"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager
Monday, July 05, 2004 When I first arrived in Ghana, James greeted me with a glass of water, saying that water is life and that this was the traditional Ghanian way to greet a traveler ... to give them life.
Water being life is not a new idea to me. Besides the obvious baptismal connection, I grew up in the desert southwest. I was taught to take short showers. You had to ask for water at restaurants. Our front and back yards over the years migrated from grass to desert landscaping.
But even there, water was still available. You were careful with it, but you were never left wanting it.
Since I have been here, I have thought more about water than I ever have in my life. Am I getting enough? Is it safe? Where can I get it? Does this place have it?
I've been very fortunate. I live in a house with running cold water (there is basically no such thing as running hot water ... only very wealthy places and nice hotels have hot water heaters ... and those are usually individual small ones that are part of the shower). I have money to buy satchets of pure water to drink so I won't get sick. I can do laundry in buckets of water that I get not from several miles away but from a faucet at the house.
In my small travels, I have seen plenty of places and people not so fortunate. I have seen women and children lining up at the only well for miles around and carrying the water back to their homes in huge, heavy buckets on their heads ... and who knows what state those wells are in? I have seen people bathing out of buckets by the side of the road because there was no running water or even a bucket shower nearby. I have seen arguments in the paper about who owns the water ... should water really be privatized or is pure water something that should be a right?
The World Health Organization says that one in six of us on this planet doesn't have clean water to drink. Forget those who have to hike miles roundtrip to the well to get water, that's one billion people on planet earth who simply don't have access to something that is necessary to survive.
The result is that many don't survive. Most drink water that isn't clean and get parasites, various diseases or worse. Some just die.
It is amazing that on a planet whose surface is 75% water that not only do we have one billion people without access to clean, drinkable water but that projections show that the shrinking global water table and lack of adequate desalinization facilities mean that the next great global crisis is not going to be the oil shortage ... though that will have huge economic impact ... it will be increasing shortages of water. Governments will be overthrown and wars will be fought ... and you can bet that billions of dollars will be made ... in the battle for water.
If there is a basic human right, it is the right to the basic things we need to survive ... and water is chief among them. In John's Gospel Jesus said that he was living water, that those who drank of him would never thirst. He also said that one of the ways we serve him in this world is by giving a cup of water to the thirsty. Hanging on the cross, Jesus further identified himself with these poorest of the poor as he uttered some of his last words "I thirst."
One of the great spiritual awakenings I've begun to have here ... and it's only just beginning because I have such a long way to go ... is really seeing the face of Christ in many different people. Not just the people here, but you all reading this back home. Recognizing that we can be prisoners of wealth as well as prisoners of poverty and that we all need being set free. Recognizing that it really is true that as we do to each other, we do to Christ.
Well, Christ is still thirsty. He's on the street when he should be in school, selling bags of pure water to people in trotros. She's carrying a baby on her back and a tub full of water on her head from the well to her home two miles away. He is drinking water polluted by God knows what either because he doesn't know any better or he really has no choice.
And it really is within our power to give him a drink. It is within our power to support organizations that do capacity building and teach people to dig wells and then maintain the machinery. It is within our power to urge our lawmakers and executives in corporations in which we hold stock to put more resources into research and development and distribution of technology that will enable more people to have clean water. It is within our power to urge our government to work more fully to help people in nations that have plenty of water but where it isn't getting to the people because of profiteering.
One of the things I'm looking forward to when I get home is being able to have a drink of water out of the kitchen sink ... or to have drinks with ice in them ... not to mention a hot shower. I have that choice ... to stay here or to go home, because I have discovered that the most valuable posession on earth is a U.S. passport. I have my water. I will never be without. I hope as I get back into my life and get busy I don't forget those who don't. I really hope I don't.
| Mike at 7/05/2004 05:05:00 AM
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"Christ's example is being
demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy,
which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here.
If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest
of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't,
it will be irrelevant."