I recently experienced one of the joys and one of the sorrows of missions. You can help many, but you cannot help all. Let me start at the beginning and I will tell you a story.
Recently we were graciously given a hand drilling tool to use drilling shallow wells in West Africa and we were very excited to use it for the first time. We visited several villages with the regional leader of the Assemblées de Dieu (Assemblies of God), Pastor Kodjo Logossou, and finally chose the village of Tsito, Togo where they use a pond of dirty water as their water supply. Laté Lawson, our coworker, and I loaded our new drilling rig and tools and drove the hour and a half out into the bush and arrived in Tsito full of faith and anticipation. The pastor and the people of this village church were so gracious and receptive. We were quite an attraction as adults and children came to see what was going on since I was the only “yovo” (white man) for miles. We began to dig about 6 meters from the church and found the drilling to be hard physical labor in the 102 and 104 degree heat and 85 percent humidity. With the help of several of the men taking shifts we made progress for about three hours and about three meters until we met the obstacle that would stop this small hand drilling rig. We hit a rock. Not just gravel, or hard packed dirt, but a rock. With this tool we cannot penetrate through a rock. So the decision was made to start another hole about eight meters away. The drilling commenced again and on the second day and we are now down about 4.7 meters and hoping to find water at five to six meters. Again, the packed dirt started at about three meters and now the progress is inch by inch. But we pray that we will find water soon. This is the “well that will happen”.
Now let me tell you about “the well that won’t.” As the drilling progressed in Tsito, Pastor Logossou and I went on a research trip to the village of Tokpévia about 10 kilometers away. We are expecting a team of college age students that are coming in June and we were looking for a village where the team can help us drill a well, work with children, hold a crusade and other ministries. As we drove to Tokpévia Pastor Logossou told me that this village also gets their water from a stagnant pond. As we approached the village I saw many people gathered at the pond doing their wash, bathing, and collecting water to take to their homes. We went on to the village and met at the Assemblies of God church with several of the elders. After greeting each one we told them why we were there and then asked the two important questions. How deep do you think the water is and are there many rocks in this area? Our drilling tool will only go down 15 meters. With regret they told us that the water is probably around 10 meters down, but there are many large rocks in the area. So with disappointed hearts we thanked them and bid them farewell.
As we drove away from the church Pastor Logossou said we must stop and greet the chief. Protocol is very important, even in the small villages, in Africa. As we stopped at the chief’s small house and compound we were ushered into the central meeting area for the village. It is a round area covered with a grass roof and it has benches sitting in a circle with a wooden chair for the chief. Now you must realize that I understood nothing because all the conversation is in Ewe, the local language of the rural people of Togo. I am struggling just to learn French, the language of the cities. Ewe is way beyond my language skills, so at that time I was totally dependent on the pastor. I greeted the chief by removing my cap, bowing a little and shaking his hand. As we sat down a beautiful little girl about 8 years old came to me with a tin cup containing “the water.” I thought, “Lord, protect me because I must drink the water the pastor has been telling me about”. So I took the smallest sip and said “umm” and in my best French I said, “Merci beaucoup”, meaning “thank you very much”. When I said the refreshing “umm” that we all know, all the men in the circle smiled and responded like they thought it was the greatest drink I had ever had.
After the drink of water much talk followed and I just listened. From time to time the pastor would fill me in on the conversation. As I sat on the bench I took my cap and put it over my bended knee. There was a man that sat at the right hand of the chief and it became apparent that he was the chief’s main “yes man” because it appeared that everything the chief said he would repeat and approve. Early in the conversation I saw the “yes man” talking very animated to a small boy behind the circle and pointing across the way. Soon the boy went off and returned with a cap for the “yes man”. He then proceeded to open his cap, fold his leg and put his cap on his knee, just as I had my cap. I guess imitation is a form of flattery.
We explained that with much regret, we would not be able to help them because of fact that our drilling rig could not penetrate the rocks. They were disappointed as well, but very gracious. As the conversation went on the chief told me, through the pastor, he would give me a piece of land to build a house on if my wife and I would come and live with them. Now that was a shock. I thought to myself, “wait until Vickie hears this.” I told the chief that I was very honored, but our work takes us to many places and so I must decline his gracious offer. I told him that since we had first come to Africa in 1992 we had learned to love the people and we are now glad to be in Togo.
The conversation went on and they proceeded to tell me that the chief had a baby boy that looked like me. The “yes man” proceeded to come carrying an approximately 8 month old boy to me and I had some strange thoughts race through my head. “Oh Lord, are they really trying to give this baby to me?” As the “yes man” stopped I looked at a beautiful boy with skin just a shade lighter than everyone else and with beautiful almond shaped eyes. I told them he was a handsome boy, which was true, and how I am sure he makes his parents proud.
After all the formalities and discussion was finished, pastor Logossou and I made our departure. We drove out of the village and past the watering hole with great regret. I was thinking about these gracious people that have so many needs and we cannot help them at this time. I was also thinking about the well that will not happen, but thankful for the one that will in Tsito.
You can help the Africa Oasis Project and Mark and Vickie Alexander bring fresh water to people all across Africa. Please contribute through the links below. Thank you so much and may God richly bless you.
Vickie was raised on a ranch in northcentral Nebraska that her grandparents homesteaded.
I was raised in a Pastors family so "home" was a bit more varied. We met in Nebraska and married there in 1974. All these years together has taken us around the world and it has been a wonderful journey.