Whenever I visit our offices in Leon, I love catching our team members in off-moments to get them talking about their work. I do this not only so I can share updates like this one, but also to listen for nuance in their words, and to hear how the SuNica mission is coming back full circle.
I recently had the pleasure of catching up one-on-one with Wilfredo “Shanghai” Ramirez about the Salinas Grande Water project. When finished, this project will provide an abundant and sustainable water supply to the 2,000+ people in Salinas and it’ll be our biggest tangible project yet in terms of human impact.
Shanghai has grown leaps and bounds in the past 12-18 months. His confidence in himself and in his role on the water and sanitation team are so “on point” that I want to cry about it. As he walked me through some of the conversations that they are having with the CAPS (water & sanitation committee) and the complex social issues that surround the execution of the project, I wouldn’t change a thing about his approach.
The key to making these projects work is the “social-engineering” that has to happen with the community itself. I use the term “social engineering” over and over because it’s always worth repeating, and I heard its importance again as Shanghai recounted the delicate manner in which he is managing everyone in Salinas – unraveling the complex social issues surrounding their failing water system and its management. He spoke of rebuilding trust between neighbors, all while being careful not to try and change everything and everyone too quickly. It’s work that takes time to accomplish. Shanghai has Turned On The Water with us in both El Porvenir and San Carlos, and he knows that the process cannot be rushed.
The other thing that most impressed me is almost impossible to put into proper words. Spiritual things are that way. Shanghai’s personal growth and his spiritual depth really got to me. His eyes were clear and fixed on mine for the full fifteen minute conversation. He was excited, he was educated, he was ahead of the curve in every way. What’s more, I could sense his concern for me personally as he answered my questions, engaging me in this impromptu interview while other SuNica business zipped along all around us. We were doing more than just exchanging information. There was a Christian brotherhood type of transaction happening. This was a part of the Kingdom of Heaven coming on earth. Two brothers – a part of the same organization – culturally as different as we could be, yet connecting over the subject of clean water for Salinas Grande, all in the name of Jesus.
This further reminded me of why these types of projects are an incredible vehicle for disciple-making, and why someone like Shanghai is so perfectly suited for the work.
Every leader in Salinas is a human who experiences brokenness. That beef, brokenness, or you could even call it sin, is the most powerful force that will come against the success of the project. Shanghai and our team will be on the front lines of overcoming this barrier, with multiple opportunities to walk people into cooperation, by way of forgiveness. And as we all know, forgiveness is a deeply spiritual thing. We cannot force it to happen, yet the gospel of Jesus Christ is far and away humanity’s greatest tool for reconciliation. This is why a two year long water project is also a two year long discipleship journey. It’s not that we do the one to get to the other.
It’s both. Always.
Written by Alan Wilser