Incredible Strength, Endurance, and Firmness of Character

by Todd Luke

Isaias Guzman is eighteen. If he lived in your town, he’d likely be planning for prom, graduation, summer job, and college in the fall.

As it is, Isaias lives in the village of Castilla Brito (pop. 600) in southern Mexico.

Isaias' childhood home is located a half block from the Presbyterian church. Thus, his family had a key to the sanctuary. When our mission teams had VBS at his church during the early 2000's, little age four- to ten-year-old Isaias would bring the key over for me to unlock the sanctuary door, and then stick around to participate in VBS. In a sense, Isaias is a distinguished alumnus of the VBS.

After junior high, he chose to go full-time into the family business—subsistence farming. Every year his extended family clears, plants, and harvests around twenty acres or so without owning a tractor. A good year may reap profits near $6,000 and enough corn to feed the family and their chickens and turkeys. An average year can yield around $2,000. A bad year, much less. And it doesn’t take much to have a bad year.

At age fifteen, Isaias chose to become a cistern builder apprentice—a rare job in that part of the world. Only one group in the region annually dedicates time to build family-owned cisterns that collect the rainwater that falls on the roof of a family’s home. In that part of Mexico, a cistern provides health where wells are not practicable, and above ground sources are scarce and muddy. These cistern builders are Presbyterian, and The Outreach Foundation has encouraged God’s people in the United States to partner with this vocational training/micro-lending/self-help/grassroots/clean water partnership since it began in Isaias’ village back in 2002.

Isaias still farms, but he now commits about twenty weeks a year to this cistern building cohort that requires not only incredible strength, endurance, and firmness of character; but also, patience, precise attention to detail, and a spirit that can motivate and encourage others. Isaias develops and hones this unique mix of talents while working at cistern work sites.

Isaias earns around $4,000 for those twenty weeks of work. Although not in charge, he is an integral part of an effort that provides materially poor families with the opportunity to work together to solve their own clean water problem. The future health of this effort, may one day depend upon his ability to lead, encourage, and teach others to perform this work. That’s a tall task.

Thankfully, Isaias and his mentors know it is God who sustains them and the cistern building partnership. Talk to God flows freely from their lips, and prayers of sustenance are what they unabashedly request from their American partners.

Thanks to The Outreach Foundation for decades of faith-driven guidance and encouragement that inspires God’s people in the U.S. to pray for, support, and even work and worship beside our brothers and sisters in Mexico. The invitation is open to join this little partnership. God willing, you may meet young Isaias and others who exemplify “that God gives us talents and gifts, so we can do for one another what He wants to do for us and through us.” *

Praise be to God.

*Timothy Keller, Every Good Endeavor, p. 28.