Drilling Wells in Senegal

The sun was glistening off the dusty sand.  The 100 deg temp was evident by the heat waves rising from the earth and wafting towards the dry branches of the Baobab trees.  From the village came a line of young girls and women braving the mid-day sun on their way to a distant well.  Their empty pales balanced on their heads and in each hand a plastic jerry can.  The daily exercise takes a couple hours as they carry water from the distant well to their homes.

Imagine if every drop of water you drink, wash your hands, your clothes, and your body has to be carried 5 gallons at a time from a source almost 1 mile away.  How would that effect your every day life?  In the small village of Gnonéne in the country of Senegal, this is part of life’s daily struggles.  Into this village, Pastor Jean Benoit with the Church of the Nazarene made contacts with a man of peace that opened the door to ministry. 

Months of visiting and sharing the Word of God brought about the first believers trusting that Jesus was the way, the truth, and the life.  The church continued to grow and God has been raising up new leaders.  However, the pastor could see that the community desperately needed a better water source.  Many wells have been dug in areas around the village but all have found poor water that is tainted by a strong salty taste.  The closest place to find drinkable water is the next village almost a mile away.  Even that well has slightly salty water and requires pulling the water up by hand with a rope and bucket system.

The day we arrived with the Hydromissions drilling system was a day filled with new hope for this village.  Our team of local leaders walked a short distance from the small huts, protected from the heat by trees and fenced with reeds, to an open field.  At a low point in the open plains the local village leaders pointed to the ground and said, “this is the place for our well.”  The heat was already parching my lips and the dry air and dust made me want to take another long drink from my cold water bottle.  Imagine if I had to walk a mile to get a drink?

We agreed and put all efforts into digging a 5 inch hole in the ground as deep as we could go.  The first 15 feet went quick after piercing the hard crusted surface.  We started into layers of clay, pebbles, and then bigger rocks.  As the team turned the manual auger system turn by turn, we met challenges and overcame them.  Each time lifting only a handful of dirt each time, but adding one 3-foot extension after another until we had gone 33 feet into the earth.  We had hit water at about 20 feet so we knew our well had plenty of water flow and a good refill rate.

The PVC casing was inserted, gravel securing it, and then the pump tube and piston was lowered into the new well.  We mounted the iron mechanical handle to our new system and began to pump.  To everyone’s delight brown murky water bubbled to the surface.  It was as if we had hit oil. The youth and children pressed in all around me, shoving each other to be the first and reaching between my legs to run their hands through the new water from the well.  The parched earth around the spout drank in every drop.  After purging the system several times and working out mechanical linkage problems we were able to draw good fresh water filling a jerry can in less than a minute.  There were shouts of joy, hand shakes of congratulations, and a jubilant celebration of what had been a full day of work.  “The water is sweet!” one person said after the other.  Jerry cans were already lining up, and the line of women and children from the village was already forming as good news traveled fast.

How good is our God to take us exactly to the place where we would find sweet water.  The whole village would now benefit from this well.  Herders pumping water for their animals, mothers preparing water for their children’s baths and for washing clothes, children who normally conserve every drop of water, now freely splashing water over their heads from the endless resource spouting from the ground.  The men tasted and approved, thanking God for the new source of water for their families.

New hope!  New life! New beginnings!  We praise God for groups like Hydromissions who have provided effective tools, using local materials, and training local leaders to continue the work.  With this simple plan, a well can be installed including the pump for less than $200 up to 60 feet deep.  God will continue to use this tool in Senegal to open doors to communities that have not heard the good news about the living water.  We pray that God blesses our efforts and makes a way in the desert where there is no other way.