then finished up with dinner and reflection with the other mission team here in Guatemala. Looking back over these past couples of days it is hard to believe all that was done and the relationships that were built. This community now has access to clean water that will physically change the way they live. Hopefully, it will represent a spiritual change for them as well. For as much as we came to serve and love them, we got that just as much back. These people had a profound impact on everyone on the team with their joy, love, and desire to serve us. Missions are a two-way street. If you come expecting to serve and love with nothing in return you will find this to be completely wrong. Missions is a partnership with the community you are coming in to serve. You must have this mindset if you are to do missions right. In fact, I feel like I get more out of doing these missions than I gave. That is how loving these people are. We will continue to pray for and carry this community in our hearts and we hope you will as well. The team is getting ready to go tour around Antigua for a fun relaxing day. I will be heading home tomorrow actually (I have all day seminary class on Saturday) so please pray for safe travels.
Evan “can’t wait for a warm shower” Nehring
Day 5 - Today was a little slower pace for the drill crew, but still very strenuous in the hot sun. We started the day’s operations by continuing to backflow the well with an air compressor for ~1.5 hrs. The kids had the time of their lives playing in the water stream. Somehow, the adjacent soccer field got covered with mud during the evening. A handful of adventurous kids made a beeline for the field and repeatedly dove into the mud! Then Andy Loyd joined them with his muddy belly flop, complete with lots of muddy hugs. “Gringo loco!!!” Luckily we had lots of safe water for cleanup. While the well was cleaning up, we loaded the rig and most of the drilling equipment. Then we stopped for another great meal down the road graciously served by some more of the local ladies. After lunch, we poured some cement around the wellhead and set the pump stand. The rest of the afternoon was spent assisting the local men in filling the form boards with cement to build the well pad. Today we gave the final hygiene lessons on the topics of nutrition and dental hygiene to aver 50 kids in the morning and over 20 women in the afternoon. In the morning, the kids then made a “tooth puppet” and in the afternoon the women made decorations with paper plates and yarn and heard the story of Jesus and the woman at the well from John 4. Both groups were given toothbrushes, soap bars, and toothpaste to take home, for which they were very eager. They also were given information on how to use the new water well safely and prevent contamination. Many have attended all three days of these lessons and activities enthusiastically, and they asked if we would meet again tomorrow. We had to tell them that tomorrow we will have a ceremony for the well dedication but then sadly we will have to leave for Antigua. We’ve enjoyed these beautiful people so much.
-Russell Van Nuis and Karen Barnett
Day 4 started with another hearty team breakfast at our hotel, followed by a 30 min commute to the drill site. Our group split up into drilling & the equally important hygiene lessons, according to Living Water SOP. The children of the community came for the hygiene lesson and activities, and again we had over fifty kids participating! We used props and demonstrations about germ transmission and prevention (especially hand washing!), as well as a method for treating diarrhea and dehydration with a salt/sugar/water solution. We gave the kids bracelets with beads representing God’s love and salvation through Christ. In the afternoon, the women came for similar lessons plus the Bible story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet and demonstrated washing the feet of one of the ladies there. They also made “God’s eye” crafts with yarn and sticks that they enjoyed. On the drilling side of our mission, we reached total drill depth yesterday, so this morning was spent slowly re-drilling the lower half of the well. An interesting issue with Guatemalan geology is the history of volcanic activity in the area. As we drilled deeper, we started to notice a greater concentration of pumice in the cuttings. By the time we got to TD, the formation was largely all pumice. Rudy, our Living Water Driller, said the pumice will make prolific water well, however, it also lends itself to formation instability & hole collapse. For this reason, we had to redrill the lower half of the well today and attempt to circulate the pumice out of the hole. After another great lunch graciously hosted by the women of the community, we ran the PVC casing to bottom, removed the mud & dumped gravel outside the pipe. The best part of the day was unloading the well via a compressor and air hose and flowing water to the surface. Seeing the kids playing in the water and the smiles on the locals’ faces were very rewarding.
-Russell Van Nuis
Day 3 of our journey started early in the small community of Tiquisate, where we set out to prepare and organize our designated drilling site. We arrived and were met by some of the locals that had prepared the mud pits previously, eager to get to work. Our Driller, Rudy guided the Chapelwood crew through the various steps and actions to set up the drilling equipment with the assistance of Nestor. The task of setting up took a while to do. Once completed, Rudy did a safety meeting presentation and then a training session on how to safely operate the drilling equipment. Before we commenced the drilling, one of the Municipality Liaisons and Casi escorted us on foot, to tour the local community and to meet some of the people living there. As we walked, we could see and smell the contaminated water in the ditches. Unfortunately, that water has seeped into the local shallow, hand-dug water wells, making them unsuitable for drinking water. The need for clean water is so obvious. Meeting the locals was very humbling for me. I could sense their appreciation for our presence and for God putting us here. Once we completed our tour, we made our way back to the drilling site. Casi escorted Evan and Karen for a brief hygiene orientation that they would be presenting a little later. The children of the community came in the morning to hear from our team about hygiene and sanitation. They sat outside under some trees and we used puppets, songs, and skits to explain the importance of safe practices for using and collecting the water. We showed them how to keep the water clean by collecting in clean containers and using clean hands and cups. We also explained how germs transmit easily and how to prevent it by washing hands and we practiced hand washing with the kids. It was amazing how the kids were so grateful for the information and excited about staying clean and healthy. They excitedly participated in the coloring craft to connect to the Bible story. In the afternoon, some women in the community came and heard similar lessons and participated eagerly. We look forward to connecting with them more this week and helping them understand how to get the best benefit from their new Living Water well. Russ, Gary and I met back with Rudy and commenced our drilling procedures, rotating the duties. I found it very satisfying and honored to be a part of this endeavor. It is hard work, but the reward will be life-changing for the community and its health. For lunch, we were invited to the local Pastor’s home were two of the women in the community prepared a wonderful meal for us all. You could see their pride and gratitude as served us. After a great meal, we returned to the site and commenced drilling again. After a short while, we could tell from the smile on our driller’s face, that we had hit “paydirt” so to speak! We were fortunate to finish drilling ahead of the schedule!
