Driving across Ethiopia’s rural landscape can be both inspiring and confusing. The beauty sometimes leaves me feeling like I am in the middle of some National Geographic Documentary. Huge Eucalyptus trees, dense banana groves and coffee plants fill the countryside with a green beauty we just do not see in North America. But as I said, it can also be confusing.
The chaotic traffic patterns with near head on collisions are common on most roads. They can leave you clenching muscles you didn’t know you had. I’m telling you as I have heard it said. Riding in a car in Ethiopia has a “high pucker factor.” Yet the chaos of traffic is not really what I am referring to. The confusion comes when I see the western conveniences intersect with the African way of life. Let me explain.
Several years ago, I passed through a small town marred with poverty. We were on an 8-hour drive toward a remote town in Southern Ethiopia. This little town had children suffering from malnutrition. Poor sanitation and other classic symptoms were everywhere. We stopped to stretch and allow our driver a break. I noticed a metal structure that looked like a water well. The well was not being used for gathering drinking water, though. Instead, several donkeys were tied to it while their owners loaded goods onto the backs of the animals. The well looked worn and one could see that it had been years since its last use. Ironically, several women passed by us carrying large cisterns of water on their heads.
I asked my Ethiopian friends about the well, and they helped me understand the scene that was unfolding before us:
“The well no longer works. The people of this town do not have the parts needed or knowledge to repair it. So, they have gone back to walking the 7 miles to gather their daily water. The well is now used to tie up donkeys.”
I know there are wonderful ministries that God has put on the hearts of people to put wells in struggling countries. These are valuable. Those that put this well in were doing something to help others. I could not help but see some incredible spiritual applications in this scenario.
I find myself sometimes underusing or even neglecting incredible gifts, tools or power that God has granted to me as His adopted son. I can apply God’s grace in my life or give it freely to others for a little while. Then something happens (the well breaks down), and I go back to old habits. I begin to lean on what I “used to do.” I see this as an epidemic in the church today, not only when I meet with members of my church, but also with pastors across the country. The frequent neglect of things like prayer, fasting and even grace can leave us powerless in a world where we should be powerful.
“All who receive God’s abundant grace and are freely put right with him will rule in life through Christ.” Romans 5:17
Are you using the wellspring of water God gave you for life? Are you walking in the freedom of Christ that comes from His living water?
How are you using your well?