by Wye Huxford
My wife and I were both in graduate school, had part-time jobs, and a weekend ministry in a little church in rural Kentucky. As summer approached the issue of Vacation Bible School arose and somehow we convinced the church to do an evening VBS – despite the "we've never done it that way" initial response.
I was taking first year Hebrew, a decision that might not have been among my best, and Vicki was taking a class required as a part of her graduate degree in music. We both were in class, worked a few hours in our part-time jobs, Vicki practiced for her masters degree organ recital, we drove to Kentucky in late afternoon, did VBS, drove back home, and got ready for class the next day.
Friday night, sometime around 9 p.m., VBS was almost over. It was the "best VBS we've ever had" said one of the "we've never done it that way before" folks. We were both dead tired. One of the men in the church suddenly came up to me and said, "We are out of water." First of all, I didn't know you could do that in the U.S. – be out of water – and second of all, why was he telling me.
The church had a mobile home next door to the building and we often spent the weekends there. We were planning on doing that on this particular Friday night. But there was no water.
A family in the church told us we could come over and shower and get some water to bring back with us for coffee the next morning. The man who first told me about the problem said, "We will have the cistern refilled in the morning."
"Cistern?" I wasn't sure what one was, much less aware that was the source of our weekend drinking water! Growing up in the low country of South Carolina where water was just a few feet below ground level, I never imagined that the best approach to running water in this part of Kentucky would be a cistern.
Early that Saturday morning, I heard a truck backing up to the church building and curiosity got the best of me. By the time I got outside, they had pushed back a cover to a huge cement cistern on the back of the church building – something I had never noticed before. As the cistern filled, I noticed all manner of bugs, leaves, and assorted debris floating to the top. Eventually there was what looked like the carcass of a long-since deceased Mocking Bird! The water truck guy took a net and "cleaned it out for me."
Even though this was long before the common availability of bottled water, I don't think we ever failed to have some bottled water for drinking and cooking on the weekends after that.
As Jeremiah begins his explanation, on behalf of the Lord, for why Israel is in such deep trouble with God, he says:
Be appalled, O heavens, at this,
be shocked, be utterly desolate,
declares the Lord,
for my people have committed two evils;
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
broken cisterns that can hold no water."
Jeremiah 2:12, 13 ESV
I never read those words without thinking about that Mocking Bird carcass on the back of a little Kentucky church building. It reminds me of how foolish it is to walk away from a fountain of living water hoping to drink from a cistern that can hold no water. I suspect this great prophetic text could have been in the mind of Jesus when He told the woman in Samaria "Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (John 4:14).
So the question I am asking myself – and hoping you will ask yourself – at the beginning of a new year is simply this: "Where are you getting your drinking water?"
Springs or cisterns?
A little later Jeremiah, still speaking about Israel's forsaking of God, will say, "They were not ashamed at all, they did not know how to blush" (Jeremiah 6:15). That sounds an awful lot like our culture right now – and it probably reflects our seeking after empty cisterns rather than fountains of living water.
So – the question: springs or cisterns?
EES PROPERTY UPDATE
The sale of the EES building in Tübingen is final! The proceeds from the sale of Wilhelmstrasse 100 have been received and are being used to pay off outstanding debt and for the establishment of the Earl and OttieMearl Stuckenbruck Trust Fund. The sale of the condo is pending and should be finalized in January.
The sale of the two properties relieves the indebtedness of EES, but not the daily operating expenses. So regular support to the work of EES is still needed. We appreciate your continued financial and prayer support for the EES ministry.