It felt wrong to reach for my water bottle.
The thirst was a perpetual itch just beyond hand’s reach. Throughout the week, we’d been traveling from one remote Zambian village to the next — each a nearly identical sprawl of thatched-roof houses, dirt paths and sun-scorched farmland. We were here to meet families in urgent need of clean water, but my dry mouth, cracked lips and sweating pores distracted me with my own need for a drink.
A drink I dared not take.
No, the filtered water I’d purchased at a grocery store in town would remain in my backpack as long as those aching eyes watched me: the eyes of barefoot children in tatters, and the eyes of their mothers who had been up before sunrise fetching discolored, parasite-infested water from a ditch for survival. It seemed the worst insult to indulge my thirst in front of those whose families were fighting monthly bouts of diarrhea and risking cholera infections on account of a contaminated — and barely existent — water supply.
In Christ, rich and poor are supposed to meet as brothers. But it’s hard to not feel a tension in that meeting — a sense that things are askew. Does love compel us to look past our financial differences as if they did not exist, or to single-mindedly fight to balance the scales? Should we feel guilty that we have more than they — or thankful? Should we expect them to seek our help, or to blame us for their suffering? And to what do we attribute the gap between their lifestyle and ours? Is it chance? Providence? Personal consequence? Social injustice? Or some combination?
We may not have all the answers, but what we do have is the Gospel, and the Gospel’s response to poverty is always and forever the same: hope.
Jesus said in Matthew 6, “Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ …Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Jesus’ teaching doesn’t mean we should ignore our brothers and sisters in need. To the contrary, it gives us the courage and motivation to act. It means that when we put God first, we can be generous without fear. And it means that when the poor put their hope in the Lord, He hears their cries and sends relief through the hands and feet of caring Christians.
In Zambia, hope means water for the thirsty. We are hoping and praying that 2017 will be the year these villages receive the clean water wells they so desperately need. I believe it’s going to happen — and when it does, it will be on account of our generous donors supporting the compassionate work of our Christian ministry partners in Zambia.
Stay tuned for this upcoming project!