Pause for Thought September 2017

waterWater is so precious.  It refreshes us, it sustains us, it cools us and it is indeed essential for life.  As a  child growing up in the UK, I certainly enjoyed having it to drink, to wash with and to swim in, though I am not sure that I ever realized just how valuable it is.  But living and working for several years in Botswana, the land of the Kalahari Desert, opened up my eyes.  There the Setswana word for water is “pula”; but that is also the word for joy, greetings and excitement generally.  More than that, when Botswana introduced its own currency for the first time in 1976, the decision was taken to use the word “pula” for the new notes too.  Water is indeed scarce and valuable.  

But in recent months, we have seen on the news the terrible effects that the power of water can bring.  First, in Sierra Leone, the country that endured ten years of civil war through the 1990’s, and then had to struggle with the devastation caused by the Ebola outbreak, there has now been a terrible mudslide caused by torrential rain, combined with deforestation.  Over 400 people have died and another 600 are still missing, presumed dead.  Meanwhile, thousands of miles away in South Asia, there have been massive seasonal floods, with over 16 million people affected, tens of thousands displaced, and at least 500 dead in Nepal, India and especially Bangladesh.  This may be the worst humanitarian disaster that that region has faced for decades, as fears grow about food shortages and cholera.

And what a contrast we have.  Last weekend I was walking by Rutland Water, that beautiful, expansive reservoir built to provide a reserve supply of water to one of the driest parts of the UK.  It’s also a conservation and recreational area, and there was plenty of evidence of people enjoying the chance to walk, cycle and sail in the sunshine.  How lucky we are to have an abundance of water, but with the necessary infrastructure to control and manage it too.

To any reader of the Bible, it is remarkable to see how water features so significantly in the lives of the people of the Old and New Testaments.  But more than this,  to any Christian, water also has a deep spiritual significance: baptism is the sacrament that symbolizes the washing away of our sins; the Holy Spirit is often portrayed as gushing water; and, above all, Christ is the water of life, as he tells the Samaritan woman at the well.  Jesus is the inner, never-failing source and fountain of living water, which satisfies every want and is for eternity.

As we hold those affected by the tragedies in Sierra Leone and South Asia in our thoughts and prayers, and as perhaps we also send financial contributions to the relief  efforts, so too I pray that we will always appreciate the value of that precious commodity, water, any time that we turn on the tap.  Let us count our many blessings.

“Pause for Thought” this month comes from Mike Mills
Reader in the Benefice of Barnack with Ufford and Bainton
Telephone: 01780 740285