project in Amazonas
"If anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones … he
will certainly not lose his reward."
Three Shuar Indian men somberly carried the body of a three-year-old
girl in a miniature rough board coffin down the trail in the dense Amazon
jungle. Only intense fatigue enabled them to hide the emotional pain of
their loss. The men had slogged four hours over difficult muddy jungle
trails and were barely halfway to the community where the body was to be
buried. They stopped in the community where we were working just long enough
to gulp down healthy amounts of 'chicha', a watery drink of puréed boiled
yucca, offered them to quench their thirst and stave off the intense humid
equatorial mid-day heat before continuing on their journey.
Circumstances of the girl's death indicate that quite likely she died
of an intestinal parasite infection. The community where she lived does not
have a protected water source or a medical clinic. Every year, at least two
million children die of diarrhea in developing countries. Jesus sends us as
his disciples to make a difference and express the depth of his compassion
for these little ones.
Alfredo and I reflected on this abrupt interruption to our day while
eating a simple lunch of boiled fish and bananas served to us by the
community of Amazonas. Alfredo is an Ecuadorian missionary engineer on our
community development staff helping remote jungle communities to build water
systems and rudimentary sanitation. The sixty families in Amazonas requested
help to build their water system and Alfredo and his wife Alex coordinate
that project, which is nearly complete. The young Shuar girl's death only
underlined to us the importance and urgency of our task."