Water is Life

On September 13, 2023

Lazy waves lap against a gently sloping shore. A light breeze—barely cool to us, but cold to the natives—dances across my bare arms, the only coolness to be felt today. The morning is a symphony for the senses: the pungeant smell of fish; the squawking of birds as they gather to sneak a snack from the catch; the faint and growing glow of yellow and rusty orange as the sun rises over the mountains on the distant shore.

The village of Nyagina, on the shore of Africa’s largest lake, Victoria, wakes from a short night’s sleep.

Before long the sleepy scene begins to bustle as the fish workers prepare for the boats that trail to the shore. The long, thin, four-man vessels slide onto the bank with a slush, and the rush begins.

The women workers scoop omena—the small, silvery fish that are the mainstay of the diet in the neighboring town—from the boats into baskets borne on their heads to nets spread out along the shoreline. There they will dry until afternoon and be sold. 

The fishermen, who have been on the lake for twelve hours, step onto the shore, find their land legs, and head immediately for the corrugated metal houses that line the pathway to the road. They take off their life jackets and fishing gear and come out for their breakfasts.

This is life every single day for the people of Nyagina.

We had risen early and travelled with our friend Pastor Gombe to this meeting with the fish workers on the shore. As the foreman called them all together, sixty or so men and women gathered in a semicircle. We were there to do three things: thank them, bless them and pray for them.

We thanked them for the service they do for the community, for they bring in the harvest of fish for the rest of us.

We blessed them by bringing a message from the Word of God. Today it was a message from John’s gospel about hunger: the multiplying of the fish and loaves, and that Jesus is the bread of life that satisfies our true hunger. 

We prayed a prayer of blessing for the lake and the land, for the fish and the families. Water is life, and this lake is truly the source of life for this village. But we carry a message of another source of water, as Jesus declared, 

“Whoever drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)

The men and women on the shore that morning were quiet and attentive to the message. They were grateful for the prayer. I’m told this meeting may be a catalyst for a consistent outreach to them. May the spring of living water well up inside them all. 

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