Products in Perspective

July 01, 2008 | Dan Patchin

God didn't mean a lot to her. And Sabbath? Sabbath—church was expected in her family. However, given a choice, she likely wouldn't go.

Haley turned in her senior proposal (another expectation) and presented it to the academy staff. Although she didn't think there was a way she could do such a project, she needed the grade.

Haley's idea involved Bethany Medical Missionary College in Guyana, South America. She had heard this small, 25-student school had no showers or toilets. Meeting that challenge would require a huge effort with organizational and financial implications. However, Haley had talked the project over with her father, Lewis, who professionally designs and installs septic systems. Initially they estimated the project would need around $10,000 U.S. dollars, but as that figure began to climb, Haley raised $15,000.

Upon approval, Haley and her father made the trip, traveling by air to Guyana, then riding an hour by bus, canoeing for two hours, and then, finally, going 2 miles on foot. At the school they found no sanitary facilities and only a primitive water distribution system. The need was greater than they had ever envisioned.

Haley and the young ladies at the school began at once digging holes for septic tanks and drain fields, and creating fresh water lines. The soil was sandy and the group had to dig out a much greater than normal volume of dirt. While they had originally planned to buy cement blocks for the septic tanks they soon realized the blocks would have to made by hand. With supervision, the male students made and laid blocks, skim-coated the tanks, installed toilets, and prepared showers.

Haley and her group completed and installed 14 functioning toilets, eight showers, plumbed 12 sinks, and created three septic tank systems, all in heat and humidity.

But beyond the sweat and toil of the project, Haley noticed something else. Unlike her, the Guyana students didn't have many worldly belongings, yet they were happy. And they approached her with requests to study the Bible, talk about God and have prayer. They had a real passion for God. Haley went to give, with a project much larger than she, on her own, could accomplish, and came back with much more than she ever dreamed: a new appreciation for God and a relationship with Him. She returned with a desire to reprioritize her life's goals and desires—a focus both she and her father now share.

Editor's Note: Haley Hamilton is a senior student at Portland Adventist Academy. Each PAA student is required to complete a project during their senior year. Many argue that Seventh-day Adventist education is expensive and holds no advantage over public schools. That can be convincing—until you meet a product of it—products like Haley.