No water in Acornhoek

Everyone is home safely and in (relatively) good health.

After 12 days in Africa – much of the time in the malaria zone – I should be grateful for that.  And I am – mostly – but I am also beside myself with disappointment.  We came up dry on the well.

After drilling three bore holes on the Calvary of Hope Christian Church property in Acornhoek, South Africa, the drilling company we hired found no water.  None.

Our friends in Acornhoek told us a couple of years ago that they needed a well.  They currently walk miles to get what we are able to have by going to the kitchen sink and turning the spigot.  Clean water, we found out, would also lower their rate of disease considerably.  We wanted to give them this gift.

And so, we came up with $10,000, hired a driller, and made our plans to visit and dedicate the well.  After all, we’re used to having things go our way.  We decide to make something happen, and by golly it happens.  Just like that.

Or, somebody gets sued.

One difference between our cultures – and there are many! – is that they are used to adversity.  And it’s a good thing too, because very little goes their way.  The drillers came up empty, and the people in Acornhoek shrugged their shoulders.  That’s Africa, they seemed to say.

I had a nice little sermon about water planned for Sunday morning.  I was planning to say how water in scripture is a sign of God’s overflowing, life-giving generosity.  I was planning to tell them how our big, wonderful church back in Fort Lauderdale had done this nice thing for them.

Except there was no water where we had expected to find water.

On Saturday night I had to re-tool my sermon.  With a great deal more humility than I expected to have, I stood in front of them on Sunday morning and said, “Maybe God’s plan for this church is bigger than fresh-water wells.”

What was interesting was that they didn’t need me to tell them that.  They already knew it.  Even before I tried to give meaning to the disappointment, they were making plans to catch rain water from the roof of the church into giant drums.

No water in those three holes?  No problem.

Living with adversity produces a different kind of spiritual outlook.  Disappointment and discouragement are luxuries they can’t afford.  While I struggled to make sense of what happened, they were already moving ahead.

Before I even preached my sermon they were singing and dancing and praising God.  I realized that I was the one who needed to learn a spiritual lesson from them.


About Doug

I have been a writer ever since fifth grade when I won second prize in a “prose and poetry” contest. I am also a Presbyterian pastor, and for several years toward the end of my career I lived and worked in Zürich, Switzerland. I am now retired and live just north of Holland, Michigan, along the lake.


One Response to No water in Acornhoek

  1. Marvin Hage November 21, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

    Your “well” story is a parable that our faith in developed countries is based on a “false god of technology” that we have grown to trust. The good news is that there is a God who is bigger than our limited expectations! Thanks for sharing and welcome home.