Todd’s Summer 2016 Letter

Dear Friends,

There is a scene in the 1981 movie Stripes where actor Bill Murray has to convince his Army buddy, played by Harold Ramis, that they must pass through the Iron Curtain to rescue their platoon from captivity in Czechoslovakia.
Bill Murray: “Come on, it’s Czechoslovakia! We zip in, we pick ‘em up, we zip right out again. It’s Czechoslovakia, it’s like going to Wisconsin!
Harold Ramis: “Well, I got the [stuffing] kicked out of me in Wisconsin once, forget it!”

In the spirit of that exchange, I hope you can easily pop in and out of this update, and find the information you need. Off we go.

A Few Cistern Numbers
2016 Cisterns Built: 32
Total Cisterns Built: 401
Cisterns To Be Built Later This Summer: 3
(Two of the next three cisterns will be built by partnering with families run by single mothers. The third cistern is for a family living in Cristobal Colon. It will be our first time working in that village. That cistern will have 1/3 more volume. That family will cover 40% of material costs up front and all the expenses related to the larger size. We are able to build these three cisterns due to the favorable currency exchange rates in 2016—extra grace from God who works through our generous partners and international financial markets. We are excited to share this gift, especially with the two single moms who would, under normal circumstances, be unable to afford a cistern. I cannot overemphasize how hard our partners Victor Guzman and Felipe Torres have worked with these moms to get things set up.)

“We sat in the back row of a small church listening to the man standing in front of us. We understood little. When he asked the congregation to turn to Psalm 133, we quietly turned there as well. We read along in our own bibles, [“How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity . . .”] listening to the same words spoken in another language, and as the words and their meanings soaked in, we were told that this Psalm was read as a welcome to our group. What a beautiful moment. One among many from this trip where God reminded us that we are all His – His children: brothers and sisters, created in His image to live together in unity.”
–excerpt from a letter written by a member of the June/July 2016 mission team.

New Tool/Old Lesson
When you drive up to a new cistern work site and see the sand and gravel piles situated far from where the cistern will be, you may groan a little, because you know that the sand and gravel won’t magically move itself. You either have to carry forty pound buckets of sand and gravel a long way on your shoulder, or push a tippy wheelbarrow loaded with four or five heavy buckets. Not fun.

In the month of May, a West Tennessee couple said, “There is a better way to do this.” Their vision: buy a heavy duty, four-wheel wagon (some call it a “utility cart”) that lets a couple people pull five full buckets of sand/gravel at a time, without all the sweat. The problem: these things are not sold in Mexico. (Believe me, we checked.) The solution: make a donation, purchase the wagon online, and send it down on June 28, disassembled, in the suitcases of two generous travelers. That’s what we did.

On June 29, the sand and gravel piles at the first work site sat about 20 yards from the cistern. So, the wagon became the utility cart pit crew, and quickly assembled our newest tool. Our Mexican partners (and me) gave it a skeptical look, and a half-smile. And then the wagon allowed us to easily move the 170 buckets needed for that seventeen bag floor pour. Yippee. But doubts remained. Could it haul tons of sand and gravel without breaking? Well, the wagon rolled smoothly all week long. So far, so good. By day two, it was even being used by the local crew to move those insanely heavy 112 pound bags of cement mix. The utility cart will need some regular maintenance, but it looks like a keeper.

At the beginning, Victor (cistern foreman/leader) did not deem the wagon worthy of a place in the back of his pick-up. The Americans pulled it from site to site. But very quickly, it earned a spot. The wagon now gets loaded into the truck, and sits beside two other valuable tools that you won’t find anywhere else in our part of Mexico: the rebar cutting sheers (thank you, First Presbyterian Church Baton Rouge), and our handcrafted concrete chute (thank you, Palos Park Presbyterian Community Church.) A moral to this story: Even our tools speak to the power of a partnership driven by a shared desire to serve according to God’s good purpose.

Come Join Us!
Cistern building requires commitment, effort, treasure, and time from both our Mexican and American partners. Six American mission teams, fifty-six people in all, served side by side with dozens of our Mexican partners in 2016. This year, a few of our American partners that normally visit during the summer, came down in January. They really enjoyed the cooler (high 70s, low 80s, low humidity) winter temperatures.
So, for the pleasant weather, and for the convenience of our Mexican partners, we would love to host more American work teams next winter. Currently, we have open Tuesday-Tuesday slots in February from 7-14, 14-21, and 21-28. Ideal group sizes are between 5-10 people. As always, dates during spring break and summer (beginning Tuesday, May 23) are also available.

Please visit our web site: for more information about our mission trips, or contact me directly. My cell is (847) 867-0085. Email:

Thank you for your prayers, participation, and continued interest in our little cistern building ministry.


Todd Luke

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