This past June I had the opportunity to get away from my project in the city and volunteer at a school for Karen refugees located in the mountains on the Thailand-Myanmar border. It was refreshing to have a change of pace from my normal duties and spend time outdoors doing manual labor. During my first day there, we discovered that certain parts of the campus were not getting any water. After checking a few of the pipes close by and finding very low water pressure, my friend Harvey, the principal of the school, told me that the next morning we would need to go to the water source, which was about 20 minutes away. I was excited for the opportunity to hike through the jungle.
The next morning, Harvey, two local Karen men and I grabbed our water bottles, umbrellas and tools and began the short trek to the water source. The overcast sky made the weather comfortable. We stopped and checked the water pipe at several points along the way to see if we could detect any changes in water pressure to help us locate the problem. As we neared the river we began to hear the soothing sounds of flowing water. Eventually our path intersected the river, and we waded through, relishing the coolness.
Finally, after about half an hour of hiking we arrived at the water source, which consisted of a homemade wooden trough with a blue pipe running through it. It was located next to a stream where water collected in a basin and then entered through a strainer into the pipe that led to the campus. Harvey located the problem immediately. The strainer was caked with mud, leaves, sticks, and other debris that blocked the water. He also discovered leaves and muck on the bottom of the catch basin that could easily flow to the trough and clog the pipe.
After cleaning the filter, we spent the next hour and a half removing the leaves and muck from the basin while one of the Karen men worked on shoring up the channel from the stream to the basin. It was a wet and dirty job, but being out in nature made it all worth it.
Once we finished there, we hiked up to another water source and cleaned out the gravel and muck that had accumulated in its basin. We arrived back at campus just in time for lunch, glad to see that the water was flowing again. We had fixed the problem, at least for the time being.
As I reflect on this experience, I can’t help but make a few spiritual applications. God has given us the water of life to share with a desperately thirsty world. We are His chosen vessels to carry His light. We are like pipes, God is the water source, and the Holy Spirit is the water that flows through us. As long as we keep our pipes clean, God’s Spirit can freely pour through us and out to a parched world. Sadly, though, often our pipes get clogged up with muck and debris—anything that interferes with our connection with God and inhibits His ability to fill us with His Spirit. When this happens, the people around us are deprived of the water of life.
Are you aware of the thirsty people around you? Is your life helping to quench their thirst, or is something clogging your pipes? Perhaps you could benefit from a little walk in the woods where you ask the Lord to show you the muck in your life. Ask Him to clean it out and make you an unobstructed vessel that His Spirit can freely flow through to reach a thirsting, dying world.