Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I am Thankful for Water

I visited the ECS Diocese of Mundri recently. I went there as part of my effort to teach diocesan staff basic bookkeeping and an introduction to management. Mundri is due west of Juba, about 170-kilometers. It’s lovely country: low mountains, lots of mango and teak and other trees.
While there I went with my host Michael, a long-term American missionary who’s spent most of his adult life in Africa, to see the sights and to meet a particular lady. Mama Josephine is one of the matriarchs of the community, a grand old lady who was talking about starting a Christian pre-school. We visited Mama Josephine at her “country” place deep out in the bush. A couple of mud and thatch tukels she shares with members of her extended family (nearly all families in Africa are “extended” families. People are referred to as “brothers” and “sisters” and “aunties and uncles” more loosely than what is done in the west. I myself am referred to as “uncle” within many families here.)
Michael’s area of expertise is in water engineering – location of bore-wells, setting up water tanks, that sort of thing. Really useful knowledge to have in Africa. Anyway, Mama Josephine was talking about a small private primary school which was being built about a mile away and suggested to Michael – who advises the county on where to locate bore-wells – that the new school would be a good location for a well.
We all walked over to the school, Mama Josephine included. It was a fairly easy walk of a mile or so through forest and brush. The “school” consisted of two buildings built of raw timber, mud and iron sheeting for the roofs. The floors were dirt and the children would likely just sit upon the floor.
It was fairly indifferent whether the school really needed a well, but it was obvious that Mama Josephine really wanted the well located there not only because it would benefit school children, but also because it would reduce the trek her family – and the other families living in the area - would have to make to fetch water from a couple of miles to around 1-mile.
I thought about how I have three sinks in my house back home, and two bathtubs. I also have a washer-machine hook-up and one outside spigot. I’d really like a second spigot. My home is on a well, the machinery of which occasionally causes me problems but it works like it should most of the time. How fortunate am I? Here I was confronted with a woman for whom having to haul water only one mile would be a marked improvement in her life! I never appreciated how well-off I was before I came here. Everyone should live in Sudan for a while.

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