Water of Life
In the late 1850s, a French explorer named Henri Mouhot traveled the Mekong River and its tributaries through the homeland of the Bassac people. The distance we now drive in a few minutes took him weeks by boat and elephant. The cities looked different then, not entirely dissimilar to Native American communities. Then as now, the Bassac people irrigated their fields with river water. Back then, they carried the water by hand. Now they use pumps, saving themselves untold hours of labor.
The principle that applied in Mouhot’s time is still true today: without water, there is no food. Vegetables, fish and rice all depend on water. The Bassac depend on these staples to live, so they always build their homes near waterways.
The Bassac have been through a lot—war, industrialization, culture shifts and forced relocations. Their ingenuity, adaptability and connection to the water remained steady through it all. During the Vietnam War, bombs rained from the skies and dotted their fields with large craters. The immediate results were disastrous to the Bassac, but they adapted. The craters filled with water, and the Bassac used them to water their livestock, irrigate their crops and raise fish. Using what was meant for their destruction, they were able to develop new means of sustenance.
In the Bassac language, the word for meal is synonymous with rice. Every meal has a portion of rice, the foundation of their diet. Rice grows in flooded fields. Jephthae and I sometimes join the Bassac in planting rice. The mud often comes up to our ankles and sometimes our calves. A network of walking paths runs along the top of the short walls of hardened mud that border the rice paddies and control the flow of water. During the harvest, the water flow is shut off from the paddies, and the ground dries and hardens. This keeps the rice from spoiling and makes it easier to harvest. After the rice harvest comes the dry season. The paddies dry up completely, and the clay turns rock-hard. During this time when nothing is growing, the people rely on what they have stored. If enough water is available, they grow vegetables through the dry season, but many families don’t have ready access to rivers or wells. When water is scarce, it must be trucked in from miles away. Sometimes the rice runs out, and the Bassac people go hungry. A bad crop one year or a change in river level can be devastating. These people are too poor to buy rice at the markets.
We would like to spread word among the Bassac people about a long-term solution to their struggle for survival. There is a Well that is everlasting. A Spring that never dries up. A River whose banks overflow. A Harvest of eternal measure. It’s not just about filling bellies with rice, but about everlasting hope. Souls who draw from this Well will not die but have life eternal. This is written in God’s Word and lived out in Jesus’ life. Conceived from a Father’s heart of love and given freely as a gift, this Water doesn’t require walking for miles, digging irrigation ditches or paying money. It brings Life empowered by the Spirit of God. If the Bassac learn of this Water, they will hunger no more.
The Bassac people will have decisions to make. They have grown up in their traditional ways, and letting go of their superstitious beliefs will take an act of God, quite literally. They know where to go for water that comes and goes, but Water that springs up eternally is hard for them to imagine. They have adapted to hardship and learned to make the best of it. But they will face a new challenge—to give up the old man and be clothed in Christ’s garments. To take up His cross and follow Him. In God’s power, we want to show them that there is a Way.
Would you help us lead the Bassac people to the Water of Life?