by jason hill
While on my first overseas mission trip, the team I was a part of gave one Cuban homeowner two gifts. One of these gifts she tried to give away and the other she eagerly consumed. I was surprised at how our interaction played out.
While visiting the Cuban people with Filter of Hope, we would introduce ourselves as being with the local church and then talk to the people about their drinking water. Invariably, they would tell us that their water made them sick, especially the children and the elderly. The Filter of Hope filter is demonstrably effective and the look of amazement on the faces of the people we visited was a startling reminder of all that I take for granted each time I turn on the tap in my suburban American kitchen. We would install the filter on the homeowner’s bucket and then, after pouring dirt in the bucket of contaminated water to show how visibly clean the filtered water is, we would take the first drink of water to inspire confidence in the effectiveness of the filter.
On our second day in Cuba, we visited an elderly homeowner who had so few possessions, she didn’t have her own bucket on which to install the water filter. This was the first Cuban I met who owned so little, that even a household bucket was beyond her reach. After borrowing a bucket from a neighbor, we asked her if the water would sometimes make her sick as it was doing to so many others in her community. She said that her granddaughter who lived in a different neighborhood was frequently sick from the water. She explained that her granddaughter would frequently miss school because of her illness. As we installed and demonstrated the filter, she was intently listening to the instructions on how to use and clean the filter. At the end of our demonstration, I asked her to please use the filter for her drinking and cooking so she would feel better. She was unusually non-committal and after one final bit of pleading to please use the filter, she admitted that she would be giving the filter to her daughter so that she and her granddaughter could use it. This woman, likely in her seventies, who had never had healthy drinking water, was going to give this filter to her granddaughter. As the translator explained the woman’s intentions, our American team fell silent. She understood the value of this water filter and the very real impact it would have on whoever used it. That she was going to give away this gift was an act of generosity like I had never seen.
As you can imagine, once we regained our composure, we told her we would bring another filter for her granddaughter to use. We didn’t have any extra filters with us but we said we would bring one back to her in a few hours once our supply van came to pick us up. This promise to return with a second filter eased her mind and we continued our visit with her.
After demonstrating the water filter, we would ask all the homeowners if we could share some of our personal story and, if they agreed, we would share our experience with Jesus. We explained that at one point we felt like our life was like the dirty water, toxic to ourselves and those who loved us. We shared that although we would try to do good things to clean up our life, it was like we were stirring the water only for it to stay contaminated. Finally, we talked about how once we accepted the free gift of Jesus forgiveness, our life became clean. We explained how it was similar to her accepting the free gift of this filter and how it can provide that same level of forgiveness. The filter was a free gift with no strings attached but if she would accept the gift of Jesus into her life, she could have the same forgiveness that we experienced. Although not all did, this particular homeowner was receptive and, through the work of the Holy Spirit, prayed to accept Jesus as her savior. As we always did, we left behind a Spanish translation of the Gospel of John and explained to her that through reading the Bible, through praying to God and through her local church, she would grow in her faith and deepen her relationship with Jesus. She accepted this single book of scripture and we moved on to the next house.
Later that morning, we met up with our supply van to return to where we were staying for lunch. Before heading back, we grabbed an extra filter and headed back to visit the selfless woman who was going to give away the water filter. When we made it back to her house, we could see through the open front door that she was sitting in her chair reading the Gospel of John. As she saw us and, smiling, came to the door she showed us the passages she had underlined. As she shared, it was obvious she was studying the scripture and not just reading it; that it was becoming a prized possession for her and not something that would draw dust on her shelf. Once again, this woman had taught me that the Bible was something to be eagerly consumed and not read out of obligation or to supply some future answer to a trivia question.
Although I have been back to the US for almost a week at the time I am writing this, I’m still processing the impact that this woman had on my life. That this water filter that she knew would have a dramatic impact on her health was something that she wanted to give away. Rather than feeling entitled to the water filter because she had lived a lifetime without clean water, she was going to give it away. Conversely, the book of the Bible she received had become a prized possession and she immediately began to immerse herself in it. My prayer is that I will similarly share the many blessings I receive and not feel a sense of entitlement but that I will treat the Bible as a treasure in my home, eagerly immersing myself into it.