The Central American country of Honduras is blessed with incredible beauty. Tropical colors burst from green fields, towering coconut trees, and banana clusters. The countryside is dotted with women in bright dresses scrubbing clothes in swift-flowing streams.
However, the water tumbling down the mountain rivers often carries parasites that cause dysentery, worms, intestinal problems and other life-threatening illnesses.
“These people don’t realize the water they’re drinking is harmful for them,” said Joel Aycock, 23 year old volunteer from Madison, Alabama who now lives and works in Honduras. Aycock works to bring clean water and the message of Jesus as the Living Water to the impoverished people of Honduras.
Man with a Mission
Aycock graduated from Samford University in Birmingham with a bachelor’s degree in religion. In July, 2008 he packed up his pickup truck with a steel water filter mold and headed south. He had decided one of the most direct ways to help people in Honduras was to make simple bio-sand water filters from the concrete form he could pour in the mold.
Aycock described his work during a visit home at Christmas.
“After graduating from college, I knew I was called into the mission field, and I knew that clean water is important to life,” Aycock said. “I came down to the Copan Mountains of western Honduras to seek God’s plan for my life.”
Part of that plan involved marrying a petite Honduran woman named Maite Rose. Aycock had met Maite, 25, on his previous eight mission trips with his church, Asbury United Methodist in Madison, where his father Jimmy is a senior associate pastor.
On Feb. 2, 2009 Aycock married Maite in Honduras. Pastor Jimmy Aycock conducted the ceremony.
Now happily married, Aycock carries on his volunteer calling. He uses a mold to create concrete bio-sand filters for villages. Aycock fills the system with large and small rocks and fine sand. As contaminated water passes through the layers, the water is strained and one type of bacteria consumes the trapped pathogens.
“Once the water passes through the rocks it comes out as pure, drinkable water,” Aycock said.
Getting started wasn’t easy. His first installation was in the rural town of Joconalis.
“When we put the water in the filter, nothing came out,” Aycock said. “I tried it again and again, and it didn’t work. There was too much dirt in the sand, and it wouldn’t let the water pass through. Humiliated in front of the entire village, I spent the next two days washing the sand and trying it again and again. Finally, it came out!”
Since then, Aycock has installed more than 40 filters in schools, churches, nutrition centers and homes. He’s provided thousands of people with clean, safe drinking water.
This bright international volunteer uses his water project as a springboard to talk to the locals about Jesus, who said in John 4:14: “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.”
Aycock’s truck can’t reach all the places that need water filters. To reach Manguito, a tiny mountain village, Aycock and some local men had to carry the heavy filters on foot and by horseback.
“Parts of the road were washed out, leaving us to pray that we wouldn’t slide down the mountain,” Aycock said. “The mud was up to our knees. Every now and then, we had to look for our boots that got stuck in the mud.”
Aycock works between cloud bursts to build the filters in the rainy season. In the dry season, days of shoveling sand in the hot Honduran sun can be long and laborious, but Aycock’s hard work is reaping results.
“The nurses at one medical clinic were almost crying, they were so happy about the filters. Now, they can clean wounds and medical equipment besides having clean water to drink,” Aycock said.
In Joconalis, the pastor said the men wanted to discover how to install the filters themselves to learn the process.
“At first I thought, no, this is my project. But I saw their joy and desire to help their own people. They were so excited to take it on as their own,” Aycock said. “That’s my goal, for the work to grow locally.”
The people of Joconalis invited the volunteer back to tell him how the filters had changed their lives. They greeted him with an appreciation certificate.
“It really meant a lot to me that the men didn’t go out to the fields to work that day but stayed back to thank me,” Aycock said. “That was more fulfilling and more rewarding than the purest water.”
Aycock launched His Hands Missions International, based in Huntsville, Alabama, to support his ministry and also to encourage others in their missions.
“I hope that through His Hands I will be able to continue my work in Honduras. Eventually, I also want to train others to go out into the world with the dreams of improving the lives of others and winning lost souls to Christ,” Aycock said. “This is just the beginning of something huge.”
from Carol Hale, Madison
Learn more about being a Volunteer in Honduras.