Giving Water

Sometimes we question whether we really are in the center of God’s will for us. One such time was in 1997 in India.

Sometimes we question whether we really are in the center of God’s will for us. One such time was in 1997 in India.

We had sold our home in the U.S.; left our jobs, packed up our belongings, and moved our family, expecting to serve in India forever. Yet we found ourselves in a situation quite different from what we had expected. And everything seemed to be going wrong.

The feeling that we have meaningful work--Kingdom-building work--always has been critically important to us and to the families from which we come. And yet at that time, we were returning home every day asking: “Why on earth are we here?” “What have we been called here to do?” or even: “God, whatever were you thinking?”

One particularly dispiriting day, during the dry season when the landscape is parched and cracked, the trees fade to brown and the cistern holds only a few centimeters of acrid water, we arrived home in very low spirits indeed. As we walked down the long mountain path towards home, we talked about whether we might transform what seemed to be an impossible situation. There seemed to be no hope. We decided it would be best to pack up our toys and go home.

As we neared the house, we saw 5 figures standing near our back door. Coming closer, we saw that each held a bucket or a large tin can or a wash pan. They were seeking water. Sources had dried up all over the mountainside, but we still had a few centimeters in our cistern.

We had a choice: should we give water or keep the water for ourselves? We decided to give water.
As our neighbors brought their empty buckets and cans, we discovered we had a second choice:
Should we clean them before filling so that we are giving clean, safe water?
We decided to use water for cleaning so we could offer safe water.
And when would we stop?
We decided to give until the cistern ran dry and trust God for the rest.
That day and for the many days until monsoon.
That day and for the many days before the monsoon rains, we dispensed clean, filtered water to as many who would come.

Did we run out of water? No. Many on the hillside did. Often we were down to near-empty. But in the morning our supply seemed to have been replenished in the night. We weren’t taking showers, but we lacked no water for drinking and cooking, either.

Did we pack up our toys and go home? No. That day we recognized that perhaps God had sent us to give living water to all who would come, one by one, in buckets as clean as we can make them.

The daily line grew, of course, as people discovered a source. People returned daily. We began to talk and make friends. And the water in the cistern was always just enough.

The message of those parched and wilderness days returned to us during the Lenten season:
Give and God will replenish your supply. Give and your spirit will be renewed. Give and you will find the life-giving work of relationship wherever your circumstances find you.

Liz and Doug Searles
discerning next steps in Louisville, KY

Elizabeth and Douglas Searles, Global Ministries’ served in Poland, jointly appointed by Global Ministries and PCUSA to walk with the Evangelical-Reformed Church in Poland.