The Water, the Widowmaker, and the “Why”


When I was very young, I had a strong desire to do mission work.  I didn’t think that I’d ever be a strong enough Christian for God to use me.  I managed to spend a week at a teen missions camp when I was about 15, but then I put the dream away.  Then, when I was 19, God opened the door for me to go on a construction team to Galeana, Mexico.  I spent several days, shoveling gravel into a cement mixer (and learning how to spit to keep from swallowing the gravel dust).  And that was all it took for me to be hooked.

When I went on the team to Mexico, I expected primitive living conditions.  I’d been warned repeatedly about Montezuma’s Revenge and not looking men in the eye and not eating the fruit and all of the other wise tidbits of knowledge that every missionary should know.  But no amount of mental preparation can prepare you for stark reality. 

We bunked in a concrete room that had no furniture except a bunch of very rustic bunk beds.  The windows didn’t close all the way and were covered with faded shower curtains.  Each night before turning off the single light bulb over our heads, we would flick on our flashlights and do a thorough spider check.  I still managed to come home covered with spider bites.  I never got homesick.  In fact, when it was time to come home, I didn’t want to come.

The hardest part of that first trip, for me, was the water issue.  Not only couldn’t I drink it, but I couldn’t brush my teeth in it or open my mouth in the shower.  Well, I’ve never been a big water drinker, so that wasn’t such a big deal.  And it really isn’t so hard to brush your teeth with bottled water—we did that down at the farm until we went on county water.  But when they told me not to open my mouth in the shower…  Well, I guess it was the power of suggestion.  I don’t know if I’d ever opened my mouth in the shower before, but as soon as they told me I couldn’t, it became mental torture to try to remember to keep my mouth shut in the shower.

When I went on my second trip—to Trojes, Danli, and Chichicaste, Honduras—I experienced a different phenomenon: the widowmaker.  On this trip, we actually had windows that closed.  We had to spray our beds for bed bugs, but hey, we had closeable windows, hallelujah!  Our bathroom was IN our bedroom.  Not NEXT TO the bedroom, but actually IN the bedroom.  Literally two steps from the bed.  No door.  No privacy.  If you didn’t know your roommate before you got to Honduras, you definitely knew them before you left.

Jaime, my roommate, had been to Trojes on a previous trip.  She happily showed me the ropes, including how to use the widowmaker. 


The widowmaker is pretty much a small, electric fixture that attaches to your showerhead to heat your water.  You simply step into the shower, turn on the unit, shower (with little water droplets lightly spritzing the exposed wires of the unit) and then when you turn off the water, you reach up and switch off the unit.  (Gee, I wonder where they came up with the name “widowmaker”.)

I think, though, that the “most interesting bathroom” prize goes to the bathroom that I shared on my third trip (Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo).  I was relieved to see a normal sink and toilet, but then I realized that there was no light in the shower.  To make it even more interesting, the shower was sunken about three steps below floor level and had some kind of caterpillar-looking creatures that I couldn’t identify (probably because I had no light).

In 45 days, I leave for my seventh trip.  It will be my second trip to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.  To say I’m excited would be an understatement!  As much as we tell crazy stories about the conditions we travel under, God uses us there and there’s nowhere we’d rather be.  Really. 


One of the most moving experiences of my life was when I was working on the eye team on my first trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  One day during our clinic, our patients rioted and broke through the gate of the compound where we were working.  (We later learned there had been an attempted coup of the government.)  It was mass chaos and confusion.  There was so much noise that even when the soldiers began shooting into the air to try to calm the crowd—(although I can’t imagine why anyone would think that would calm a riotous crowd)—we couldn’t hear the gunshots for the sounds of screaming and crying.  Amazingly, I felt no fear.  As all of this clamor was swirling around me, I looked over to where there was a little old woman just sitting.  She had put on the brand new reading glasses we’d given her and was reading a tiny Bible as though there wasn’t tremendous danger and noise going on around her.  It was almost like the world became still for a moment and the Holy Spirit said, “Sarah, she’s why you’re here today.  In the midst of all of this cacophony, this grandmother needed glasses to read her Bible.” 

For her and for the others like her, I go. 

About Sarah Salter


  1. How blessed you have been to be able to go and minister to these people…how blessed they have been to know you! I can’t wait to hear about your next experience.

    As for the widowmaker…don’t know what to make of that one. Perhaps a google search is in order.

    Happy Friday friend!

  2. Sarah Salter says:

    Joell- The Widowmakers are very common in Honduras. The handy thing about the bathroom being two steps from the bed is that if you get electrocuted, your roommate can hear you in distress and run for help. 😉

  3. Eliza Garrison says:

    Hi Baby, Oh how I Love our Father, His care for one soul is Amazing! The greatest thing is that Our Father trust us with His creation, The Souls Of Men!!! After all Jesus died for mankind, so that we can come to the Father through Jesus! Keep up the good work for Jesus!!

    Love Ya

  4. Wonderful testimony, Sarah. Even with last year’s drought, we take water and the comforts of life for granted.

    I love the story about the woman reading the Bible. A modern day Stonewall. Thanks for sharing.

  5. What an amazing testimony!

  6. Can I come too? What a beautiful life you have!!

  7. Neal Salter says:

    No doubt the trip to Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo was the most meaningful trip for you, because when you came home your message touched my heart so powerfully I wanted to go with you and did so the next year. It was a trip of a lifetime–not like some would really believe. My life has never been the same since I observed what God can do in the midst of abject poverty and so many needs. If I thought my body could take it I would go back again. The “Why” is really very simple. God wants to teach us very specific lessons. Today, I preached on the parable of the Good Samaritan. God used the most lowly despised person, a samaritan to show his love to someone who was robbed, beaten and left for dead. I’m glad God let me go to a land where I was the one who was different–white amongst a land of very black people. HE let me who was comfortable with my life go where people had so very little, but appreciated us as we came to give what we had! I will never be the same again. I pray for my brothers and sister in the Congo who still have many, many needs. Praise God, Sarah, He is allowing you to go to places I cannot go, but you know in my heart I am with you, because I have asked Jesus to use you. You really have a heart for those who are so less fortunate that us. I love yoy, DAD

  8. I have to agree with Lisa here. What a life you live…

  9. Barbara says:

    I love missions too.. I just have not been able to go in a long time.. I remember sleeping on top of buildings in a sleeping bag covered with a mosquito net, and we being from right here near Ft. Bragg were able to get the insect repellent in the “little green bottle” whateve it was that eveybody else wanted because we were not getting bit. And the outhouse that we had to use with no door. We had no showers, we had to bathe in the ocean and then rinse off with our 5 gal. of rain water that we were alloted that day, and of course drinking bottled water.. So as to not get the Hatiian Happys… And one time we were there in a revolution and heard gunshots too..But seeing the lives that were changed, young and old alike you kind of forgot all of that.. and it was worth it to see them find Jesus is such a place… and under those condtions. So when you go this time, know that there are many people back here praying and wishing they were with you.. And as your Dad said.. you really do have a heart for missions.

  10. And to think this from the person who use to sing ” God Please
    Don’t Send Me to Africa”!

  11. Sarah Salter says:

    LOL! Rick, I was singing that in jest– I wasn’t serious!

  12. That sounds like a scary situation…the riot and everything. I am glad you were okay, and did not loose peace during it.

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