For years, Marsha Relyea-Miles had prayed for 36 remote villages in Papua New Guinea. She lived in them, ministered among them. She and her husband created the first written language for many of the Aruamu people. They then translated the first New Testament in 2005 and soon, the first complete Bible in the language will be published.
The people in these villages thirsted for water – the living water that is Jesus Christ – as well as clean drinking water that wouldn’t make the children sick and cut their lives short.
Marsha and her husband began serving in Papua New Guinea in 1985. The field was fertile, and people responded. Churches were started, as well as a Bible college. The gospel has taken root and is flourishing.
Physical water proved more challenging. Marsha tried every avenue she could find. Local drillers couldn’t get their equipment in. Some non-profit organizations could drill the well, but weren’t working in the area. Others could teach churches how to drill a well. But only one could do it all: TBM.
“We were the only people who could do both,” said DeeDee Wint, vice president of TBM Water. “We couldn’t get it out of our minds. We felt God impressed it upon on hearts. We had to do it. We don’t decline projects just because it’s hard.”
For Wint and her husband, Tim, it didn’t matter that it took three days to get from Texas to the nearest city to the Papua New Guinea villages. It took three days to gather supplies. It took another day crossing World War II era bridges to get where they needed to get. They slept in open bamboo huts with little electricity and no running water. All that mattered was the need and God’s call to meet it.
The TBM team overcame all the obstacles, sensing God’s presence with them along the journey. They found the parts they needed and made the necessary connections on an exploratory trip. The villages came together to support the effort, volunteering to help however they could and offering encouragement along the way.
Still, with the rainy season nearing, it seemed all the effort to drill a well in late November would be for naught. When the rains begin, transportation in or out of the villages is impossible. After two weeks of hard work, it came down to one day for the team. If they were successful, the first village would have clean water. If not, the entire effort would have to wait another year.
“People doubted that it could be done but they had underestimated God’s people. We were amazed at the Aruamu people’s capacity to learn, their physical strength, their faith in God and their positive attitude. They didn’t see obstacles. When something went wrong, they just figured out how to fix it; no complaining, no doubts,” DeeDee said.
“At one point we thought the borehole had caved in on the bit 40 feet down. If this happens you can not only lose the borehole, you will likely lose the bit and drill pipe. Replacements are in Utah. After prayer, and discussion they just went back and started drilling again and it worked. We still don’t know exactly what happened. It was another God thing.”
The entire community participated in the effort. The hope and desire of the village was clear as they worked together for the betterment of all.
“The entire village came and watched, and helped,” DeeDee said. “The ladies carried water, the men worked the rig and the children dug clay out of the ground and made clay marbles to seal the borehole below the surface. When it was done, it was a community accomplishment.”
When the community dedicated the well, tears filled people’s eyes. When a child filled a five-gallon container with clean drinking water, people felt they were seeing the impossible. Several individuals remarked how God had shown Himself to be “plenty big” enough to meet their needs.
A local church team, The Aruamu Water Projects, there now, has the TBM drill and can use it in other villages. To qualify for a well, a village must raise 15 percent of the needed funds, form a committee to care for the well and have at least one toilet. Already, communities are working to become eligible. Another TBM team will visit the area in June to further train and drill more wells and encourage the church.
“It’s a groundbreaking thing,” Tim said.
Everywhere the church goes with its drill, it leaves changed lives behind. Church members will share the gospel as they drill the well. People will be healthier spiritually and physically as a result. The water is a visible reminder of how God loves His people.
“They will be healthier because they’re not drinking out of a contaminated river,” DeeDee said. With open defecation everywhere, the water is quite bad. They are sick all the time.”