“Where can you get this Living water?”
– John 4:11
COVID-19 has slowed the pace of our lives to a trickle. Amidst the uncertainty, we are forced to live differently. Closer to home. Focused less on things and more on people. In this new normal, sometimes we struggle to find peace and perspective, to navigate new waters.
But there is unity in the struggle. We are all thirsting for something more. With shops shuttered, churches closed, and offices off limits, people are re-defining their purpose in life. And sharing a common plight is making the world feel a bit smaller and more connected than it used to be.
At Grace Church in Roseville, Minnesota, the community wanted to find new ways to make a difference. When they heard about the outdoor Walk4Water in OKC this year, to support the rural poor in Africa through a faith-based charity – Water4 – they jumped on the opportunity to make one of their own.
Grace operates under the premise that in times like these, we can still act out our faith, gather safely in community, and step boldly into living God’s plan for our lives. And on October 3rd, they did just that. Grace held the very first Walk4Water outside of OKC, raising $2,700 to bring safe water to a rural village for the first time.
The event brought together 30 church and community members to learn about the global water crisis. Kids and adults alike learned about the challenges of living in a country like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where ethnic conflict has created 3.8 million refugees and millions of people have to walk an average of 3.7 miles per day just to fetch water.
The conditions were not quite the same as those faced by women and children in DRC. The chilly Minnesota morning; fetching water in 5-gallon buckets from a baby pool (mixed with dirt and rocks); walking 3 miles in a church parking lot; all followed by a warm, East African meal.
But it was a teachable moment. Families worked together to share the load, struggling to balance the weight of water on their bodies. Tope, who left Nigeria as a teenager, shared her story of making the walk three times per day – before school, after school to prepare dinner, and sometimes before bed to fetch water for washing and cleaning. But despite this heavy chore, she was never late for school. The walk gave her kids a taste of her childhood reality. Now that’s some perspective.
Darla Benjamin, Pastor of Outreach at Grace, summarized the lessons, “We can no longer take water for granted. We have walked in the steps of those forced to use ponds and streams for drinking water. Walking for them, and giving to this great cause to bring safe and Living water to all, is a step in the right direction.”
This group also met their goal of funding a well that will bring safe water to 300 people in conflict-affected Bunia, DRC. They also took home a prayer card as a reminder to ask God for more water to flow as a source of peace in the region, and that more disciples would be made through Water4’s MULTIPY program.
The Grace community is proof that COVID-19 is making the world smaller, more patient, and more loving: you can partner with a charity 800 miles away, to benefit a community 8,000 miles away. But they say the giver is also blessed. Through the practice of fetching dirty water, these graceful walkers were also filled with the Living Water that quenches our deepest thirst.