A letter from Rusty Edmondson in Peru
The Presbytery of San Gabriel / Living Waters for the World team arrived in Peru and were on their way to completing a project/dream that was set in motion over two years ago to install a water purification system with the people of Maynay. Like many rural, Quechua-speaking, indigenous communities in the Andes mountains, Maynay struggles with water-borne health issues such as parasites and hepatitis. The task was clearly laid out and things were progressing well. They were highly motivated to work for clean water.
The first day of training, in three languages, went forward with a mixture of laughter and puzzled questions. A focused group dedicated themselves to purchasing needed building supplies in small local stores. We were grateful that all the needed supplies for the system were available nearby. Then the electricity went out and the water stopped. This rarely happens in Maynay because the power is secure and the water is piped directly from a large lake. Power tools, testing and progress stopped. On Day Two the installation team with their Peruvian partners worked into the night making great headway. On Day Three the celebration and dedication of the new system was scheduled at noon. Clean water production from this system was moments away with lots of anticipation. Then the electric power went out again. We could not produce clean drinking water for the dedication, and yet the celebration went ahead anyway.
Early that morning dozens of women arrived from all over town to start cooking for 300 expected guests. Potatoes were boiled in huge pots over wood fires and then peeled. Men helped to cut up a large pig in a wheelbarrow and hang it over the fire to sizzle and slowly cook. Fortunately the lady with the blender was able to grind up all the spices for the puca picante (sliced potatoes in a bright red sauce of beets and chiles) before the power went out. The Maynay Presbyterian church members were busy decorating streets and city buildings with palm branches and ribbons. The medical staff from the local clinic arrived, as did the local "press corps." All of the children were released early from school. But the ceremony could not go forward without the mayor. We played games with the children in the street and waited. “O Mr. Mayor . . . dónde está?” could be heard from the gathered crowd, hungrily sniffing the smells of the feast. Women with buckets of chicha jora, fermented corn beer, circulated through the crowd serving drinks with dippers. The Protestant minority in Peru does not drink as a witness to their faith, so we all stuck with our water bottles.
About an hour later the mayor arrived and started the celebration with introductions and speeches. The San Gabriel folks were showered with rose petals and received bouquets of flowers. A bottle of cider was smashed over the doorway of the new water room. The children sang the songs they learned about using clean water. Prayers were offered. The feast was served and several hundred people enjoyed the meal. We were content with a wonderful celebration and assumed we would be heading out, to return when the power was restored to finish the systems process and begin producing clean water.
So we were puzzled and curious when we saw community leaders struggling down the dusty street carrying a huge stainless steel bowl with a whole roasted pig on a bed of toasted corn. Behind them were people carrying six two-liter bottles of Inca Cola. This procession was led by three elderly ladies in traditional dress wailing a Quechua song at the top of their voices. Then we realized they were headed for our table.
What to do? What to say? Overcoming her speechlessness, Sara hurried over to the pastor who helped us overcome every obstacle over the last two years as this project developed. She whispered, “Samuel, what do we do with this pig?” He explained quickly that both the gift and the songs were traditions going back 500 years to Inca times. This was the community's way of thanking us. We were to take the pig home and eat it. “But, Samuel," she gasped, “we are staying in a hotel. Is there another option?” He assured her that the community would be delighted to share the pig with us.
You never know when the hunting skills you learned growing up will come in handy! Rusty took out his pocketknife and began carving up the pig. Community members laughed in amazement as they helped us to enjoy and celebrate this special moment.
Later in the afternoon the electrical power was restored and clean water flowed into the awaiting cups of joyful people. We were privileged to witness again what joys God has in store for His people when they work together as one community. Dreams are fulfilled and prayers are answered.
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 23