Field Note #164: Why Mark Serves

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Mark Lehmann is somewhat of a legend in the Wine To Water headquarters. (He constructed a new bathroom and put up an entire wall! What?!) Most recently, Mark was part of the team that served in Uganda alongside our partner, Ugandan Water Project. Mark had time to reflect on his Wine To Water involvement, and wanted to share his story below.


On my third volunteer trip with Wine To Water, we were in the Amazon. One morning, we saw two young boys heading out of the village and we asked where were they headed. The translator asked and they said they were going fishing. They agreed to let us go, and Cory [another volunteer] and I found ourselves walking down a narrow path to the edge of the water, where there were two very small dugout canoes. Once we found ourselves in those canoes, there was about one inch of water out either side of the boat before it would overflow into our boat. We followed the boys down this narrow channel, through the swamp, and out into what looked like a large river.

As they stood up in their canoes and threw their spears, we see bats, and butterflies, and birds. It was a beautiful experience - a little precarious because we knew what was in the water. The boys were spearfishing for piranha, even though they were small, we knew they were still in there. They had told us the night before that there were large snakes in the swamp area when we had first gotten to the dugouts. But as we paddled along, our confidence became a little better. We watched the boys, how they paddled, and we mimicked that. [It] kept our boats much more stable. And it was kind of a metaphor for me in the way that life had been going. You get nervous and shaky, and your boat’s about to overflow and you’re gonna sink. Whereas if you just calmed down, worked with the people who know what they’re doing and mimic that, things smooth out. Truly one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. Did i have a camera with me? No. there are no photos of it. Cory didn't have one either. But those are some of the most wonderful things about this is no one can take that away. I didn’t need a camera. I’ve got it forever. That’s what I love.

This is not just getting on an airplane and going somewhere far away for 10 days. It’s a much deeper experience.
— Mark Lehmann

More than anything, Wine To Water provides the opportunity for folks like me to serve. It’s almost like there was a void there from years of we all have the ability to go places and see things and do things, but it’s been the only outlet that allows me to do both. And certainly the more important part is to serve others. And that comes in a variety of forms from being able to travel on the trips and serve, but also serving at home and seeing that in action with other volunteers. It’s provided a network that i would never have the chance to have access to, and it just grows by leaps and bounds. It’s almost like exercise for the heart. But not like traditional exercise. It’s an exercise of giving, and the more you do it, the more you wanna do it, the better it feels.

This is not just getting on an airplane and going somewhere far away for 10 days. It’s a much deeper experience. It’s difficult to explain. I try to tell people when I get back, they say, “What’s the trip like?” Some peoples’ eyes just glass over, and you know you’ve lost them at that point. But other people do see it and do wanna hear. Maybe it’s so powerful because we’re giving of ourselves in some way that we just aren’t able to at home. We try; and that’s an important thing. If I can find a way to give this much on a local level at home, that’s super important. Maybe it’s just easier to do when you’re far away from your normal comfort zone, and you don’t have the daily grind and the things that pull or push us to do what we do in our normal daily routines. I’m not sure, but what I wish people knew was how powerful this is in a wonderful way.

My hopes for the organization’s future is that it continues to grow in a way where everyone is empowered to make a change in themselves for their community, for the places they go, and each of the people they come in contact with.

-Mark Lehmann, Uganda volunteer and bathroom-constructor extraordinaire

Sydney Wolford