For years the family of Pastor David Waisana in Bugembe, Uganda, had to trek downhill to the community borehole (drilled water well), fill up jerry cans, then trek back up the quarter mile or more to the house with the heavy water-filled containers. Now, because of the generosity of Mosaic Fort Worth Church, the family has a water tank at the house and does not have to spend much of their time carrying water.

If you don’t remember this family, let me remind you. The Waisana’s typically include about 26 people. Most of these are children the parents have taken in off the streets or from difficult or abusive family situations. The current number, as of last week, was 24, the lowest I have seen since I have known them – several have married or returned to their own parents. These children include physically and emotionally abused children, children of Islamic families who became Christians and were kicked out of their homes, children who were not being properly cared for because of abject poverty or substance abuse, street orphans who showed up at Pastor David’s church, etc. They all call David and Sarah, “Daddy and Mummy.”

The Waisana’s have six of their own children in among the crowd. David is not paid as the pastor of the church. He tries to earn a little bit from small market shop, and they have a “neighborhood shop” with a few items that they have set up in front of their home. They have lived for free in their home for several years through the grace of the owner who works in another country, and it is one of the few Ugandan homes large enough for such a sizable clan. Now, however, the landlord is asking that he pay rent of about 450,000 shillings per month (roughly $100). So far they have not been able to pay any rent, and they do not know how much longer they will be able to stay in the home. If they have to move out, this family will be broken up because no one will rent a house to someone with so many children and there are few houses big enough that they can afford anyway.

The Waisana's Wonderful Water Tank

The Waisana’s Wonderful Water Tank

Enough about their somewhat precarious situation. I really wanted to write a follow-up about the water tank, which they have had for about a year.

Their tank receives water from two sources: it catches the rain, and it is on the local water service, which they pay for monthly. Having no water at the house was a big problem because they live on a hill, so the walk down and back up with the heavy cans was truly difficult. Having water at the house provides a resource for them that is almost impossible for a westerner to appreciate since we all have water piped into our homes and tend to take it for granted. Most here in Uganda do not. They cannot even load the jerry cans in their car because like most Ugandans, of course, they don’t have one – David has a motorcycle, but most of their moving about is by foot. Even the Waisana’s still fill the jerry cans from the tank and carry it into the house, which for them is unbelievably more convenient than before.

One of the problems they have had with the tank was that one month their water bill was higher than normal. David checked the tank for leaks and could find no problems. Finally, his neighbor told him that a family from down the block was waiting until they went to church on Sunday, then coming with many jerry cans and filling up – stealing water from the Christians. David put a stop to that.

The Waisana Family, missing older children who are at school.

The Waisana Family, missing older children who are at school.

The best report I have had from David was when he told me that recently the city water system was out for a whole week. This is very common here and these houses that are built up the side of the hill, if they have a tap at their house, are the first to lose their water service when there is a problem with the city supply system. I have heard complaints about the inconsistency of the city water service from my first days in Uganda, so it is a frequent and common problem.

During the recent breakdown, the Waisana’s blithely went about their business, using the water from their tank, and never even noticed that there was a supply problem because they had filled their tank while the water was flowing. It was only when a neighbor reported to David that they had no water at their house that he became aware that the city water was turned off.

This is truly a kind of freedom that David has never had before. He was effusive in his gratitude for the generosity of those kind Americans who contributed to the purchase of his water tank. The amazing thing to him is that no one in his family was even aware that the city water was not working. That was a big first for all of them.