This is my story of the day Jesus met me at the well on a short-term trip to Kenya.
Upon arriving in Kodich, Kenya, we were greeted by native Becky, who was our leader and primary advocate against FGM for the women of the Pokot Tribe, and by Pastor Simon, the full-time pastor leading the children’s homes and boarding school within the Kodich compound. We settled into our new temporary home, and went to meet the rest of the staff.
The day after arriving, we jumped into the trucks and rode as far as the road would allow us, and from there we continued walking.
Soon we approached a river, or rather something that was previously a river. During our time on the road we had driven through many of these waterless riverbeds, though it wasn’t until walking along one that the weight and irony of it all hung so heavy on my heart. In the vehicle, the waterless riverbed became a part of this incredible landscape, but it wasn’t until I was on my feet that God changed the lens of my perception.
We continued walking and eventually came to the central part of the region where a few men had dug holes in the riverbed in effort to draw up whatever water was left in the earth. The holes were very deep, with little support on their sides, and even less water at the bottom. We stood watching the men perform their daily task of digging, and filling their containers and troughs. As we looked around, Becky cautioned us about getting too close. She explained that the softness of the soil caused for the collapse of such holes, all too often burying alive the men trying to dig them. She spoke about how people not only commonly become gravely ill from the conditions of the water, but they also risk their lives just trying to retrieve it.
The magnitude of the situation and circumstance moved me and without control I began to weep. I tried to stop, to compose myself out of respect but the groans of my heart were far beyond something my broken human shell could control. Meanwhile, Rael, a Kodich woman who had travelled with us, came and wrapped her arms around me. She took my face into her hands and wiped away my tears, which brought immediate comfort to my spirit. At that moment, were connected without the need for one common language. That act of love and understanding forever changed me. That she, a native, living every day in the thick of this crisis would be the one comforting me. Wasn’t I supposed to be the one helping them? That’s what this trip was all about, right?
No. God completely turned the tables on my agenda and taught me something quite profound in that moment. He re-established the very reason I had gone on the trip to begin with and He used Rael as a perfect image of it.
If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love I gain nothing. | 1 Corinthians 13:3
Isn’t that our purpose after all? To love God’s people and His nations and care for His creation as a whole? I could not do anything to help them by myself. I could not provide enough resources or build up their education systems. I could do nothing in that moment if I didn’t first fully understand His love for them and then truly love like that myself.
I cannot explain the emotions I was feeling, other than God allowed me to experience a tragic sadness, complete joy, and bewildered awe all in the same moment. Here before me were His people, His beautiful people, with such great need, yet they were the ones with hope and desire to love and comfort. They understood such things in a way that reached far beyond my own understanding.
For in this hope we are saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” | Romans 8:24-25
If we hope for what we do not yet have, (meaning one day we will receive it) we wait for it patiently. What is hope if we do not believe that what we hope for will be delivered to us? There is richness in the hope of the Pokot that I will admit I often do not have myself. The wealth of that rich hope is…belief. Their hope is a symbol of the purest of beliefs in their own deliverance.
Looking back on that moment standing shoulder to shoulder with Rael, I remember the story in John of the woman at the well. Through the arms of Rael, Jesus met me at the well, just like He does the people of Pokot. It is His way of meeting them right where they are.
But whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life. | John 4:14
I began to realize the impact that organizations such as Hope Water Project truly have. It’s not about bringing them water, it’s about bringing them life. The Hope Water Project runners take on the task of a marathon and fundraising to show the love of Christ. When a region without water receives a well, they receive something far beyond a basic need. They receive salvation in Christ Jesus. With each well they receive a promise kept, a spring of water (literally) that wells up to eternal life by restoring their faith and hope fulfilled. It is within that basic need that Pastor Simon and so many others are able to share the gospel and to bring entire regions into the eternal Kingdom of God.
With JOY [they] draw water from the wells of salvation | Isaiah 12:3
To learn more about the upcoming short-term trips, visit kensingtonchurch.org/trips.
-Jillian Bartolomucci, Troy campus