It is dry season in Kigali! The rains left in May, and we are desperate for their return. The grass is crunchy and brown and the usual green of this land is covered in red dust. We live on a dirt road which has dried up into red powder. Red powder that matches the colour of the children’s dry red lips. With dry season has come significant water issues for many, but not all. An enigma I am still trying to understand. Some people in Kigali have no water issues at all, they manage to keep watering their bright green grass. Others are experiencing water rationing and need to be careful, their grass is probably brown and crunchy but their clothes and children are clean. And then there are those who just don’t get water at all. Unfortunately we fall in the latter category. We rely on water being distributed through water lines and filling our tank. In the last 21 days the pipes have only supplied us with half a tank of water. We need approximately a full tank of water a week to function normally and there seems little hope of the situation getting better anytime soon. So I have dusted down my 6 jerry cans, (at least I am the proud owner of 6 yellow jerry cans) and I have gone out in search of alternative water sources. Kigali is littered with snap shots of yellow jerry cans. One jerry can after another, lined up at the water wells. Water carriers on bikes, carrying up to 6 jerry cans at a time, ladies carry yellow jerry cans on their heads, while little children with small yellow jerry cans are sent to look for water too. Everyday we live in hope that we will wake up to the news that last night (water usually come at midnight) the water came and we have a full tank of water. But for the last 3 weeks we have only woken up to disappointing news. NO water! Conserving water has become a mild obsession in our house. We have pulled out the the water heater plug, as there is no water to heat, we have resorted to bucket showers with cold water, and any water we do use for our cold showers we catch and use to flush the toilets. We have strict rules on when the toilets can be flushed and when they must be left. Washing our clothes is becoming an issue, as a washing machine uses around 4 jerry cans of water and when you only have 6 jerry cans you need to prioritize.
In these circumstances my temptation is to become incredibly grumpy and frustrated. And believe me I have! Especially when I see that others have green grass and we don’t even have enough water to flush our toilets. The trial of water has caused arguments between me and my husband as we debated over who is better at dealing with the big water men at WASAC (our local water and sanitation corporation), and who has managed to assess the best alternative water sources. I call this the trial of water because that is exactly what it is. I know that this is how many Rwandans live each day, I know it could be much worse, at least we have water to drink and we will not die, but looking for water and trying to find a solution to the problem consumes so much of our time and energy. I have even shed tears of despair on bad days (and then rushed for a bucket to collect the them).
But here is the point. I know that in the trial of water God has not left me, in fact He has drawn even closer to me, comforting me and teaching me such valuable lessons about who He is and who I am through this time of need and frustration. God is aware of this trial and He could ease my discomfort right now if He chose to. He could make sure that I get water if He wanted to, but He has chosen to place me in a house at the end of the road where the pressure is not enough to raise the water into our tank and fill it, He has placed me in a house at the end of the road, where everyone else fills up with water, but by the time it gets to us there is no water to fill. God’s ways and His plans are perfect, and so for today, His perfect plan is to provide me with water from other sources other than WASAC. If God had not sent the trial of water, I would not have learned these lessons and so I am writing them down lest my memory fades and I forget to be thankful for this time and this trial. For most of the 21 days without water I have looked on accusingly wondering why God has allowed others to be free from water issues, while we have had to endure. But as I have reflected and prayed I have come to see things differently, God must really love me to place me in a house that struggles to get water, to let me pass through this trial, because it is the only way He can make me less spoilt and more like his Son Jesus, and change my heart away from self sufficiency and towards dependence on him. It is the only way he can turn my heart away from grumbling towards joy and gratitude. It is the only way he can change my impatience and frustration towards patience and perseverance. So here are some of the lessons.
God is my provider – learning to deepen my dependence on Him
Going without water has been a great reminder of who is actually in control of our water. Water is a gracious gift from God, it is Him who sends the rains and it is Him who has measured the waters of the earth in the hollow of His hands. And so I am able to come to the God who holds all the water and ask Him to meet my needs. Despite the 21 days of drought from WASAC, there has not been one day where we have gone completely without water. We have always had enough for our basic needs. When I lived in the UK, I never once prayed to the Lord of heaven and earth to provide me with water, because there was never a need, there was always water. So I was tempted to forget that it is God who provides my basic needs. Through the trial of water I have prayed every day for water, and my dependence on God has grown, even for my most basic of needs. On my better days, it has been exciting to see how God would actually provide for us.
Contentment and gratitude – learning to count my blessings and choose joy
My natural disposition is towards doom and gloom. I have an active imagination and so easily imagine the worst case scenario. This leads to overthinking and obsessing on a situation and then eventually leads to anxiety, complaining, self-pity and grumbling. In my worst moments I have threatened the whole family with moving house, because I have predicted that there is not going to be a solution to our trial of water. I have lacked patience and perseverance and have given into despairing of my lot. As Charles Spurgeon once said, “We write our blessings in the sand and carve our complaints in marble.” My mind is wild and untamed and so it needs to be renewed to call to mind what God has done, to remember His goodness towards me, to dwell on His character as my loving Father, rather than dwelling on my trials and troubles. “Life is about making choices, we can choose to grieve over what we have lost, to complain about our disappointments and grumble about our hardships. Or we can rejoice in the treasures of God’s grace and celebrate his bountiful gifts. We can delight in every good thing he has poured into our lives.” It takes some self control to exercise the muscle of faith, that continually trusts that God loves me and is always working for my good, it is a battle against the flesh to choose contentment and joy, over grumbling and despair. But I would rather be trained and pruned through hardship than left to become flabby and overgrown.
The love of others – learning how God uses his people to bring help, love and care
The trial of water has displayed the kindness of God’s people. I know that I am not alone, as many have offered their water. Friends have offered to wash our clothes and shower our kids. While neighbours down the road have shared their water and allowed us to visit whenever we need to to fill our jerry cans. God’s kindness and care has been displayed through these generous friends and for that I am very grateful.
Living water – learning that the trials of this life are not worth comparing with eternal life
Water is life, and I have come to appreciate water more than ever before. But what I am most grateful for is that I know ‘living water’ – Jesus spoke to the Samarian woman at the water well and he said to her – “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him, will never be thirsty again, the water that I will give him, will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” In the grand scheme of things my tiny little trial of water is just a blip, a precious blip that has drawn me into deeper fellowship with God, but a blip all the same. What fills my heart with joy and hope is that I have drunk of the water of life, that has welled up in me and that means I will never thirst again. For in Jesus I have have life, life eternal, for He is the living water!
I would love to hear your thoughts, please leave a comment…
Book quoted: Invest your suffering – Paul Mallard pg117
Bible passages: Isaiah 40:12, Romans 8:18, John 4:1-44