Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Youth in ACTION!

This past week for our youth service on Friday afternoons, we decided to go up the mountain and participate in group bonding activities. We hiked up, singing and dancing our favorite choruses along the way, and we attracted many youth who were not planning on attending the service, but saw us parading up the mountain and decided to join. We found a nice shade tree and began our group bonding activities, which were quite successful in bringing us closer. We had a grand time, and on the way down the mountain, we basically ran down singing at the top of our lungs and dancing at the same time... This is potentially one of my favorite moments of all time from youth, and I wish to share it with you now. The energy and passion which each and every one of these youth members have is inspiring, and I hope to keep this with me when I return to the States... Enjoy!

~Heather Anne Nelson

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The God of Water

Tap…. Tap… Rat-a-tapp-TAP. BOOM!

I am awoken to a midnight thunderstorm sending rain pouring down on my tin-roofed house by the buckets. There is no such thing as a quiet rain when you live under tin, but I have found the rains here relaxing just the same, despite their volume. And as I hear the rain pounding and then sliding down my roof, I smile because I know that tomorrow I will have plenty of water to do my washing. Maybe I can even wash my blankets! The rain will fill the buckets which my neighbors and I have strategically placed, and save us a few trips with the wheelbarrow to the water pump. This is just one of the many water conservation techniques that I have picked up from the people here in Masealama.

When you live without running water, I have noticed that you become more conscious of water and its role in our daily lives. We all know that water sustains us and all of God’s creation. As humans we are composed of more than 60% water and can only live for a few days without it. Streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, oceans, and rains provide us with water for drinking, cleaning, cooking, growing, plants, generating power, and various forms of entertainment. Look around you, everything that you see was made possible in some way by water! Even non-living things in this world are heavily impacted by water. The stratified rocky slopes of the Grand Canyon would not have been possible without the fast moving Colorado River to slowly cut through the rock. The Grand Canyon, Victoria Falls, and spring flowers are all excellent examples of the many blessings that water provides, but let us not forget the other side of water- the destructive side.

A few weeks ago Japan was hit with a tsunami which caused massive damage and destruction. We all saw the images of houses and cars alike being picked up and moved around like your morning bowl of cereal flooded with milk. We remember the similar catastrophe which hit Sri Lanka a few Christmas’ back, and the devastating effects of the pounding waves of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans. Here in South Africa we recently experienced flooding which left many people who inhabited the river banks homeless, especially those in informal settlements. On a broader scale, water creates physical barriers between continents, countries, cultures, and people that create division and separation among our human race. If our continents were still gathered into Pangaea without large oceans separating them, would the world wars have occurred? Without the physical separation of the prosperous North from the poverty-stricken South, would we currently be experiencing the same disparity of wealth and resources? The distribution and usage of water also causes issues, and many say this will be the cause of the Third World War. Water is not always the good guy.

Water pervades all, sustains all, is majestic and awesome, but it can also cause destruction and fear. I believe there is a reason why Greek mythology chose one of their most powerful gods to be the god of water- Poseidon. Water is powerful- it can create and it can destroy- water is godly.

But water by itself does not destroy like the waters of the moody Greek god Poseidon. It is through the worldly influences of nature and humankind that the destruction is caused. Earthquakes lead to deadly tsunamis. Our poor treatment of the environment leads to global warming which causes rising tides. Our waste leads to unclean drinking water and deadly diseases. Just as water itself is not the root cause of destruction, I also believe that God does not cause destruction on this planet, but rather we do. In the imperfections of our humanity we create our own worldly demise through the sin and evil to which we succumb. But as we live through this world God is always there with us, through the good times and the bad, and can therefore easily acquire a bad reputation for destruction- much like water.

While here in Masealama, water is frequently on my mind (and coincidentally or not, so is God). My rural location without running water forces me to be conscious of how I use water or how I abuse it. Curious as to how my life here in South Africa compares to my typical life back in the United States, I recorded my water usage for a week, and here is what I found.

Weekly I use the following amounts of water directly from the pump for:

BATHING- 20 litres (5.3 gallons)

DRINKING- 9 litres (2.4 gallons)

COOKING & DISHES- 7.5 litres (2 gallons)

FACE, HANDS, and TEETH- 5.25 litres (1.4 gallons)

TOTAL 41.75 litres (11.1 gallons)

I collect rainwater and utilize it for the following:

WASHING- 6 litres (1.6 gallons)

CLEANING- 1 litre (.3 gallons)

TOTAL 7 litres (1.8 gallons)

I then reuse water from bathing and washing for:

TOILET- 17.5 litres (4.6 gallons)

Therefore I use 66.25 litres (17.5 gallons) of water a week, 37% of which is recycled.

That leaves my daily water usage at about 9.5 litres (2.5 gallons) a day. Compared to the average North American who uses 262.5 litres (69.3 gallons) of water indoors a day, I use 96% less water in South Africa than I typically would in the States if I were to be using a shower, dishwasher, washing machine, flushing toilet, and faucets. 96%!?! Granted I have challenged myself to using the least amount of water possible for each task, so a typical South African most definitely uses more water than I am currently using. But by being smart and creative with how my water is utilized, I have found that I can make my one blue barrel of water last for a week or two- thus limiting my trips to the water pump and doing my part to save the environment at the same time.

Before I came to Masealama and had to obtain my own water, I was not aware of how much water I consumed on a daily basis. Because it magically came flowing from the taps and into the machines and faucets that I used, I did not think twice about my use or abuse of water. However, now that I have become aware it makes me wonder- is our abuse of water reflective of our abuse of other blessings on this earth, including God? When things are simply given to us do we not forget to be thankful for such gifts, and end up abusing them as well? When things are going well in our lives, do we not forget to thank the Lord? I know that I am guilty of all of the above. Just as I had forgotten the power and importance of water in this world before Masealama, I also had a tendency to forget the power and importance of God pervading all aspects of my life.

So as the night rains come to an end and I no longer wake up to the pounding of God on my roof, I hope that my awareness of his omnipotent presence in this world will remain and I will continue to be grateful and respectful of the blessings which flow with God’s glory, especially water.

~Heather Anne Nelson