More than Meets the Eye | The first Trip to Toloha

Posted by on Aug 6, 2013 in Clean Water, Trips to Toloha, Written by Josh | 0 comments

Why is it that people go on mission trips? Some might say that it is because they want to experience another culture so that they can develop a more realistic understanding of how the rest of the world lives. Others may say their main purpose is to assist our fellow man in his struggles and eventually religiously convert him. I have struggled with this question for a while now and have mulled it over every summer for the past three years. I was raised with a heart to serve and believe that as a follower of Jesus, I am called to serve others for my whole life. Prior to my trip to Tanzania this past June, I thought that I had a basic idea of how most mission trips work. I thought that a good group of Christians would travel to wherever, whether down the street or across the world, and that they would partner with another good group of Christians and help to aid them in whatever way possible. The group might minister to people in their village or provide them with resources they were incapable of obtaining. That kind of mission work really is the most common and well known to me, and I perceived it was what the majority of mission work entailed. I knew that this was not the only way mission work was done, but the other way seemed fairly far-fetched to me and pretty obsolete, at least at the time.

This other way was the kind of missions you would only hear about at large conferences and on television. It was someone, or group of people, targeting a primarily unreached people group in order to aid them in some way and eventually convert them to Christ. Prior to this trip, I had been to the Dominican Republic a couple of times and had participated in numerous service projects in the United States, so I assumed that I had a pretty good feel for the mission field as I had seen many different scenarios play out in different kinds of situations. Before this trip our knowledge about Toloha village was pretty minimal. We had one real source of information on life in the village and, therefore, had very little to base our preconceptions of the conditions in which we were about to be immersed. Consequently, as I prepared, I fell back on previous experience to guide my preconception and didnt think much of it.

Well, not only was I wrong, but I was actually visualizing the opposite of the circumstances in which I found myself. I was expecting to be greeted by a large body of Christians, eager to welcome fellow Christians into their village and church body. In fact we were met by a hearty group of extremely grateful people, the vast majority of which were not Christians.
The People of Toloha
Throughout our time in the village, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of thirst coming from the villagers. As we surveyed the water system, people approached us thanking and begging us to repair their water line. I saw their thirst for useable clean water so that they could support their struggling families and just survive. We not only heard stories but also saw with our own eyes people sabotaging the existing system that had been put in during the 1950s. People hacked the pipes with machetes to divert it and dammed up the source of the water with cement and dirt. I saw their thirst for a solution. 

But, despite the hundreds of examples of physical thirst that I saw, their thirst for something more than water was what struck me like those machetes hacking up the pipes. I saw a thirst for someone to care about them when adults and children alike would constantly barrage me with their stories of anything from their last trip to the market to their dream of obtaining an education and making it to America. I saw a thirst for knowledge, when person after person, young and old, would approach us and ask about the surveying technology, how it worked and what it did.  Finally, I saw a thirst for a purpose. These people want a reason to live; many of them spend all of their time trying to find a way to make any kind of money so they can provide for their family while others, most of the women and girls, simply worked and worried day after day to get clean-enoughwater. They are stuck in a continuous generational and circumstantial cycle of living just to get by, and they yearn for more than that, much more.

Go to the village2

The villagers knew that we, the Americans, may be able to quench their physical thirsts, but they were unsure whether or not we could satisfy their thirst for the other intangible things. They seemed to pursue the answer to that question but came up short. Unfortunately, the other team members and I could not sit down and listen to every story, show every eager villager how we worked the GPS system, or provide those with the deepest thirst a purpose to live. This lack of provision on our part hurt me deeply because I knew that no matter how long we stayed and how much time or effort we gave, the end result of the problem would always churn out the same solution, disappointment. 

After thinking this new experience through, I came to a realization that had been lurking in the back of my mind for years and was hard to accept but blatantly obvious and easy to understand. What these people needed, far more than water, was Jesus. They needed the water of life to quench all the thirsts that had accumulated in their society and lives for generations, and without intervention, for generations to come. It was the answer that always seemed so stereotypical to me living in a Christian bubble where I was surrounded by Christian customs and beliefs. I had become so numb to being a Christian in a herd of other like Christians that this obvious answer, which was previously just a reflex of my Christian background, came to real life. I was so comfortable in the middle of this herd that targeted the few outside non-Christians for conversion that it took me being immersed in a culture that was completely dominated by Muslims, pagans, and worshippers of dark magic to realize the real solution to the conundrum. 
When the Toloha Partnership was established, we yearned to bring the Gospel to the people of Toloha, but the complexity and challenge of the water problem caused us to spend most of our efforts on the logistics of a water system and preventing disease and thirst.  As we evolve and expand this partnership, I see it absolutely essential to incorporate a full missionary crusade to share and spread the good news of Jesus Christ to these people. This trip has revealed an entirely different dimension of the Great Commission to me. When you go to a place like Toloha and see thousands of people from every generation who have been living their lives with a misconception of Christianity, or very possibly no concept of the transforming power of Christ at all, and then realize that this village surely will continue to contain people with no hope for eternal life, it makes you fully comprehend what exactly Jesus meant when he spoke those words…”Go and make disciples of all nations…” There is no tomorrow for these people. Another group of Christians almost certainly will not be coming to spread the Word of God if we do not. 

The situation is dire and is more than meets the eye. I went on this mission trip expecting to return with the same feeling that I had upon returning from every other mission trip. Instead, I have experienced a real problem that I did not perceive before but one that needs to be addressed collectively and passionately by the people involved in the church and in the Toloha Partnership. We need not take this lightly because there is no passing it on to the next guy. I believe we have been chosen by God to aid these people and that their eternal lives may rest in our willingness to be obedient to Gods cry for His people in Toloha.

Once again God has rocked my world by allowing me to experience His marvelous kingdom and by providing me with a whole new perspective on missions and the Great Commission. Summed up: While comfort is appealing, its end leaves you lacking in knowledge and intended blessingsaffecting you, and those you encounter, eternally.

Josh serves as our Team Videographer and also assists in the engineering and planning aspects of our water project. He graduated from Arendell Parrott Academy in 2013 and will be pursuing a bachelor’s degree from Baylor University starting this Fall. His mother, Diane, is one of the first Toloha Partnership team members to share in Daniel’s vision for Toloha.

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