On June 21st I began my trip to Mexico to help install a water project for a people group in central Mexico who NTM works with. I was very excited to get to help with this project as I had helped put together the design for it while attending the tech course here at the training center earlier this year. The project was designed to use equipment that was already on hand to bring water from an existing spring down in a ravine, up to where the village where the people live up on the mountain ridge.
I left out early on Saturday morning in our aircraft, heading south for Midland, Texas. It had worked out very conveniently that my trip to Mexico coincided with the sale of our aircraft, and I was able to kill two birds with one stone by flying it to Midland, where the buyer was. My sister and brother elected to travel with me as well, instead of traveling to the same destination by car with my parents. The trip by plane took us just under eight hours, and it took my parents, who were traveling by road at the same time, around 16 hours.
We all met up in Midland and spent the night at my grandparent’s house, who graciously provided us with a place to sleep and supper and breakfast the next morning.
On Sunday morning, My parents, my brother, my sister, and I all piled into their car, and headed south. We crossed the border at Presidio\Ojinaga and we had a very uneventful crossing. Before long, we made it to the Chihuahua city, where my parents live and work.
On Tuesday morning, I stepped onto the general aviation ramp at Chihuahua International Airport and was surrounded by more Cessna 206s than I’ve ever seen before. Big tires, STOL kits, and turbochargers were all the raage, with so many air taxis and freight flights in and out of the high desert mountains. I caught a flight on a particular 206 operated by UIM Aviation, and we made our way further south into the remote and mountainous region of central Mexico.
We made several stops along the way, dropping off supplies and making shuttle flights for injured tribal people. An elderly Tarahumara woman with a serious bone infection sat stoically in the back seat as we rumbled down the dirt runway near her village. After we left the runway and began a steep, climbing left turn over the mountains that surrounded us, I looked back to see how she was doing and she seemed very comfortable, confident in her trust of the pilot and aircraft to deliver her to the hospital safely. It was exciting to see how God was using aviation in this part of the world to enable believers to work in the lives of these people.
We arrived at the small, mountain strip that serves the village I was going to be working at early in the afternoon. Thick clouds were making their way towards the strip and we managed to just sneak in before they engulfed the mountaintop.
Pete, one of the NTM missionaries who works there, was waiting for us. We loaded supplies and equipment into his pickup and made our way down to the village where he and the rest of the NTM team live.
The team was very gracious to me and they were great hosts. We surveyed the area where the system would be placed and spent some time gathering the equipment. The area where they live is at 5,000+ ft elevation and I quickly noticed that I was gulping more air and my pulse was faster than usual while we hiked around. I was glad to get to bed early that night, knowing a long day awaited us in the morning!
It rained torrentially almost the entire night. Lightning struck multiple times very near to the house and thunder rolled up and down the mountains around us. I worried how the rain would affect the work over the next few days.
The morning greeted us with a thick and heavy fog that, quite literally, rolled right through the window screens and into the house! We loaded up Pete’s truck in the fog, and made our way slowly towards the work site. We drove about two miles south of the village where Pete lived, on a very rough road that runs along the top of a mountain ridge. The fog was so thick that I was very glad Pete knew exactly where we were going because you often could only see a few trees ahead.
It took about 30 minutes to travel from the main village where the team lives to the smaller village where we would be working. The smaller village is comprised of two groups of houses, providing homes for several families. The people had been getting their water from a spring located on the side of the mountain. Everyday, they would walk down to the spring and haul water back up in five gallon buckets. One woman who did this daily was over 80 years old. The people were excited to see us and were ready to help with the project.
We got started immediately, hauling equipment and parts down the steep, winding trail to the spring. I had to be careful to not lose my footing while stumbling down the path, while the people were very adept at covering the distance quickly and without missteps.
Over the next three days, we worked alongside the people to install the system. We tapped the existing spring, installed a collection tank, installed a solar panel, installed a submerged DC pump in the collection tank, laid tubing from the collection tank up to the village, and installed a head tank up at the village location.
The work went a lot faster than I had originally anticipated. The people were a tremendous help, they guided us in the best route to lay the tubing, they cleared trees out of the way, they dug the trench for the tubing, and they supplied timbers for the solar panel mount. They also very generously fed us lunch everyday in their home. I fully believe that we could not have completed the project in the short time we had if they had not helped us every step of the way.
