Streams in the desert
Longing for water, for the land and the soul
Kansas feels like a valley of dry bones, but there’s still a stream in the desert at Camp Mennoscah. “It’s flowing, but slow,” said John Regier, a summer staffer from Beatrice, Neb., describing the Ninnescah River, which runs through the Mennonite camp. “About ankle deep.”
Mennoscah’s sandy plain usually feels like a desert by midsummer. The weather had been torrid for at least a month, so more than 100 high school campers fully expected to sweat out a week of 105-degree days as July melted into August. But they loved Mennoscah anyway. “We get them in the pool as much as we can and drink lots of water,” Regier said Aug. 2. “They can handle it.”
A poolside plunge would do us all good. From the Southwest through the Central Plains to the Upper Midwest, the worst drought in decades has decimated crops and drained rivers. At the beginning of August, half the nation’s corn crop was rated poor to very poor. More than three-fifths of the continental U.S. was experiencing moderate drought or worse — a disaster rivaling the Dust Bowl drought of 1934.
As crops fail, food prices will rise around the world. Livestock farmers, needing high-priced corn and hay to feed their cattle, will be hard hit. Rural congregations and the host of organizations they help sponsor will feel the impact of members’ economic stress.
Scanning the sky in a vain search for rain clouds reminds us water is precious. We speak lightly about praying for rain or doing a rain dance. But Scripture speaks of water as a holy commodity, a sustainer of life, a symbol of God reviving the barren earth.
“See, I am doing a new thing!” says Isaiah 43:19. “Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”
Sometimes the wasteland that needs reviving lies within us. “My soul thirsts for you,” says Psalm 63:1. “My body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”
Relief for our soul’s thirst springs from Jesus Christ, who described himself as the source of water with miraculous power. “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst,” he tells a Samaritan woman in John 4:14. “Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Water is a source of joy and a sign of God’s presence: “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells” (Psalm 46:4).
Water symbolizes the promise of life in Christ: “Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life” (Rev. 22:17).
This summer, the parched land would gladly receive the free gift of a thunderous downpour. Eventually, it will. God “sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt. 5:45). We’ll take that as a promise that someday the trickling rivers will gush.
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