Quench the World’s Thirst
“As President of World Concern, Paul Kennel has traveled thousands of miles to bring Christ’s compassion to individuals, families and communities in many deserving, underdeveloped nations. However, it was the briefest work-related trip, a few steps from the side of the room to a speaker’s podium, that showed me what Paul’s life work is all about — confronting daily suffering and experiencing the source of infinite undeniable joy.
I had just introduced Paul to his fellow leaders at CRISTA Ministries who had gathered to encourage each other with some of the recent life-changing stories in our individual areas. Here came Paul, balancing a bucket of water on his shoulder, a bucket sloshing with every careful step he took. Talk about getting your attention.
“In the fourth chapter of the Gospel of John, we read about a Samaritan woman who came to draw water
from a well, and Jesus says to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?’ The Lord of the universe was thirsty,” Paul continued. “He needed a drink! What a startling reminder that water is required for life. Clearly, no one can live without water.”
Paul has faced this more than once. “For three and a half years I lived and worked in India where the temperature was over 100 degrees. In our village the unrelenting heat meant drought, and drought meant you had to live on two or three cups of water a day. When all you’ve got is a few sips, you learn to give thanks and see the rest of the world with new eyes. This morning millions of people don’t have the luxury of a nearby river or watershed. In Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, the picture is the same; it is not uncommon for people to walk up to five hours to collect water in wooden buckets, jugs or other containers and bring it back to their village.
“If you’ve ever carried a gallon of milk from the dairy cooler to the checkstand, you’ll start to appreciate this. That gallon of milk, like a gallon of water, weighs seven and a half pounds. Now imagine carrying not one but five gallons in two wooden buckets balanced on a pole across your shoulders. The weight of the buckets means you’re carrying about 40 pounds.”
Balancing that load from the dairy cooler to the front of the store is one thing. Try carrying that water for
five miles barefoot, over dirt roads scattered with thistles and rocks. “Five gallons is all you have that day for your entire family. One gallon is for drinking. Another gallon or two is for washing dishes. Whatever is left is for washing clothes.
“Look at it another way: In a family of six, each person has but three quarts to last them all day. In the morning, usually in the wee, dark hours of the morning before the sun blazes down, a family member, usually a woman, makes the long, daily routine again.”
Does it ever get any easier? Is it possible to change a community’s way of life, literally quench a people’s thirst and improve their way of life?
“In Tibet, the village of Ne is perched on a mountain top 13,000-plus feet from the nearest water source. From the time they were very young, villagers learned to walk two hours down the mountain to collect water from a river, and then trudge two hours back up. Every day, every week, every month of a lifetime. Living on little water brought diseases like diarrhea and scabies. If clothes weren’t washed because of too little water, children and adults alike contracted lice. The lack of water in the village hurt entire families. It was difficult for parents to find wives for their sons; no one wanted their daughters spending four hours a day collecting water.
“The villagers tried to make pipes out of wood to bring water from the river or nearby spring, but their
efforts prove futile. Three times they asked Chinese contractors to help, but each time the builders said, ‘It can’t be done.’ Sometimes, it takes extreme amounts of determination, ingenuity and faith to do the impossible.”
In 2004, World Concern staff in Tibet believed they found a solution. “By running almost five miles of plastic pipe from the river to the village, the life, health, and future of every person, every family, would change for the better. It took I guess 30 to 40 villagers four months of continuous work to get the job done. When water flowed through the pipe, the people celebrated into the early morning hours.”
The village of Ne is a different place today. “Women are now weaving clothes. Men are making new eating bowls. Families with young men are able to find wives for their sons. Water now runs all the time allowing farmers to irrigate gardens for extra nutrition. Gratitude has flourished, disease has declined, and lives are changed.
“When you consider how many communities around the world still lack sufficient water, the transformation in Ne may seem like a drop in the bucket. For every Ne there is another village where World Concern is now at work. In Somalia, the deadly tsunami in January 2004 struck clogged wells with salt water and debris, so we’ve been busy making the water in those wells drinkable again.
“On the other side of world this morning, there is a child, a father, a mother in a place like Ne who is glad for
water. The reality is the same for them and for us: Our bodies cannot survive very long without water. And we cannot live forever without the living water, Jesus Christ.
“He is our hope, and without hope people die. As Jesus himself said, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again. But whoever drinks the water I will give him will never thirst again. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life, life-giving and life-changing.’ I hope the story of Ne, the inspiring work of World Concern, and the precious bounty of water, today will lead you one step closer to the source of life, Jesus Christ.”
The Story Lives on . . .
When have you been thirsty beyond description?
How did you find water?
Who in your life needs the living water Jesus talks about?
How might you be part of the “delivery system” for such water?
THE PROMISE OF LIVING WATER
. . . but whoever drinks the water I give
him will never thirst. Indeed, the water
I give him will become in him a spring
of water welling up to eternal life.
Know Jesus and you will never thirst. How will you
remain close to this spring of eternal life? “
Quench The World’s Thirst, By: Paul Kennel, A story from the book, “A Life Well Lived,” written by: Jim Gwinn.