Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Overflowing with Joy

By Josh Anderson, staff writer

How far do you walk for water?

I think it takes me five steps to reach the bathroom, maybe another 25 to find the kitchen. I stumble a bit more in the dark, but the only real danger I face is stubbing my toes on the stairs.

That’s nothing compared to women like Josephina Nyibol and countless others here in the Akuem region of South Sudan. I had the privilege of interviewing her while visiting a community as a follow-up to the “5 Wells in 5 Days” campaign Samaritan’s Purse recently conducted.

The money raised—more than $240,000—will go towards drilling wells throughout Northern Bahr el Ghazal and other states near the border. Prayerfully, the total will reach about 80 by the end of this year.

Samaritan’s Purse is only days away from completing this particular well, also referred to as a borehole. Until then there is no clean water in the village. Josephina has to walk 1½ hours to the nearest borehole, which happens to have been drilled by Samaritan’s Purse in 2011.

“We get water from puddles during the rainy season, ”Josephina said. “But we suffer greatly during the dry season because there is no water.”

South Sudan is at the peak of its dry season right now, with the earth floor cracking under its stress. Yet this proud mother of seven can’t let the unrelenting heat stop her. She leaves at 4:00 every morning so she can fetch water and return before the hot afternoon sun starts to bake the ground beneath her. Temperatures blazed at 110 degrees during our visit, with little relief even in the shade.

Getting up early is the least of Josephina’s concerns. “I must leave my children home alone,” she said. “They only eat once a day because I am not home to cook for them.”

It’s obvious that Josephina worries most for her children while she’s out on the road. Yet during her search for water, she also faces the dangers of hyenas, snakes, and violence, not to mention the aches and pains that come with such backbreaking work.

“I am afraid of snakes, hyenas, and robbers,” she said. “I am always sore from walking, and I had to wear the leaves from trees on my feet.”

That will all change when Samaritan’s Purse finishes constructing this borehole. We’ll also install a hand pump and provide training on proper sanitation and hygiene practices. When the first drop of clean water is served from this simple well, a community of 400 will be transformed forever.

“With this well I can now tend my garden and children,” Josephina said. “I even have money to buy things we need, like these new shoes.”

That’s when I looked down. There on her feet was a pair of dusty red sandals. I looked up to see her proudly smiling.

“They’re beautiful,” I said through a translator, not realizing there was more to her story.

“I have such appreciation in my heart,” she said. “God brought me out of my problems and has promised me salvation.”

And that’s when I realized the change Josephina is most excited about flows not from a borehole drilled in the ground but from the “living water” found in Jesus Christ.