Water is life…or death sometimes.
Let me explain what I mean. I remember vividly the first and only time I have ever felt desperately thirsty. Of course, I have been thirsty before. But not like this. After making my way from Indy to Dc to Ethiopia, I spent a ghastly amount of time on an Ethiopian airline. Like, almost 20 hours already. I don’t exactly know what it is, the altitude, the dry air, or the tiny 8 oz cups delivered only at meal times but airplanes do some sort of crazy dehydration to your body. It feels like it zaps 50% out of the 60% of water your body is comprised of. Okay, a bit of an exaggeration but you get the point.
As I stepped off of the plane and onto African soil, I was uncomfortable aware of how thirsty I was. “wow this place is beautiful and heart breaking, but wow am I thirsty.” I need water now.
Once you enter the Ethiopian airport, you are quickly whisked through security and all water and coke and beverages of any kind are long behind you. Now, I had to sit for three hours for the next flight. All I knew was that I felt so weak. My head pounded. I started blacking out a bit.
“Does anyone have water?”
“Hmm, maybe I can go drink tap from the bathroom.”
Then, the realization sunk in. I am in Africa and the water is unsafe here. So I went without. Until, I went to brush my teeth in the bathroom and habitually used the sink water to rinse. Panic soared. “I hope I don’t get sick!” Even more, what relief I had from just a tiny drop of water.
But even so, on the next flight to Lilongwe I unashamedly had the flight attendant fill up my water bottle that even had a filter. I knew that I would have clean water soon. I would not die.
Even while in Malawi, I was so blessed. Our group had water boiled for us or water bottles in case were were uncomfortable with the boiled.
We brushed our teeth with bottled water and panicked if we got the tiniest drip of water in our mouths while showering.
Could it be a coincidence that the first experience I had in Africa was thirst?
It’s so terrifying to think that it is a choice that must be made for them daily. Die of thirst or die of disease because of your thirst. You choose.
Richard Stearns, President of World Vision describes it best when he says,
“This creates a no-win situation for millions of parents in our world today-they can watch helplessly as their children die for lack of water, or they can watch them die from diarrhea, because the only water they have is tainted.”
But then could it be as I prayed to the Lord, “Show me what breaks your heart about this place..”, it was not hunger, or poverty, or disease, or water that broke his heart. His response was simple and too the point.
“When people do not know me.”
Could it be that the thirst of Africa…of all of us…that God wanted to reveal to me, was thirst for living water?
I am confident that God is brokenhearted about both. Physical thirst and spiritual thirst. But I am sure there is more insight to come about all of this.
I am thankful that the Lord is patient with me as it has taken me six months to process many things I saw on this trip.