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Lent: The Springs of Sinazongwe

Photo courtesy of Marilee Pierce Dunker

Photo courtesy of Marilee Pierce Dunker

by Marilee Pierce Dunker, World Vision Ambassador for Children

They will not hunger or thirst, neither will the scorching heat or sun strike them down; for He who has compassion on them will lead them, and guide them to springs of water. Isaiah 49:10

“Water is life.”

I have often heard those words expressed in World Vision, but I didn’t understand how profoundly true they were until my first trip to Zambia in 2005. The country had been in drought for over two years and I remember driving for hours without seeing a touch of green or a glimmer of water. I had come to this parched and thirsty land to meet one of my sponsored children, Olivia. She and her grandfather lived in Sinazongwe, a dry part of Zambia where even in the best of times families struggled to survive.

Because of World Vision’s community development programs Olivia’s family was already beginning to benefit from water wells, agricultural advancements, new schools and medical clinics. But before I saw how her life had been transformed by my sponsorship, I asked to meet a family who were struggling for daily existence without World Vision’s help.

I was taken to meet Robert and Mary Siancumo and their five children. As we got closer to the collection of grass huts that made up their small village, I saw a few listless cows nosing in the dirt for any overlooked bits of grass. Their skin literally hung off their bony ribs, reminding me of Joseph’s vision in Egypt of the 7 skinny cows who ate the 7 fat cows. The skinny cows must have looked just like this!

Photo courtesy of Marilee Pierce Dunker

Photo courtesy of Marilee Pierce Dunker

The Siancumos met me with glowing smiles. Despite the hard reality of their lives, they were proud of their beautiful children and made me feel like a welcomed guest. They were honest about their daily struggles… “Sometimes we will go without eating for three days,” Robert confided at one point;…But they were also hopeful and quick to share their dreams…“I’m going to be a doctor,” said thirteen-year-old Rebecca, as her parents nodded in agreement.

When Mary asked me to walk with her to the river to fetch water I quickly agreed. This was a new experience for me. We walked for 30 minutes down a well-worn path, the crumbling earth crunching beneath our feet. Within minutes, I could feel sweat gathering on my brow in the radiant heat. I kept close to Mary, my eyes searching the low, thick brush for any slithering critters. A Black Mamba had entered their hut the night before, chasing the family out and forcing them to stay with friends until he decided to leave!

Finally the path ended at a steep slope that led down to more dry, rocky earth. We had reached the “river”, but it was long gone. I looked at Mary to see if she was as shocked as I was, but she simply gave me a smile and made her way gracefully down the slope. I followed less gracefully and she led me towards a small group of women who were standing with their empty buckets waiting for us. As we approached they parted, revealing the top of a 3-foot hole in the ground. I peered down and saw a puddle of water that couldn’t be more than an inch deep. This was what we had walked through the heat of the day to find!

Photo courtesy of Marilee Pierce Dunker

Photo courtesy of Marilee Pierce Dunker

As I grappled with the reality before me, Mary did something I will never forget. Placing her feet on either side of the hole, she leaned down and began scooping up the water with a bowl. Up and down she went, carefully pouring the precious liquid into the other women’s waiting buckets until every one of them was full. Only then did she fill her own. Later I would learn that 60 people depended on that one water source.

I watched in stunned silence, amazed at her strength, agility and generosity. What if the water ran out before she filled her buckets? What would her children drink tonight?

Then it hit me. The water had not run out! Somehow, no matter how many times she dipped, the water remained at the same level. Either I was witnessing a miracle or there were streams of water flowing just under our feet!

It is experiences like these that make the divinely inspired partnership between those who need and those who give so powerful to me. God had already provided the water the Siancumos so desperately needed. But He sent me…a southern California housewife who had never carried a full bucket of water more than a few feet in her life…to help them tap into it.

As we drove away that day I asked if World Vision Zambia would dig the Siancumos a well, even though they were outside our official ADP. They smiled and said, “We can do that.” And when I got home I shared my experience with everyone who would listen. A few months later a group of junior high children raised the funds to pay for the well.

Today Mary and her friends walk a short distance to a hand-pumped facet that gushes clean, disease-free water. And every time they fill their buckets they are reminded of the compassionate God who heard their prayers and gave them a well. And even though there is now plenty of water for everyone, something tells me that Mary probably still fills her buckets last.

This story is part of Women of Vision’s 2014 Lent series “A Spring of Living Water.” Read more stories in this series.

This post has one comment

  1. Meg says:

    Thank you! Such a beautiful story of God’s provision and an encouragement to be open to allow God to use us as His conduit of grace.

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