Things always take a lot longer in the Philippines, but it feels like our little project is very rapidly progressing. To date, we have only delivered 11 filters, but we are steadily building a foundation upon which we will be able to develop a very strong project.
I'll give you a very brief overview of our progress so far. I am training Toti to eventually take over for me as the project manager. He is now an expert at building water filters and he has trained two other men who are also very skilled at manufacturing the filters. It only takes two people to build the filters (we build two a day). Most of the time, Toti works with a young man named Gang Gang to build the filters. Sometimes, however, I need Toti working with me on other things. On those days, Gang Gang works with another man name Jun. This means that even when Toti and I are busy delivering filters or visiting new communities, filters are still being made.
I have decided that Davao will serve as a manufacturing center for this area of Mindanao. We will focus our efforts on building quality filters that can withstand the rigors of some crazy delivery routes. I am working on developing various "distribution centers" in the areas around Davao that are in need of clean water. My hope is that each distribution center will have volunteers that will become skilled at filter installations. It will be up to me and Toti (and Chad, who has been very helpful also) to develop as many distribution centers as we can.
We have spent the last couple of weeks focusing on our first distribution center. A month ago I told you of my eventful journey through the mountains to help out at a medical clinic. During that trip, I met a man named Tatai who was very eager to help bring clean water to the communities in the mountains. Ten days ago Chad and I drove for a couple of hours up the highway to deliver four filters to Tatai for delivery to the villages several kilometers from the highway.
Tatai was alarmed, to say the least, when he realized that the filters are indeed incredibly heavy. He had planned to carry the filters with his horse, but he was becoming afraid that the horse would not be able to withstand the weight. But hey, you won't know unless you try! Each filter weighs an estimated 160 lbs. A horse must remain balanced, which means that it has to carry two filters, one on each side. For those of you scoring at home, that's 320 lbs. Tatai's horse is little more than a pack mule.
As I watched these men struggle to tie the filters to the feeble little horse, I became increasingly afraid for the horse's safety. I was actually beginning to silently budget for a new horse, just in case my filters brought this animal's life to an untimely end. The horse simply stood there and quivered while they tied the final knots. I had never interceded for an animal, but this seemed like a good time to try. I prayed for that poor horse as Chad and I drove home. I later learned that it began to rain shortly after we left and the horse nearly fell down a very steep embankment. But it didn't fall, and somehow the filters found their way to Upian, the first village along the path (approximately 3km from the highway).
Today we traveled to Upian to install the filters. The installation process is the most difficult and important part of our operation. It is incredibly important that the installation is done correctly if the filter is to produce safe drinking water. Today I brought Chad and Toti with me to train a number of people who will serve as our installation experts for our Upian distribution center. I was pleased to see that there were six people that had gathered to receive training. Yesterday, Toti and I worked together to write installation instructions in Cebuano, the local language. Toti did most of the training today so that we didn't waste time with translating my English.
I will write more about Toti sometime. For now I will simply say that he is becoming a good friend and he is an excellent employee. Tomorrow we will be going to deliver a couple of filters to a city that is about 45 minutes south of Davao. I am hoping that this area will eventually develop into another distribution center. Chad is leaving for a few days to work with some of his contacts in another city in hopes that we will have yet another distribution option.
Sorry for the long and rather dry post, but I figured it would probably be good to give you some of the details of what I've been working on. I'm working too much these days and it's not leaving me much time for blogging, never mind all the paperwork I need to do. I'm trying to make sure that I have time to meet all of Bethany's needs, but admittedly I need to do better in that department. Please pray that the Lord gives me wisdom and patience to move at a good pace and to keep my priorities in check. More than anything I want to make sure that I am honoring the Lord and blessing my wife with everything I do, but sometimes I can get distracted playing in the sand.
I've added a whole bunch of photos that should give you a better idea of what my job looks like.
Unloading the filters from the truck.