Wednesday, January 18, 2017
“We are living through a time of sorrow. Our seed remains seed. Our nostrils are dusty.” ― Warren Eyster
I’m not saying that this drought is the worst one ever, but for the first time in eleven years, our well ran dry. The submersible pump that is usually covered by five to ten meters of water was just hanging there in the air. Just last week, we could pump out 5,000 liters and it would regenerate within three hours. Now, it takes three days to get enough water back into the well to pump for twenty minutes. We have two wells, one is for the community, but it is shallower and has been bone dry for months. Right at this moment, Shaban is in town talking to the government about registering our place for city water that is pumped up our hill from Lake Victoria. Our Australian Anglican missionary friends have been using city water for the last nine years or more, so we know it works. What we don’t know is if the water level of Lake Victoria has dropped enough to put the city’s pumps in the air. It does happen. If they are able to pump water, we will have to pay for the pipes and dig the trenches to connect it to the main which is on the other side of the main road, quite a ways from here. The pipes alone will cost about a million shillings ($500), and we will have to pay for the trenches to be dug and do all the labor ourselves for everything except hooking our pipe onto the main. Of course, we will have a water bill but it shouldn’t amount to much. The water will have to be filtered, of course, but it will take the strain off our well. The aquafer has dropped almost ten meters in the last year. This is bad. We are already into our water shortage routine which means no watering outside, less clothes washing, less toilet flushing, fewer showers, and more store bought bottled water to drink—and prayers for all our neighbors. I have many strange things going on with my body, but one is that it doesn’t sweat, so I don’t have the normal cooling effect that brings with it. Thus, I need two to three showers a day during the hot parts of the year, like now but no showers for me. Not asking for sympathy, just sayin’.
I just came back from Mwanza where I had a meeting with a bishop from the Tanzania Methodist Church (not us, we are the Methodist Church in Tanzania). What he wanted was for me to help with school fees for his daughter and I agreed—but I wouldn’t give him the money. He drove me to the school and I paid them so she wouldn’t be kicked out this week. Yes, I don’t trust all bishops, and yes, I am a sucker for helping children with their educations, especially if they’re girls, but what can you do? A taxi driver in Mwanza who I had also helped with school fees for his son wanted me to meet his mother. She had been asking to meet me, so last week I called him and told him I would be there Monday and would be happy to meet her. When I called him yesterday afternoon, he told me she had died on Friday at age 63 of a heart attack. We never got to meet in this life—maybe later. On our trip back, the effects of the drought were very obvious. Almost nine out of every ten people walking or with a bicycle had water containers with them. The children had small pails, the adults tubs, wash tubs, buckets, anything that would hold water. If they were walking fast or riding their bicycles, the containers were empty. Slow walks, and containers on the heads of the women meant they were full. If there were full containers on bicycles, the owner would be walking and pushing the bicycle. In one four minute stretch of road, I counted over 150 water containers of varying sizes and colors in the hands of the people on the road—from a single water bottle to five gallon containers. Some were getting thirty or forty gallons in containers on push carts, so they could sell the water to those who didn’t want to have to walk. We crossed three rivers that were completely dry, went by a dry lake, and then as we neared Bunda, saw a huge herd of wildebeest from the Serengeti that had come close to Bunda to get water.
Most of the electric power in Tanzania comes from hydroelectric generators whose lakes don’t have enough water to turn the turbines. The president has said that without sufficient rain, we are looking at power outages of three to four days a week beginning in May. It’s quite impossible for people who have never been without to fully comprehend what we are experiencing or to understand that thousands will die of hunger or thirst over the next few months just here in Tanzania. What we do know, and what we pray that all of you will understand is that this is happening to everyone here, not just the lazy or indolent. We need a lot of prayers. These are God’s children and the first tears shed at the deaths that will occur will be His. Let’s see if we can lessen God’s pain. The very next time you pick up a glass of water, stop, and send a brief prayer His way, asking for grace, comfort, strength, and rain for those who don’t have your blessings.