Last week someone asked my missionary friend, Todd Lemmon, recently returned from Uganda, how far his family there had to walk for water.
“Oh, they are very fortunate,” he said. “Only two hundred meters to the nearest well.”
I agreed. Two hundred meters is so much less than six kilometers, even if you had to do it two or three times per day. But it’s not the whole story. As I walked today, doing my Global World Vision 6K for Water, I remembered an afternoon in Tiburon, Haiti, shortly after a thunderstorm. My local friends pointed out a recently completed public well two hundred meters away. Just then a little boy, maybe about four-years-old, burst out of the nearest home, ran into the middle of the street, kneeled down in the middle of the biggest nearby puddle, put his face down and drank his fill.
Six kilometers is way too far to walk for water. Sometimes even two hundred meters is too far.
But distance isn’t every barrier. Clean water is easy to explain. But why World Vision?
My friend Greg Stritch told me how once, soon after he had developed a heart for Haiti, he brought well-drilling equipment then traveled from village to village offering to drill wells at each place for no cost. Several villages took him up on the offer and he went home feeling good about his mission.
The next year he returned to one of the villages and asked one of the residents about the water. He was surprised to hear that the villager still walked to a river instead of using the closer well…because the well water cost too much! On further investigation he found that the mayor, who apparently owned the land around the well, now charged his neighbors access to the water that had been generously provided by strangers. He was richer, but the village was not healthier.
Sometimes wells aren’t enough. Hearts and cultures have to change, too. World Vision builds that into their aid packages.
I thought of a Jewish friend who frequently walks where I was in the Timucuan Preserve. I wondered how I would explain the “World Vision” on my shirt to her…how water doesn’t help unless hearts are changed to, you know, Christian, values. Or really Judeo-Christian values, right? Because the Jewish God and the Christian God are the same God, and He is the same yesterday and today and tomorrow, forever and ever. The Old Testament God and the New Testament God are not separate deities, surely? We must all be on the same page here about clean water.
This recalled a dinner conversation I had with a different friend a few months ago. This friend is bright and charming and generous, and in the spiritual spectrum somewhere between closet Christian and seeker. He liked the New Testament God, but not the Old Testament God. We both had too many glasses of wine to engage in a debate to a satisfactory conclusion, but his comment came back to me today. What’s the difference between the Old Testament God and the New Testament God? And what has that to do with water?
To me, the character of God doesn’t change throughout the Bible, but the degree to which He reveals his character progresses, and the means He provides for reconciliation to Him becomes progressively more accessible. He gave us, through Moses, the Ten Commandments, a minimal behavioral standard for living decently in community while we searched for Him. Through Jesus, He gave us guidelines for living big: Blessed are those who are poor in spirit–who haven’t got it figured out–those who mourn–who care enough to risk being hurt–those who are meek–who don’t have to get the title and the accolades–those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those who are merciful, those who are pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for righteousness. Blessed are all those guys! LIve big! And if we open our heart, He fill it with His Spirit and guide our thoughts and actions. We can live big.
In the Old Testament, He promised to lead us beside still waters where we could drink our fill. In the New Testament, He promised to give us living water so we will never thirst again.
So, 3.72 miles, six kilometers, later, I am grateful for fresh, clean, cold water. And living water.