“It is a miracle,” a woman said to my wife. It is not everyday that you get to see a miracle but today we were the blessed ones. Charles was the miracle worker. I asked him what it was a like to give communities a miracle almost everyday. He smiled but there was no irony. “We have a wonderful job. To do what we do and the impact it has is a joy.”
The miracle is clean water. A man sitting beside my wife a little later said. “Water is life. You can live without food. BUT without clean water, there is disease and death.”
Charles works for Fields Of Life and gets to bring water, the miracle of life, to communities all over Uganda. Today we are in the hills of Kassanda. It’s the sixteenth miracle that Charles, along with Washington, Isaac and Dennis have brought to that area in recent weeks.
We got to see the dirty water. People coming for water to ponds that they share with cows and pigs. The water was diseased enough to begin with. Now, even worse, the hills of Kassanda had seen recent gold finds. Companies are swamping the area, panning for gold in the soil. Once they have panned they are pouring mercury back into the streams; the water being used by locals.
These miracles of bore wells, that Fields Of Life are bringing across the hills, are changing lives and transforming communities. The new hope being built is tangible.
We were welcomed by parents and children and staff at Kiryamenyu Primary School. They had put flowers right down our path to their brand new Well. They sang to us, danced and lavished us with gifts of fruits some of which we already love, like Avocado, and others that we had never seen, like the huge and heavy Jack Fruit! For a poor community this was not much they said. There was an intake of breath when I told them that in Belfast an Avocado costs 5000 shillings!
The gratitude was something to behold. For me the best part of the speeches was “before the bore hole was given to us absenteeism was very high due to water born diseases like typhoid, cholera, dysentery, bilharzia etc which affected children’s performance and drop out was high. Girls in their monthly period could not attend school due to lack of water at school. This is all now reduced.”
Water is a miracle. It is life. It is hope. I envied Charles his job. And yet, as I see the tent that he and his team sleep under and realise that they are away from home for long stretches, this is hard work. Yet, Ugandans are never frightened of hard work, especially when they end up as miracles!
As I spoke to the community at Kiryamenyu I was aware that I was quoting Martin Luther to a Catholic parish! Luther said that every time we wash our faces we should remember our baptism, the old life gone and the new life begun. Following Jesus for us was providing them the resources to get water.
Fellow Northern Irishman Ross McQueen has been in Uganda for some six weeks researching his dissertation on the socialising aspects of the Water Well. One of the things he has learned and been sharing with Fields Of Life has been the maintenance of them. It is one thing to dig a borehole and move on. It is another thing that the boreal is still working in three years time. Training the community in how to use the Wells is vital.
So, I asked the community in Kiryamenyu that every time they used the water from the Well that they remembered their baptism and that they follow Jesus in making sure the Well is maintained and used for the good of the entire community.
I know I will never use water as complacently ever again. I will attempt to remember my baptism and what that means. I will also remember these communities and the miracle that they now have. I will also remember that drill and the water spurting out of the ground in Kagaba, bringing new life and hope!