“‘Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.'” -John 7:38 (NIV)
A group of colorfully dressed women, men, and children gather beneath the shade of a few trees, their heads bowed in prayer. A woman steps to the front, Bible clasped in her hands, and reads a scripture. When they lift their heads, they begin to clap their hands and sing, full of joy and praise to God. Not long ago, these same voices were instead filled with despair.
In Twachiyanda, a region in southern Zambia, water is precious. They have a saying that it’s okay for a few kernels of corn to fall to the ground, but not even one drop of water. World Vision first began attempting to drill wells here in 2005. Four times over the next six years they drilled, and four times they found nothing but dry earth.
“We didn’t have any hope that the water was going to be found – that the water was going to sprout because we tried and tried and we didn’t find any water,” says Memory Handenda.
The nearest source of clean water, a borehole, was more than three miles away. Women and girls often had to wait for an hour once they arrived because that water source was so crowded.
Often, they chose to fill up their containers with dirty water from a closer creek. But goats, cattle, and pigs went to the same stream to drink the water. Their feces further contaminated the water. People in the village, especially children, suffered heavily from waterborne diseases and parasites.
“Three-quarters of the people, especially children under five, were dying from dysentery or diarrhea because the water we were getting was very bad,” says Memory.
This closer water still meant a three-mile round trip for women and girls. The long walk often kept the girls from reaching school on time.
Nelly Mulavu remembers: “A child would go first to draw water and then comes back tired and she’s forced to go to school and it affects her education.”
One November day in 2012, community members and World Vision staff gathered at a fifth drilling site to pray that they would find water. Emmanuel Opong, World Vision’s Operations Director, prayed: “God, if water is locked down, let it be unlocked.”
His prayer was answered.
“Immediately, the water sprouted and people danced around here, jubilant because the water was found,” says Memory. “We are very happy in this area and the hope is now restored.”
The well delivered more than just water. Two weeks after the village hit water, a team came to assess just how much water the borehole held. They determined that there was plenty to support community gardens. Immediately, families planted vegetables.
Now plots of land, fenced with stacked branches and twigs to keep animals out, dot the land near the borehole. Inside each fence, a garden grows.
Six-year-old Edson wanders through the garden and picks a stem off a green onion, one of his favorite vegetables. Children like Edson no longer have to face malnutrition because they have access to nutritious foods.
Women in the village mix ground vegetables into the children’s porridge to increase the nutritional value.
The wealth of vegetables ensures that families not only have enough to eat, but they can also sell vegetables to earn money for other items. Now mothers can afford to buy school supplies, plates, pots, and even wraps (skirts) for themselves.
Today, more than a year after World Vision found water, the village flourishes. Children are no longer dying from diarrhea or dysentery. Girls no longer get to school late. Instead, they are in class on time and excelling.
Community members have seen eternal changes in their lives, too. They saw God’s love demonstrated through what the village has now come to call the “miracle borehole.”
“This water has affected my faith. Through our prayers, God has answered,” says Nelly. “Through that I know God loves us very much.”
Memory began looking at the world through new eyes. “I was once such person of little faith. But after prayers and this water came out, then I became a person of a lot of faith.”
Now, every week community members meet and continue to pray over this miracle water and offer thanks. This morning, Memory read the scripture in the shadow of the trees.
As the villagers offer thanks to God, they also lift up World Vision’s donors who helped to make water in their village a reality.
“They have helped us a lot. They have saved lives and now all we can do is pay them – not in monetary terms but through prayer to God so that God can continue giving them the strength, long life, and wisdom so that if they can have enough strength they can help other people who need help,” says Memory.
(Photo- ©2013 Laura Reinhardt:World Vision)