The following is a reflection from my dad and i thought it might be appreciated here. he wrote it for Prison Fellowship volunteers - he coordinates this organizations volunteer work in victoria, australia. [you might remember this other piece from kev]
Recently I saw a photo of an animal skin that had been made into a water container and was full of water. In the photo there were other containers scattered around all full of water, they were hard strong plastic, some blue and some white or transparent, but there was this one animal skin (maybe from a mid sized cow) that would have contained about 30 liters of precious water
The photo was sent to us from our Son in law who, along with our Daughter Narelle and our two little grand daughters have been living in N’Djamena, Chad. Sandy is a pilot with Missionary Aviation Fellowship and has been flying groups of people across Chad and into southern Sudan. Sometimes medical people to the refugee camps, or United Nations people and on this flight a group of people who were doing a survey of the wells and water supply of the desert people.
In a climate where for most of the year the daily temperature is in the mid 40’s and sand and dust storms can last weeks, water is scarce and precious. When a well runs out it can mean that animals and people die. So when the United Nations or the government dig a good well, then the people will travel many kilometers to fill their containers, it is the “Water of Life” to them.
When I saw the animal skin full of water I thought that here was a person who couldn’t afford a plastic water container, but still being desperate for water, used the age old method of liquid storage (remember the wineskins of the Bible) and set to work to make their own water container. In our western culture it is hard for us to understand that type of poverty, where even the basic essentials are so uncertain and life hangs on such a thin thread. I was thinking about prison ministry and our care for people in the prison system, their need for the “the Living Water” (John 4; 10-14) and the containers that they use to receive the life giving water. I think that most of us who visit inside the prisons would recognise that there are the “poor” who don’t have the normal containers. They are thirsty, they still need the precious “Water of Life”, that need and the answer to their need doesn’t change, but the container is often different. Instead of it being a theological explanation or a sermon on the Salvation story, the “water of life” may need to be found in the context of care for the person and their family during the difficult time of imprisonment. A building of trust and friendship where we seek to reflect accurately something of God’s love, grace, and goodness. As they learn of God’s love through our caring actions, then perhaps the questions will come, but the “living water” will usually need to be delivered in “different” containers.