Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

December 2, 2012

Walter Albritton


Water from a village well caused her not to feel old anymore


When Dean and I returned from our long journey to Africa in 2006 we assumed we would never return. We wanted to go back but it seemed foolish at our age to make the trip again. Dean’s bad knee was reason enough to dismiss the idea. By 2010 she could hardly walk but was convinced, because of other health issues, that she should not have this second knee replaced. Finally she decided to risk the surgery at age 78; death would be preferable to spending her remaining years in a wheelchair. Six months later she was walking beautifully, without pain.

A year ago we decided we could go back. We announced to our friends Alfred and Muumbe Kalembo in Lusaka that we would return to celebrate our 80th birthdays with them during 2012. As the time neared to make airline reservations I realized the cost was beyond our reach. Then God arranged a miracle; some friends offered to help us go! And other friends helped us enjoy a beautiful time in London on the way to Zambia. We were convinced God wanted us to return to see his gracious work in Zambia!

Going to Zambia changed us. We saw the desperate need of millions of people for clean water. So we have been trying to help. Our wonderful church, Saint James UMC, has now generously provided funds to drill 29 wells in Zambia. And other churches are providing even more wells.

I invited Dean to share from her heart about our trip and the call of God to help the poor in one African nation. May the convictions she shares in this report make a difference in your life:   

                                                WELLS OF SALVATION

For over six years I have done a lot of thinking about water wells.  What is the history of digging wells?  A watering place has been the focal point of life.  A water well is an excavation or structure created in the ground by digging, driving, boring or drilling to access ground water.  Before excavation you must get information about the geology of the area.  The water table depth must be found.  Research reveals that the oldest known well ever found was in Israel.  It was dug about 8100-7500 BC during the Neolithic era.  So wells have been one of humans’ earliest construction activities.  It is not an easy task to dig a hole through layers of soil, limestone and shale but people must have water to survive.

Three powerful passages of scripture show us why God has placed such great meaning in the need for water.

            Isaiah 12:3 - “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”

            John 4:14 - Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

            Revelation 7:16 - “Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst.  The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

The first powerful idea is that when we offer Christ to people and they receive Him, there will be within each person a well.  We each can joyfully draw from our well at all times.  My heart’s desire for Zambia is to bring to them water for their bodies, but more importantly I desire to bring them Jesus Christ, who is the water life.  With him no one will ever thirst again.

When I asked Bradley Pemberton what “Water 282” meant, he said it refers to 2 Corinthians 8:2 -  “Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” Bradley is chair of the board that is supporting the work of Jacob Eubanks in linking churches with Zambian villages that need clean water.

The bottom line for us can be found the Paul’s powerful words, “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”    

A man of God prayed for me to receive this living water and I became alive in Christ.  Since that day I have wanted every person I know to have this Living Water, who is Jesus Christ.

Having a passion for something means laboring just for love and not to ask for any reward.

             Lutie Cone was my neighbor in Nashville.  She had just turned 70 and had retired.  She was depressed and she felt lonely and old.  When someone shared with her that they were doing volunteer work at Clover Bottom School, a school for mentally challenged children, Lutie thought, “Why don’t I do that?” The day came for her to meet the child assigned to her and it thrilled her soul.  They laughed and talked with each other and Lutie asked him, “What would you like for me to bring you tomorrow?  He replied, “Bring me some sausage biscuits.” 

She got up the next morning and said to her aching bones, “Get up old tired bones, we are going see my baby.”  When she came to the school that day, the two of them sat out under a tree and ate sausage biscuits together.  They hugged each other and spent the whole day having fun.  Lutie said to me, “I didn’t feel old anymore.” When I stood by our 29th well and named it Jacob’s well after Jacob Eubanks, and we all splashed water on each other, suddenly I didn’t feel old anymore. 

My interest in water for the thirsty of the world got started in 1967 when I stood beside a small river in Nepal watching women wash clothes in a stream.  There were people bathing in the same water, but what grabbed me the most was women dipping their buckets into the same water for drinking and cooking food.  I have never gotten how I felt when the missionary who was with me said, “These people are called untouchables.”  Seeing the poorest of the poor needing clean water gave me a passion to do whatever I could to help such people. Like the woman at the well who was seeking for the water of life, I too am seeking new ways to help others find water for bodies and souls.

