They say a trip to Africa can take weeks to process. Although jet lag allows for some early morning rising, I have been trying to put my thoughts in print to make sense of what I witnessed. My husband and I just returned from 12 days in Kenya and even though this wasn’t my first trip to Africa each visit steals a part of my heart and emphasizes the theme ‘water is life’.
Since this was my 6th time on African soil I’m not sure that makes it easier but quite possibly my experience has become more urgent to unleash. So, to the curious, the supporters from afar and to the person who feels a tug to go in the near future, what you have heard about Africa is real. Specifically the people of Kenya, are beautiful, loving, grateful and full of life. A mother’s love for their young is an instinct all mothers share and so on this trip I found myself relating to the God given priviledge of a mother’s love when the going gets tough.
My Water Is Life picture was first taken on my first trip to Tanzania back in 2009. We were introduced to the water crisis back then and trying to make a difference by supporting well drilling. Little did I know how much it would change the trajectory of our purpose and life goal.
Our new awareness of a lack of what we take for granted in American was not going away anytime soon. This propelled us into a life of running and raising funds to see this problem eradicated in our lifetime. Fast forward to raising our kids to join us in our efforts to adopting a child born into similar circumstances in Ethiopia. Africa is apart of the Clode household and now we were given the opportunity to join 14 other souls who shared in a passion to see a change.
The most impactful moment for me was not just seeing but doing. Poverty is everywhere. Our guide drove us out to a remote area and we waited for women to gather around their source of water for the time being. This can change as the pools dry up and a quest for finding a new water source is high priority. Some walk a mile and some walk five miles. On this day we found a group of women and children gathering around two pools of muddy, disease ridden, stagnant water that would cause any North American mother to shudder. Since this area had two pools one was kept one for animals and bathing and the other was for their drinking water. No difference in my mind. We had a local translator and began telling the woman the purpose of our visit. We are finding new regions to place a well and after our assessment this area could be a candidate for clean water. Clean water changes a village dramatically. A water well goes in and a village is established. Community is what we were all created for and everyone relies on each other in these parts. A well will lower the percentage of typoid and malaria among the people. When a well goes in, our organization plans to establish a church and a pastor. We have seen a school go in and the children can be educated. Their livestock is healthier and hopefully their journey is shorter so the task of fetching water allows for more time spent with family. The danger of encountering snakes and bees is lowered and miscarriages are fewer. Water really is life.
After we established a relationship with this village we explained to them that each team member wanted to experience the tough trek carrying water from the watering hole back to their village. They were surprised and curious to see how this would go down. Maybe some of us looked weak, or their perception of the white man couldn’t hack the challenge but they lead us to their water source all the same. The girl that was partnered with me took my water jug and walked down a muddy hill to the waters edge to dunk the can into the murky water to fill it up. This village mostly used 20 L vegetable oil cans. Some areas use Jerry Cans used for gasoline but we mostly saw the vegetable oil cans and the kids had smaller ones. Since I was wearing running shoes and my girl filled my water can for me I did not experience the act of getting upclose and personal with the smelling, fly infected, muddy water. My team took their shoes off and imitated what these women and young girls did possibly three times a day. Once we were assembled in line to follow the path back to where they lived I lead the group. My water jug was one of the biggest and I was determined to try and walk without falter. I had done this once before in Tanzania with clean water and I had a rolled up scarf on my head to cushion the can. Only a couple of women used the cushion so I did not. There was no lid on the can so water was sloshing out the top and pouring down my face and shirt. I kept my lips pursed as to reject any water to enter my mouth and I stayed focused on the rough path. There are thorny bushes all around, their livestock of goats and sheep and camels were also close by and I didn’t want to fall. I was walking through low bushes so I had to duck with 40 lbs on my head. I wasn’t so much thinking about how good I was performing but we all felt a responsibility to not drip water out of the cans because these women were counting on us to carry back as much water as we could. By this time, it was about noon and the sun was shining in the big blue sky. We were hot and all I kept thinking of was what job do I do at home that remotely resembles this act of love. Nothing! After about 3 minutes the ladies motioned for us to stop and take a rest. I didn’t want to but I guess they do this too. My shoulders were aching and I thought if I stopped now I wouldn’t get that water jug back on my head. We got started again and we switched it up by carrying the jugs on our shoulders or by our side. We stopped a couple of times and did not talk much to each other. Many were moved to tears. Our men in the group also helped which was quite a sight since this was not a job for a man. The village men are happy when a well is put in because if it’s closer it frees up the women to be home more.
We walked 3/4 of a mile to the village and celebrated our quest. It was midday and these kids had to eat. Some girls drank their filled water bottles that looked like orange juice but it was water that is literally making them sick. Trust me when I say it was hard to drink our own water at any moment on this trip. We take water for granted and every human being should have the access to clean water!
I would be remiss not to mention the living water Jesus talks about in John 4. A woman comes to the well alone because she has been ostracized by her village because of her adultery. Jesus doesn’t discriminate and tells her about the Living Water that only trusting in Him brings. Ultimately, this is the true water that gives life; life eternal. Through our organization Hope Water Project, we want to share the life that only Jesus can give.
This crisis shouldn’t cause guilt but thankfulness. Their plight should propel us into action. We got to witness pure joy over something we don’t think twice about. We cried, we laughed and we sang together. When we realize that people are the same all over the world we form a bond and get along. They appreciated our visit. May we never go to just observe and do nothing. They are counting on us to be God’s hands and feet.