When Janet and I were in South Sudan, and later in Uganda, we were constantly reminded just how precious water is. To live and work alongside people who walk for miles to fetch water, or have to queue for it, or both, is to get a new perspective.
Many folks had large earthenware pots in their huts, in which they kept their drinking water. In the warmth, the water in the pot would slowly seep through the earthenware and evaporate off the outside of the pot. This evaporation caused a cooling of the water in the pot. No fridge, but cool water. Amazing!
In fact, so many things took longer: preparing and cooking food, shopping, washing clothes. In the heat, what you could do in a day’s work was less. And you always had to have time for people, so less time to get done what you might have planned. No electricity (or dodgy electricity) in the evening meant there wasn’t much time to do anything after dark.
It was, for most people, tough with poor health care, expensive poor quality schooling that many couldn’t afford, low life expectancy, little law enforcement, the threat of soldiers and a generally tough life.
And yet… people were not unhappy. We would still say that we found more joy and laughter in Africa than we have ever found ‘back home’. More community, stronger family ties, greater generosity, acceptance of death as part of life, and faith in God as integral to all of life. And such pleasure in the simple things of life.
Life is no less fulfilled when dominated by the demands of daily living, perhaps more fulfilled. So, what is it that gives us fullness of life? Isaiah writes:
Why spend your money on what Is not bread, and your labour on what does not satisfy? (Isaiah 55:2)
This has all been very much on my mind in the last few months, as we have faced many deprivations, and such changes to our normal way of life. And more so as I contemplate the future.
Emerging from this crisis, we will face a difficult national economic situation. We need to advocate that the least well off are properly provided for. But it won’t only be the task of government. On a personal level, we will need to make sacrifices in the way we use our time, our talents and our money.
Whenever the need is great, and it will be great, we can be tempted to think we can’t do much. Some words from a Christian Aid service come to mind:
Forgive us Lord… when we have looked at the size of the problems and done nothing when we could have done a little.
We have already achieved much. We have learned to smile more, to be kinder to our planet and less busy. We’ve learned about hygiene and how diseases spread. We’ve become more aware of our own mortality. We’re now looking out for our vulnerable neighbours.
We know like never before the importance of being with (and being able to touch or hug) family, friends and neighbours. We’ve been so grateful to live in such a beautiful place in such a caring community. We’ve learned to rest, but also the dangers of having too much time for leisure without some basic patterns of daily life.
We’ve learned a lot about what is really important. We need to pray for the wisdom to build on this foundation, not demolish it.
May God bless you and keep you safe and well.