I grew up in a very rural part of North Carolina, and I came to live with my grandparents when I was three days old. I called my grandparents mamma and daddy. We lived on a sharecroppers farm, in an old wooden four-bedroom home, and no indoor plumbing. Our source of fresh drinking water came from a hand pump that was outside.
I can still hear the sound of that old pump being primed each morning by the hands of my mamma, who was a good old Methodist, and she loved to sing. At just the right moment, with the joy of “Amazing Grace” echoing off her breath, and with the rhythm of her priming that pump the water would gush forth out of the ground much like a well-choreographed musical piece at the hand of a famous conductor. Without fail, our need for water was sufficiently supplied at her hands.
We worked hard as farmers and enjoyed the streams from that old pump, but there were parched places that a cup of water from that pump was not sufficient enough to handle the thirst of that moment. We had our hail storms, hurricane winds, droughts, insect attacks, and crops destroyed. We had our share of broken hearts and families, deaths, failures, and life-draining situations. So, in those moments, I was taught about a different kind of water from a pump on the pages of a book we called the Bible.
In the evenings, around the old fireplace, until we moved up to a wood heater, we read the Bible each evening and sang out of our old hymnal. We took turns reading the Bible even though I was very young, and daddy would talk about what we had heard and prayed.
Each evening, this Water-Word of God strengthened our bones, our resolve for the tolls ahead, and the droughts that would come. Our lives taught us that we had better be ready at all times because we never really knew where the next drought might show up. As a young child, I got sick and had to go into a small town for medical care, and I saw this wonderful man called Dr. Bender, and he sent us to the pharmacy for medicines. So, I sat down at the counter whenever we arrived to get something cold to drink, and daddy rushed over and told me I had to get up. I didn’t understand, and I was thirsty. He said they would not give you anything to drink here. I left thirsty.
Those parched places throughout my life could have broken me, but my mamma and daddy gave me water that had come from the throne of God. This Water has strengthened my bones for the journey to continue throughout my life, and out of the overflow of God’s love, this strength has been shared in each congregation God has allowed me to serve in as a pastor. We all are in desperate need of this Water today, and I pray during our time of reflection in this season of Lent we will drink much from the Word of God. We need to stand at the pump of renewal.
Dear Lord, I ask that you allow each of us to be watered by your Word and strengthened in the droughts of our lives in ways that will enable each of us to be empowered to go forth and refresh others with the joy of our love in you. Amen
Rev. Sylvia Collins-Ball is the pastor of City Road UMC in Elizabeth City