Why Zambia?  Why now?  The door may soon be closed for Christians to come to teach and preach.  The Muslims are moving in fast from the north and are also digging wells and building schools.  Isaiah 55:6 “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call on Him while he is near.” Years ago when Alfred Kalembo came into our lives, we joined with him in his dream to help his people have clean water.  This great need broke our hearts.  His mother walked for miles with a bucket on her head to bring dirty water back to her village.                                    

When Frazer Sunday School Class dug the first of 29 wells we blessed that well with this name, “Jesus loves me Well.” We desired that this well would not only bring water for the body but Living Water for the soul.   The people of Saint James joined us and Alfred with a yearning desire to help homeless children have a home and thirsty people find water. 

For one billion people across our world water is scarce.  Too many spend their entire day searching for it.  In a poor village the infrastructure changes when a well is dug.  Clean water means health. Water scarcity means poverty.  Bricks can be made for clinics; schools can be built and crops can grow for food.  Water brings education because schools can be built; water brings food for the hungry when crops can be watered.  Water is the foundation of life, a basic human need.  Overall infrastructure is lacking when there is no water.  When wells are built and water sanitation facilities are developed then there is hope. 

When there is an economic scarcity of water it means that water can be found but more resources are required to get to it.  When there is a physical scarcity, it means that there is no water to be found.  In Zambia water is within reach.  Worldwide, one out of every 5 deaths of children under 5 is due to a water-related disease.

Last month in Zambia we visited a goat-herder who is trying to eke out a living on 40 acres of land.  About eight years ago the government of Zambia gave Alfred this 40 acres of land with the stipulation that he could keep the property if he made it productive.   

Our group traveled four hours over impossible roads to reach this acreage.  When we got there Alfred said they lived at the top of a hill and we would have to walk.  They all looked at me and said “Dean, can you make it?”  Can I make it?  You just watch!  When we got to the top we found a little girl and her little brother.  No mother or father.  A pot of beans was cooking over a fire.  Looking back down the hill we saw a mother carrying a baby on her back and a bucket of water on her head.  She had walked three miles for clean water.                   

Girls and women do most of the fetching of water. I asked Alfred if she went to a clinic to have her children and he said no the father delivered the babies.  The father appeared about that time and showed us the new house he was building for his family.  As I stood there on that hill I came to this realization.  They need a well and they need more goats.  This may seem like a like large order but God specializes in things thought impossible.  When we care about the least of those around us, God gives us the power to carry out our dreams. 

Six years ago God gave us a dream to build a home for Catherine, Alfred sister, and Catherine’s daughter, Linda, who is 15. The Frazer Class undertook and completed this project.  We visited Catherine in her home.  She has opened her home to four orphans who now live under her care. Our church dug a well near her home and that well furnishes water for more than a hundred  people living in that area.  Linda is a beautiful girl and doing well in school.

How did I become interested in water?  Seeing people bathing, washing and drinking in the same water source convinced me that I must do what I could to help people in need of water.

We have seen our role as simply digging one more well in one more village, but I realize also that we must search for better ways of helping each village.  Thousands die daily from lack of water, both drinking water and drinking from the well of salvation.

When an old woman, like me, sees a need, what does she do?  Since my time may be short, I am in a hurry.  If I believe that I am a put here to serve God and He has put me in a place where I have seen unspeakable need, I believe God expects me to be a part of the solution.  That is where passion comes in.  Passion is what I am willing to do for love.  My desire is to reach out to as many people as I can with the message of salvation through Jesus Christ.

Whether you help dig wells in Zambia or buy a goat for a young man eking out a living on 40 acres of land, the important thing for each of us is to receive the Living Water of Christ into our lives and believe that there is power available for us to do to do anything that God is leading us to do.  Let everyone give, in the words of Paul, as his heart tells him, neither grudgingly nor under compulsion for God loves the man who gives cheerfully.  I may be 80 but I plan to celebrate life as long as I live and do what I can to help thirsty people find and drink clean water and Living Water. + + +