Posted by: calloftheandes | August 25, 2017

To Build Community, Ecuadorian Engineer Melds Mentoring and Clean Water Projects

It’s mid-morning and missionary engineer César Cortez arrives to evaluate the progress of water system technician Edison Caiza. After months of work with the community, Caiza is now putting the final touches on a clean water system in Yalare (pronounced yah-lah-REH) in northwestern Ecuador.

Edison Caiza (left) with Cesar Cortez, at the control panel of a clean water system in Yalare, Ecuador.

Caiza tells of receiving a jolt of electrical current “that left my legs tingling afterwards” when his finger strayed a bit too close to a live wire. Cortez casually responds, “Yes, it goes all the way to the legs with 220 volts. If it’s 110, it only leaves tingling in the arms.”

Not much more is said as the two Ecuadorians settle in to working together as they have done on many such projects across Ecuador. Their relationship, enduring and long lasting, began when Caiza was a youngster.

“I remember when ‘Eddie’ was a little boy following his father,” Cortez said, recalling how in 1999 Reach Beyond helped Caiza’s mountain community with a project similar to that of Yalare in Ecuador’s coastal lowlands.

Edison’s father, Francisco Caiza, asked for and received training from former Reach Beyond engineer Bruce Rydbeck to become a water technician. Eventually these were footsteps for Edison to follow as well, learning from Cortez the hands-on work and how to direct community volunteers while installing a clean water system.

The scenario came full circle in 2013 when the Caizas embraced an opportunity to accompany Cortez to La Bruyère in northern Haiti and facilitate the work on establishing a system to distribute clean spring water to community members. The Ecuadorian father-son team of Francisco and Edison crossed geographic, language and cultural barriers to help Haitians learn about work, water and a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Of the Caizas’ work in Haiti, Cortez said at the time, “I’m amazed at how Edison and Francisco pray and give testimony of God’s help to the people.” Amazed perhaps, but satisfied to see his investments of time and teaching result in physical as well as spiritual benefits. Arriving at Yalare for the water system’s inauguration, Cortez had already met with a San Lorenzo pastor, German Campos, who himself disciples and mentors other pastors. (Also see Pastor says, ‘With Greater Darkness, the Light of Jesus is Blazing’.)

Cortez and his wife, Nancy, who recently retired from Reach Beyond after 22 years of service, have helped Ecuadorian pastors learn how to better shepherd their congregations. For César an aspect of this has been continuing education short courses in Bible study methods and spiritual leadership.

Nancy teaches Christian education workshops using the active learning approach (learning by doing), and she has also been active in the Academia Cristiana del Aire (Christian Academy of the Air, formerly the Bible Institute of the Air) which couples radio programs with correspondence courses that teach the Bible.

Seeing a strong relationship between community development work (such as clean water) and Christian discipleship, the Cortezes have also helped improve water systems and hygiene for families throughout Ecuador.

 “Our work doesn’t only address water needs,” César told HCJB Radio in an interview. “We strive for a holistic ministry—something complete. We’re trying to bring not just physical but also spiritual health, especially in the north [of Esmeraldas province], and little by little we have moved south. We’ve helped build churches and evangelize; there has been a very good response in Esmeraldas.”

By early afternoon in Yalare, Cortez and Caiza have already visited families who enjoy their community’s clean water system. A boy scrubs his body with soap by the spigot; at another home a couple enthusiastically greets Cortez.

Pictures are taken as clean water streams from a tap. There is time before the ceremony, so they retire to a set of rooms that served to house Caiza while he worked on the project. Once a hotel, the second floor slopes toward one end—effects of an April 2016 earthquake that devastated two of Ecuador’s coastal provinces.

With wasps buzzing in an adjacent room, Caiza talks with Cortez about the challenges of finishing his high school education as an adult. The elder Ecuadorian had advised Caiza about electrical wiring in the morning; now the advice is about life, and meetings its many challenges one by one. Then they meander toward a basketball court where music blaring from speakers tells residents that their village is having an event.

Cortez speaks at the inauguration of a clean water system at Yalare, Ecuador.

The ceremony involves speeches, recognitions, prayers, music, dancing and food. But the impact of the clean water system is ongoing, improving people’s living conditions. The flow of clean water demonstrates how a liquid can promote health and life instead of illness and death. Members of the local evangelical church may use this to point others to the one who called Himself the “living water” and compassionately handled people’s needs for food, drink and health.

“In all of the projects we do,” Cortez told HCJB Radio, “after the research and design, we train the people of the community, because in the future they can carry out the system maintenance. In each place, we leave a technical and administrative team and even the ability—if they want to—to construct another system or enlarge their own.”

A community leader from Tonchigüe, Ecuador and Cortez-drawing a rough design on the ground-converse about clean water system installation.

Cortez drops Caiza off at a highway junction to grab a bus for home in a neighboring province. After a few hours of highway time across Esmeraldas province, around dusk Cortez can be found with a local leader from Tonchigüe.

Another clean water project is taking shape under Cortez’s guidance. At one point, he draws on the ground to offer design ideas. They’d like to get clean water from a well over to a hill, then have it flow by gravity through pipes down into a town neighborhood.

During each project phase and afterwards, there are likely to be opportunities for César and Nancy to talk of what motivates them to help Ecuadorians. They will have an apt example—water—and will have earned people’s confidence so that they may talk of Jesus.

After completing their home ministry assignment in the U.S., the Cortezes will return to Ecuador where they plan to serve Ecuadorians through the U.S.-based agency, Commission to Every Nation (CTEN).

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