Posted by: calloftheandes | March 22, 2017

Building Trust Goes with Constructing Water Project

by Ralph Kurtenbach

César Cortez says that using Loma de Pacay-Guacalgoto’s only church building as a venue for residents to gather and plan a clean water project was one thing. Winning their confidence to then talk of a personal relationship with Jesus—now that was another.

Direct opposition to Cortez initially came from the rural community’s catechist, a middle-aged woman named Rita. Cortez said her assertion was plain enough—he was “sent from the devil.” But in time the rocky relations warmed as he went about his work the best he could, given additional difficulties of designing an appropriate system for the Ecuadorian village.

César Cortez

On trench digging days, Cortez vied for a place beside Rita. Then engaging her in conversation as they rested on their spades or shovels in the rarefied air of the high plain, he aimed to come across as productive, not merely as espousing a different doctrine.

“Basically it is a very hard working community and the challenges had nothing to do with administration or work, but rather with nature . . . with the climate of the sector.” The work continued, with periodic sessions to educate people on hygiene and health habits. “And along with that, of course, to change values,” added Cortez. “To do so, it was necessary to teach the Word of God.”
“So we were evangelizing them during different stages of the project, and when the time came to ask them if they had understood and wanted to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior, the whole entire community accepted,” Cortez recounted. “During the couple of days we were there, I also asked them if they want to form a [evangelical] church.”

On the eve of the system’s inauguration, people gathered to exchange thoughts again with Cortez, and he reminded them that charging for metered use of water would help Loma de Pacay-Guacalgoto’s water committee build up a financial reserve for system maintenance costs. In fact, he said, some communities have even been able to make short-term loans to residents from their reserve.

Afterwards, Cortez and this writer were invited to Rita’s house, where they sat in a kitchen lit by one bare lightbulb. Rita placed steaming bowls of soup on the table before her guests, and soon she and Cortez were engaged in lively conversation of doctrinal matters and theology. In an ambience of mutual respect, they exchanged views.

The catechist didn’t automatically accept Cortez’s invitation to join a series of pastor training seminars that he’s working to organize in the community, saying she has crops to plant. Undeterred, Cortez carried on an extended discussion with her—he referring to different descriptions of love in the Bible’s original languages for example; she offering a glowing account of miracles that supposedly accompanied the life of her patron saint, Saint Rita.

Cortez is satisfied that things have advanced to this point, where “I am no longer for her as one sent by the devil but sent by God.”

Loma de Pacay in Ecuador’s Bolívar Province inaugurated its clean water system in February 2017.

César Cortez stands at the water storage cistern of Loma de Pacay-Guacalgoto.







  1. […] amid these jarring realities, Cortez views water as a means not an end in itself. It is a way to introduce people to Jesus and disciple those who’ve already met the one who declared, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come […]

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