At one point, after I had chosen the location for the solar panel, the man who had been helping us began surveying the area. He quickly identified a couple of trees that were in danger of falling in the near future. He immediately went to work cutting them down to ensure that they would not fall and damage the solar panel. He then wisely used some of the fresh lumber to rough cut timbers for the solar panel mount and fence posts.
It is hard to describe the world these people live in. In many ways, they are so remote and isolated from the outside world. Their villages are very difficult to reach by road, they live precariously on the edge of cliffs, they farm on the steep and secluded valley walls. They wear hand woven sandals and build their houses using materials provided by their world around them, mud, wood, and rocks. They live much as their ancestors have for centuries before them, tenaciously eking out a life for their families. At the same time, it is easy to see the encroachment of the modern life into their world. They roof their mud houses with corrugated tin. They maintain and use Husqvarna chainsaws. They have simple 12 volt solar panels on their homes, which they use to run lights and recharge electronics.
This collision of worlds hit home for me on the third day we spent working on the system down near the spring. Several of the younger men were taking a break after digging post holes, and were chatting among themselves in a mixture of Spanish and their language while sitting on a huge log. I was working on the solar panel mount, and I realized it would be easier if I climbed up on top of it to bolt a member together. I had clumsily scrambled to the top and continued to work from that six-foot perch, when I heard a few chuckles behind me. I turned to see the younger men watching with amusement at my balancing act, surely expecting to see me tumble down at any moment. Just then, one of the men reached into his well-worn and hand-woven satchel and pulled out a smart phone, which he used to snap a picture of the crazy foreigner teetering in the air on a couple of poles.
It is a world in which horses and burros are still used for transportation, where people fall from the edge of cliffs and perish miles from adequate aid, where two-way radios are used for long-distance communication and smart phones are used for music and pictures, where so much is changing, where new traditions are entering in, where new ways of thinking are forcing out the old, where the old ways are sometimes still cherished and clutched closely. It is a world that still does not have God’s word in their language. They have Coca-cola, Husqvarna, Samsung, Apple, and Honda, but still do not know the God who created and loves them.
With God’s help, we were able to complete the project in just three days. God kept us cool and refreshed by allowing the clouds to cover the mountains everyday we were working. God guided us in the correct location to place the solar panels, and once He lifted the clouds, the pump began working perfectly! The top tank at the village was filled with spring water in just over two hours. It was incredible to see how God put it all together, providing us with helpers, keeping us safe from injury, and giving us the right equipment and wisdom to put it all together.
The entire system now belongs to the village at which it was installed. They know the system inside and out, as they were there every step of the way. They learned how to use many of the tools we used in the install, and are prepared to continue maintenance on the system. When we left, they were in the process of running hoses to the various houses in the village, to provide water at each house fed from the head tank.
It was exciting to be a very small part of bringing God’s message to these generous and tough people. It is our prayer that they will see the water that we helped bring them for what it is; a display of God’s love for them, through us. It is the hope of the NTM team working there that this project will help continue to build trust and relationships.
Once the project was complete, I remained in the village with the missionary team for three more days. I had plenty of time to work on a variety of other projects for the team. I was very glad to have had the opportunity to receive the training in the tech course that I recently completed, as I was able to put much of what God allowed me to learn to use. The team is very busy right now, as they prepare for literacy classes, continue the Bible translation, and translate lessons as the time for the presentation of the gospel draws closer. It was a huge privilege to be able to take care of some of the practical maintenance needs that the team had, and free them up for their primary jobs.
I was flown out of the village by UIM Aviation on June 30th. We had an uneventful flight back to Chihuahua. I remained in Chihuahua for several days at my parents’ house. I celebrated my 31st birthday, and even had time to get some dental work done. On the 4th of July, I drove to El Paso with my folks, and got on a commercial flight back to Missouri.
It was great to see Katy and the kids again! The two weeks I was gone flew by quickly, but I was very glad to be home again.
I am very thankful for the opportunity to go on this trip and put to use many of the things God has allowed me to learn. It was exciting to meet these people who will hear God’s message so soon. I look forward to hopefully meeting many of them again someday as brothers and sister in Christ.
To learn more about the people group Cameron got a chance to visit, check out the blogs of the missionaries who work among them: