Wild Lectionary: Seeking at the Essence

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Women at the well in Akot, South Sudan

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 9 (14)

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67

By Judith Doll

Water – the essence of life. It is absolutely necessary for all living things to survive and has been since the beginning of time.

Water – Where does it come from? From the rain, falling from the heavens; from the streams, the rivers, the lakes, the ocean, and the rivers under the earth accessible by wells.

In the small village of Akot, Lakes State, South Sudan where I was privileged to spend six different periods of time between 2010 and 2016, the water comes from wells drilled by Oxfam, providing clean, fresh, drinkable water to the people for miles around. The people are blessed to have his resource. When the wells break down (which they do on a regular basis), it is a burden for the women and girls to walk an extra kilometer or two to get the water they need.

One of the intentions of my mission was to train the women to fix the pumps hoping the wells could be kept repaired because this water is carried on the head in 20 liter jerry cans that weigh 44 pounds a piece causing damage to the spine and shortening the lives of the female population. Since repair of the pumps requires money, which the women do not have, and the men have no concern for the extra time and travel required to get the water, the men hold an inordinate power over the daily lives of the women. Therefore I put in a great amount of effort in the five and a half years I spent in South Sudan trying to get the system changed so the women’s lives would be easier but my approach was very Western and contrary to the culture of the village and surrounding area so it could not work. Change will only come when the women themselves figure out their own way to make the necessary changes.

When water is so difficult to get, every drop is treasured as it should be all over the earth. (We are so very privileged to live in a developed country, especially in British Columbia, to have such an abundance of water that we think nothing of letting a faucet–not found in any home in Akot, South Sudan–run until the water is either cold or hot to our liking!!)

The women and girls gather two or three times a day to pump the water needed to drink, cook, and wash clothes and bodies. It goes without saying that the wells are a place of news, gossip, and community. Blessedly, there are occasions when the message of the gospel is shown and seen in the interactions at the well.

In our scripture for the day, Abraham’s servant was sent from Canaan to Abraham’s relatives to find a wife for Isaac. Knowing that the women visited the village well each day to get water for their families, the servant went to the well at the very first and set the criteria for knowing the woman the Lord would choose as Isaac’s wife, i.e. That she would offer the servant a drink upon request and would water his camels without request. Rebecca appeared even before the servant finished the prayer and met the criteria showing, without doubt in the servant’s mind, God’s choice for Isaac. Follow up with Rebecca’s family confirmed God’s work and will.

Reflecting on these two stories prompts me to believe that when we seek out and go to the essential core of issues, questions, and/or life’s challenges and pray for God’s leading and revelation, we will find God’s answers to our needs, our longings, our purpose. May it be so.

Judy Doll is a retired high school shop teacher who lives in Coast Salish Territories in the Cascadia bio-region, mostly in Vancouver BC and sometimes in Bellingham WA. She is active with Streams of Justice and the Baptist Peace Fellowship.

Wild Lectionary, a weekly blog on ecological justice themes in scripture, is curated by Laurel Dykstra, gathering priest of Salal + Cedar, Coast Salish Territory.

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