According to the United Nations Development Program, half of the world's hospital beds are currently filled with people suffering from a water-related disease. In 2003, Kofi Annan, secretary general of the United Nations, shared this sobering word: “In developing countries, as much as 80 percent of illnesses are linked to poor water and sanitation conditions.”

Salvationists in the Canada and Bermuda Territory must recognize that we are some of the most fortunate people on earth, enjoying clean, safe, life-bringing water. Helping our brothers and sisters around the world to access safe water is a goal of our world missions department and is demonstrated in our project funding.

We are at the halfway point in a five-year project that began in 2013 to provide safe water in 24 selected areas of Sri Lanka. A high rate of kidney disease in the area, with many people now needing dialysis, was directly traced to contaminated water. The inadequate number of wells for the affected communities has meant that many must walk for hours each day to secure water for that day's use. Agriculture is also suffering and the despair that surrounds this water issue has led to an unusually high suicide rate.

Our goal is to demonstrate the love of God through the practical assistance of drilling boreholes and establishing water supply facilities. This partnership will help up to 1,750 vulnerable families access safe, clean water for their home and agricultural use.
In developing countries, as much as 80 percent of illnesses are linked to poor water and sanitation conditions

As I thought about the life-giving quality of water, I was reminded of how often Scripture uses the image of water to signify spiritual renewal and new life. The prophet Isaiah, sharing a word from God, challenged the people to lift their eyes from temporary and passing realities and focus on the spiritual blessings that come from being in right relationship with God. “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessings on your descendants” (Isaiah 44:3).

In the New Testament, Jesus spoke of water (see John 4:13-15), living water (see John 7:38) and the spring of the water of life (see Revelation 21:6) when describing the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God's presence with us, and the Spirit ministers to us by leading us to the source of life and the solution to our spiritual sickness, a malady from which we all suffer.

General Albert Orsborn, often referred to as the poet-General, wrote these beautiful words:

When shall I come unto the healing waters?
Lifting my heart, I cry to thee my prayer.
Spirit of peace, my Comforter and healer,
In whom my springs are found, let my soul meet thee there.

From a hill I know,
Healing waters, flow:
O rise, Immanuel's tide,
And my soul overflow! (SASB 647)

Author Major Rob Birks helps us understand General Orsborn's imagery when he shares, “There is no question when Orsborn speaks of healing waters flowing from a hill, he's referring to Jesus Christ and the blood he shed for all humankind.”

There will be great rejoicing when our brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka benefit from the clean water that will result from our water-project partnership. We also rejoice when our brothers and sisters right here in Canada and Bermuda discover the new life found in the healing waters of a right relationship with God. As General Orsborn reminds us in another stanza of that song, “Light, life and love are in that healing fountain.”

Are you thirsty today? Jesus says, “Come to me and drink” (John 7:37).

Colonel Mark Tillsley is the chief secretary for the Canada and Bermuda Territory.

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