After waiting for her turn in line, 13-year-old Aleme lifts her jerricans. Strapped with 40 pounds of water on her shoulders, she makes the long journey home uphill. The water has to last the family until tomorrow, when Aleme will make the journey back down the hill, wait in line, gather her water and hike back up. It’s all in a day’s work for her. This is a familiar tale for women around the world who are the primary fetchers of water in developing countries like Ethiopia, where Food for the Hungry (FH) works.
I’ve journeyed many a dusty road in my travels with FH and followed various women carrying jugs of water up a hill in bare feet, sometimes on their heads and sometimes on their backs. Seventy percent of the world’s water is carried by women, and I’ve met my fair share of these strong, faithful, beautiful and dignified women.
World Water Day
March 22, 2013, is World Water Day – the day we acknowledge that 783 million people do not have access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. (Statistic from Unwater.org)
Recently I’ve tried to identify with the plight of the 1.75 billion women struggling through the daily grind that poverty has dealt them. I’ve given up certain things, rights if you will. One of these rights was access to water from more than one source. I restricted myself to the use of only cold water from my bathtub spout. I boiled my water each morning to bathe and used a bucket to flush the toilet.
The source of living water
This challenge turned me back to the source of Living Water. It reminded me of the story of the Samaritan woman who encountered Jesus at the community well. Women throughout history have gathered water from wells, and when this woman came face-to-face with Jesus while fetching water, her life was forever changed. She was an outcast in society…she had been married several times. She was such a source of scandal in her community that she had to wait until everyone else was done fetching water before she got her water. No one dared to be seen with her in public! She had been married five times and now she lived with a man who wasn’t her husband. And yet Jesus spoke to her; he showed her respect and acknowledged her value. He knew what she needed – she needed the kind of water that he had to offer…the type of water where she would never be thirsty again. She needed the Living Water. (John 4)
Pray for the thirsty
This story of Jesus gives me a new way to ponder the sufferings of women around the world. I am reminded to pray for those who are especially thirsty to have an encounter with Jesus, the Living Water.
“Anyone who drinks the water I give will never be thirsty. In fact, the water I give him will become a spring of water in him. It will flow up into eternal life.” John 4:15