Very few images from my life will remain with me until the day I die. The image of my wife standing in a field in Princeton, New Jersey, hearing my proposal of marriage, and with a tear in her eye saying, "Oh my God, yes," and then, "Holy Sh*t, I'm engaged," will stay with me. The image of my daughter just being born, her brand new bluish colored body, being thrust into my arms will stick in my mind. And this image will also remain; a three year old African girl, on school yard playground, in remote Mozambique, who had a bucket full of holes and a snot green bubble on the end of her nose.
It was about the fourth day of my Lifewater mission trip to Mozambique, Africa. Already a kind of immunity and inuredness to all things poor and broken had begun to set in for me. There is only so much true pain a heart can take in before it raises the drawbridge on the proverbial doors of the castle and says, "no more visitors." It was the last stop of the day, to visit a well that Lifewater had installed three years before in the playground of a remote village.
And then there was the girl. I did not notice her at first, since there were literally hundreds of other kids who were cowering and clambering around her to get water. And then, alone, with her single bucket in hand, I remember seeing this little girl, dressed only in a dirty white tee-shirt reach her bucket forward to have it filled. There was only one problem. Her bucket had about as many holes in it as a kitchen colander. Every time she would fill her bucket, the bucket would leak. Her bucket held no water. But she kept trying, like it was some kind of childhood game. Only it wasn't a game. She needed water to survive.
I leaned down to put my arm around her, and to find another more suitable water bucket lying around the ground somewhere. When I got to her level, I noticed that a lack of water was not her only problem. She also had a massive green snot bubble on the end of her nose. Without hesitating I took out a hanky from my back pocket (mostly used over the past day to keep the dust out of my lungs) and I grabbed the snot bubble and squeezed it off. Her face remained expressionless, even if a little bit happier.
But then this little girl's true problem presented itself. It wasn't the water can, it wasn't her snot bubble flu, it was her aloneness. This little girl seemed completely alone. I cannot begin to describe the loneliness and the desperateness of this little human being. She reminded me of the little girl from the movie, "Schindler's List" who was highlighted in light pink, amidst the terror's of Auschevitz concentration camp. Only instead of having a pink hue, this little girl's dripping white jerry can and dirty white tee shirt stood in stark contrast to the brown African landscape. "Where is this girl's parents?" I yelled. "Who is taking care of this little girl?" "Who has responsibility for her?" There was no reply. I tried it again, only this time louder, "Who does this girl belong to, she needs help?"
Then came the voice of one of our tour guides; "She belongs to no one. She has no parents. Her parents are both dead. They have both died of AIDS. Just leave her. The village will try to care for her." "But the village isn't taking care of her," I said. "She is sick. She has holes in her water bucket," I pointed out. "It's just the way it is here, we must go, the sun is going down," said the guide. A thousand thoughts about international adoption possibilities rushed through my head, until I remembered what my wife who is an international adoptions expert had told me before the trip - Mozambique is a closed country, there are no adoptions from there. There were hundreds of little girls just like her with just as many holes and snot bubbles throughout the entire country.
"Come, we must go, it is not safe here," said the guide. And with that I found myself stooping my head to get back into the van that had brought me to this place. As I sat down, I felt a squishy, slimy feeling in my back pocket. It was the green snot bubble still on my hanky. And that snot green bubble will become apart of the colliapy of images that remain with me until I die. A little, lost girl, in a remote place, with a drip in her bucket and a case of the flu, parentless, but also loved by God.
And so I pray for her.
All For Now,
Lead Pastor - Highlands Church
Paso Robles, CA.
(To find other blogposts on this topic, and this one published in another form, go to www.waiting4water.org)