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The Miracle of the $18,000 Rusty Pipe
by Dale Harlan
29 February 2012

On rare occasions our Lord works an eye-popping miracle right in front of a crowd—yet no one notices. It’s like a full court, Hail Mary, buzzer-beating winning basketball shot, but the crowd is distracted, doesn’t see it, and doesn’t know to cheer wildly. So it was in Kauca where the township had been without water for four years.

Kauca Well Head
Well head in the village of Kauca, Bolivia
I was training Kauca volunteers how to rehabilitate their 180-foot deep borehole well which was plugged with 30 feet of mud and debris. Using a special heavy steel pipe called a mud bailer, the Kauca volunteers were slowly bringing up the debris. Suddenly the mud bailer got stuck at the bottom—really, really stuck.

For days we labored at retrieving the bailer using a wide variety of “fishing” tools. Amazingly, the Kauca community stayed calm, sure that Ingeniero Diego (me) would soon work something out. But after the first month, I wasn’t calm.

I tossed and turned and hardly slept at night. After the second month, I had exhausted every bit of my technical savvy and there just was no way left to get it out of that very deep dark hole. With just five days left until we departed Bolivia, time had run out. I dreaded having to tell this poor community that their irreplaceable $18,000 well would have to be abandoned.

We arranged a final Kauca meeting. Just before the meeting I thought to try one of our tools again. No dice. Still stuck.

And then the fishing tool faintly clicked.

And up the rusty bailer came! No cheering crowd, but I cried joyful tears! “Happy is he who is gracious to the poor.” (Proverbs 14:21) Only I knew that a one-in-a million miraculous event just happened. Yes, the Lord does show Himself Mighty to those who serve, exhaust their own resources, and get themselves into a really, really tight jam.

Related Stories

Rusty Pipe
Men of Kauca, Bolivia, standing with rusty pipe

Rusty Pipe

To learn more about water ministries that are saving lives in Bolivia, visit:

Safe Water for Impoverished Communities (Project 91225)
Tending the earth...and world mission
New Hand Pump Delivers Clean Water in Bolivia
New Wells for Sapalica
Bio-Sand Filters






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