Posted by: calloftheandes | October 15, 2015

Bridging Cultural Differences, Building Community with Water System Installation

Second Feature in a Series of Three Stories by Rachel Kunker

The chainsaw roared from around 6 a.m., echoing through the nearby jungle around Santa Rosa, Ecuador, where people were getting wood ready to construct a water tower.

This was just one of the many steps in bringing clean water to the settlement. Excitement pulsed as the people learned and enacted what it means to take ownership of their water project. Hands were ready and hearts were open.

Approximately eight months earlier, Santa Rosa, a small community a half hour’s flight from Shell, received government approval to have a water system. Reach Beyond missionaries and summer interns have worked alongside the people in the system’s installation.

For the summer interns, the first trip to Santa Rosa was “just to give us interns a feel for the community and a picture of what we’d be working with,” according to intern Jacque Zook, majoring in environmental engineering at Virginia Tech. Although this was just an overnight visit, enthusiasm among the local residents was evident. All of the requested trenches had already been dug—no small task.

Through careful observation, Reach Beyond’s Wim de Groen was able to notice positive aspects of community development: respect was earned by leaders and it was given to them. Additionally, people showed attitudes of stepping up to take ownership of the project.

“They are always initiating for the next step and come up with new ideas for the system to work better in the future,” stated intern John, a civil engineering student at Wheaton College. By the second trip, it was clear that the people of Santa Rosa were taking complete ownership of their project.

When pipes were brought, people almost instantaneously placed them into the corresponding trenches. “The people in Santa Rosa really want their system,” said Martijn Bredius of Reach Beyond. “As water project leaders, we don’t have to drive the project. We are following them. They have a desire and are working hard to reach the end result.”

Team leader Wim de Groen reminded the interns to focus not only on the water system, but on community development in an effort to spread the gospel by forming relationships. By the third trip to Santa Rosa, those deepening relationships were clearly evident.Rachel_Kunker_07

“I talked with Marco, one of the community members who has been a Christian for two years and is rapidly growing in his faith,” said Zook. “He shared his testimony with me, and then I later explained one of my favorite stories in the Old Testament to him.” The interns also learned Shuar dances, went fishing with community members, shared a drink known as chicha and played fútbol (soccer) among countless other activities.

Jerome Navarro and Rachel Kunker talk with children of Santa Rosa.

Jerome Navarro and Rachel Kunker talk with children of Santa Rosa.

“It’s amazing to see how much more there is to learn about other cultures and the exchanges that we have and what that reveals in our own lives and what we hold as truly important,” remarked intern Jerome Navarro, a civil and environmental engineering student at Calvin College.

In addition to constructing the six-meter (20-foot) high water tower, the people of Santa Rosa dug trenches, fixed an old tank and helped place wiring underground for an anticipated solar panel.

“It’s been a privilege to work with a community that has taken so much ownership over the project,” commented John.

“The more time we spend with the people of Santa Rosa, the more opportunities we find to share our faith through songs and Scripture,” said intern Tim Wolfe, a mechanical engineering student at Grove City College. “I enjoy connecting with the people through singing because music is a universal language that everyone can understand.”

At a Santa Rosa church service, the locals and their visitors sang in English, Spanish and Shuar with a message by a community member on what it means to follow Christ.

“Meeting physical needs in Santa Rosa has provided some great opportunities to discuss and address spiritual needs as well,” said Wolfe. “I had a chance to travel with Gladys, one of the jungle women, to a local farm and talk a little about Christianity,” remarked Zook.

After a couple of months work in Santa Rosa, De Groen and others from Reach Beyond were excited to see the community’s openness to the gospel.

Rachel Kunker was one of six Reach Beyond interns working in Ecuador during the summer. She has since returned to the U.S. and is finishing her education at Nyack College in New York.Rachel_Kunker_04


  1. […] worked with the local people who showed great willingness to better their situation. Together they erected a water tower, dug trenches for pipe, fixed an old tank and helped install underground wiring for an anticipated […]

  2. […] several occasions we visited the community of Santa Rosa, a 25-minute flight from Shell. The people worked together very hard each day. This culture of […]

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