It’s an extremely hot and dusty afternoon. The 88°F sun is holding its own against a faint breeze that seems on the verge of giving up. Bright green, pink and red buckets are piled on fine sand at various points around the school, like progressive abstract art in mid-construction. Several male workers stand attentively around a tap waiting for the first trickle of water, so they can scoop all the precious liquid into the hundreds of buckets that are ready and waiting.
Kolanya Girls’ Secondary School has been fighting a severe water shortage. All 1248 female students who board at the school rely on a 10000-liter plastic tank to supply their dormitories with water. On lucky days, it fills up with water from the one borehole that the school relies on, but that is a distant memory now. The water level has been extremely low for over a year, and life has been tough for all concerned. The Principal at the school, Ms. Fanis Manyala, carries the biggest burden. She must ensure that the students have access to a clean and healthy water supply at all times. On this day, she tells me that she has been up since 4:00 AM and had personally trekked a few kilometers with her students to a neighboring boys’ school in search of water, before welcoming Rahab and I to the school at 8:30AM, and then immediately dashing off to an important meeting at a different location.
It’s almost 12:00 noon, and another group of girls, accompanied by their teacher, exits their classroom to go on this important excursion in search of water. I watch them walking down a dusty road ahead of me, chatting animatedly with one another like teenagers do. They look like a unified, but unwieldy army intent on fulfilling an important mission. I marvel at their strength of character and their discipline. The girls are cheerful and cooperative. This is a community that has learned to work together in order to survive the hardships they face during this dry season in their lives. I find myself wondering about my own response to life when the dry season hits. What’s my attitude? And how much effort do I put into finding the true source of living water, (Isaiah 55: 1a) and who exactly are my compatriots on this journey?
These rural students face severe hurdles in their quest for education, but nothing seems to phase them. They take every challenge in stride; and even this severe water shortage does not deter them from showing up in the classroom for early morning study which begins at 6.00AM sharp! Most of the Esther’s Hope Ministries students posted greatly improved grades at the end of 2018, with an impressive number of them scoring A’s and B’s. The most common phrase we heard in our conversations with them was, “I promise to work hard; I will not let my sponsor down.” Many of the girls revealed how desperately they had prayed for education sponsorships before Esther’s Hope Ministries came along. Some called it a “miracle,” others called their sponsors, “angels.” I suspect that the pep in their step as they search for water now, comes from their new-found confidence and belief that God hears their desperate prayers.
Rahab and I were truly amazed at how confident these young women have become in just one year. When we first met them, many were timid and uncertain, like empty buckets waiting to be filled; but now they are much more vibrant and hopeful. Their personalities are beginning to blossom because they know that they are loved, by you and by God. On behalf of all the 101 girls in the Esther’s Hope program, thank you for every sacrifice you have made in the name of Christ. “For… I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink (Matthew 25: 35a).”