Hello! I am Andy Loyd and my wife, Karen and I have worshiped at Chapelwood UMC over 20 years. We have traveled the world over the years and have seen firsthand, the day to day challenges and struggles that our Brothers and Sisters in less fortunate locations around the world, encounter on a daily basis....We find ourselves being “called” to do the service at times. I admit that some of the callings are overwhelming, but we show up and God seems to take control. We found Living Water International to be an answer to one of the needs of providing clean and healthy water to the needy. Although my wife and I normally do these mission trips together, consequences caused us to change this. I moved forward to support Living Water International. Not with just funding, but with my presence and support.
Hi, I’m Karen Barnett, and I’m so glad to be with this team in Guatemala! I was on a team planning to go to Haiti with Living Water through MDUMC earlier this year, but that trip was cancelled for security concerns. I was excited when I saw that the Chapelwood team was looking for team members to go to Guatemala. I’ve known about the meaningful work of Living Water for years, and I thought it would be an awesome mission opportunity. I’m married with two daughters in college. I’m a retired engineer and longtime Girl Scout leader, and I love to travel. I’m looking forward to God’s blessings this week for this community and our Living Water team!
Howdy I am Evan Allen Nerhing. I am the Associate Director of Serving Ministries at Chapelwood UMC. I have been on missions to Spanish speaking countries before but never Guatemala. I am most excited to serve, love, and get to know the small community outside of Tiquisate as well as my Team! I love missions because it is truly a partnership between the communities and the team coming in to equally serve and love on one another.
Gary Van Nuis
Gary Van Nuis Atlanta, Ga West Cobb Construction Mars Hill Community Church Hoping to make a change in the quality of live for this community through clean water
Russell Van Nuis
I’m Russell Van Nuis from the Encourager’s Sunday School class at Chapelwood UMC. I was an engineer with ExxonMobil for 34 years. This is the second mission trip with Living Water for my brother & I. Go. Serve. Love. Repeat.
Day 2 of our trip! By 7:20 we headed to the historic town square of Antigua for a Guatemalan breakfast at Cafe Condesa (awesome coffee!) with our drilling leader, Rudy, and our driver/assistant driller Nestor. Then we kicked off the advent season with an inspirational and cultural experience at an open-air, bilingual church, Iglesia del Camino. Next, we had some real work to do back at Living Water headquarters, loading the pipes and pumps and drilling equipment on the Living Water truck. Other important equipment included drinking water and snacks for the week for ourselves, plus toothbrushes, toothpaste, soaps and soccer balls for the community we will serve. After lunch of local fried chicken, we were joined by Casi, the hygiene leader from Living Water, as we drove 3 hours to the drill site. It’s in a small community outside of Tiquisate in the southeastern area of Guatemala. We quickly missed the cooler weather from the higher elevation of Antigua. Temperatures here are forecast to be in the mid-90’s this week with mostly sunny skies, so those of us from Houston should feel some familiarity with the heat and humidity! When we got to the community for the drill site we were overwhelmed with the gratitude and excitement of the people there, leaders, children and people of all ages. Some girls had prepared a special dance for us and they were wearing traditional dresses, so special! Afterward, they gave us hugs and said they would see us tomorrow. We went to the little hotel not too far away in Tiquisate where we ate and planned for a great day tomorrow!
Today the team arrived at the Chapelwood's Greenbay campus at 6:30 A.M. There was a cool crisp breeze and excitement in the air. We had all been looking forward to our mission with LWI for a while. We loaded up our van with our personal belongings and over 200 pairs of Shoe That Grows. We were then on our way to the airport. By 8 we were checking in our bags and let me tell you it was a close one. We had two of our bags of shoes come in at 49 and 50 lbs. on the dot. By 9:40 we were all on the plane and taking off for Guatemala. We landed around 12:30 in Guatemala City. It was a beautiful day and barely any humidity! After a quick run-through at customs, we had to fight through a mob of people to get to the van that was picking us up. We soon figured out that there was a festival happening in Guatemala City! We then went for our first Guatemalan lunch, McDonald's. From lunch, we went to drop off the shoes at Safe Passage. Safe Passage is a non-profit that works at the Guatemala City Dump. They seek to help kids stop dumpster diving for a living. This is done through school programs and skill-based programs. We then took to the road one last time. We had to drive to Antigua to the LWI facilities where we would spend the night. But the festival turned our hour drive into a 2 and a half-hour-long drive. Once we arrived we had a team meeting, dinner, and free time. Last we are getting ready to hit the hay and wake up for church in the morning. Stay tuned for tomorrow's blog post and about me's from the team.