I sensed something was wrong last Tuesday when I wasn't awakened by the sound of the water system coming on. Usually, the pipes sing and the faucet drips and the toilet tank fills starting sometime between 5 and 5:30 am. MEF water then stays on till about 9 am. It comes back from noon-2 pm, and the final period of water service is from 5-8 pm. We all learn to store water in barrels, buckets, and tubs and to plan our bathing and cooking schedules around water availability.
Moses came to tend the garden. He was able to water from the huge metal drum kept by the back door, but it took every drop to cover the vegetable beds. No water came on at noon, so we could not refill the drum. By dinnertime, I had used all the water in the hot water tank for doing dishes. We had to start rationing the drinks of water requested by kids, who were thirsty from playing outdoors after school. All I had left was the bathtub full of water.
When service had not been restored the next day, we learned that the ancient water pump that brings water from the dam had broken down. No one was sure how long it would take to fix it, but every effort was being made. It was working again by the end of the second day. But this week we have had no power for 2 of the last 3 days. (That, however, is the responsibility of the electric company, not MEF.)
The larger context of this little water problem is that many parts of the MEF campus are in dire need of upkeep, repair, and/or replacement. With scarce resources, priority has been given to programs to the detriment of the facility.
On Friday, a meeting of all staff was held. Our new Director, a dynamic, wise, and energetic man, announced that we will engage in a participatory strategic planning process to set directions and action steps for sustainable development for MEF. He was honest about the current financial status and the concerns of donor agencies. He encouraged us to see the hope in our situation and to be creative in our thinking.
Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation was established in 1958 as a Pan African Center for reflection, study, training, and worship. Over the years, MEF has offered training and consultation on community development, gender issues, peace and conflict transformation, leadership development for clergy and laypersons, and responses to the socio-economic and human rights concerns of the continent. When it was founded, it was unique and drew participants and students from all over the region. Today there is more competition from other training centers. MEF has established residential diploma programs in social work, community development, and media studies. These courses could be made available to students from nearby areas, but so far they have been directed exclusively to Zambians. Certainly there are many issues and possibilities to explore in this planning process.
Keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we struggle together to seek a plan for MEF's future--and as we cope with periodic shortages of water and power in our daily lives.