Today is Blog Action Day once again. This year the theme is water, something we all too easily take for granted in the developed countries. We turn a tap, even the poorest of us, and out it comes, clean, sparkling and life-giving, good to drink and lovely to look at. You can even wash in it.
And yet it isn’t so for so many of us. African women walk over 40 billion hours each year carrying cisterns weighing up to 18 kilograms to gather water, which is usually still not safe to drink. Every week, nearly 38,000 children under the age of 5 die from unsafe drinking water and unhygienic living conditions. Many scholars attribute the conflict in Darfur at least in part to lack of access to water. A report commissioned by the UN found that in the 21st century, water scarcity will become one of the leading causes of conflict in Africa.
Some of us live in water, use it to breathe, to bring us all our food. Our sisters and brothers, the fish and the whales, are like this. Yet their homes, the world’s oceans and rivers, are terribly polluted. There is an excellent educational website I discovered here, too.
There are many ways to help. One of the best ways to start is by clicking on the widget you’ll see just to the right of this post, in the blog sidebar.
There are people working on solutions and new tools that help us to do our part to address the water crisis: Organisations like Water.org and charity: water are leading the charge in bringing fresh water to communities in the developing world. We can all take small steps to help keep pollution out of our rivers and streams, like correctly disposing of household wastes.
But all this information is gleaned from other sources. I’m no expert in water pollution, though I did need to know the basics in order to run a profitable, environmentally responsible dairy herd, as I did for years. But I wrote a piece for 2008’s Blog Action Day (which was all about poverty) in which I said some things I don’t think I could better today:
I'm not an ingenious person, economically, and I've never been any use to any fundraising initiative, beyond holding the odd collecting tin. Kiva Loans and the economics of poverty in marginalised communities make my head spin. But I can pray.
Prayer is so often seen as a last resort: "We've tried everything, and nothing works. All we can do is pray!" But if we are Christians, if we really believe Jesus' words in Matthew 7, "Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened…" prayer should be our first resort.
I've said so often in this blog that most of my readers will know what is coming next before I type it, but it isn't even necessary to know what to pray for, in order to pray. Yes, of course we can, and should, inform ourselves in every way possible, about poverty, and the many global initiatives to combat it; but we don't need to frame in thoughts and words what we feel God should do about it. We need only to hold the needs of the world on our hearts before God, remembering that "the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God." (Romans 8.26-27)
God will use our tears, our bafflement, our frustration, in ways we cannot imagine, and may never know.
Please pray. Please don't think, as I am tempted to think sometimes, "It's no use, I can't do anything about this." But be prepared, always, to be part of God's answer to your own prayers. He may have uses for you, for me, that we've never even begun to think of…