Water in the Sudan

Some books, such as “The Long Walk for Water,” stay with me long after I return them to the shelf. Linda Sue Park wrote a fictionalized version about the real 1980s experiences of a Sudanese Lost Boy called Salva and his impact on a Sudanese girl, Nya, 25 years later.
Salva’s life changes abruptly the day his middle school teacher hears the Sudanese army approaching. “Leave, run as fast and as far as you can away from the army,” she said. She knew that the army forced young boys to join the army.
With just the clothes on his back, Salva runs away from the army, his school, family, home and security. For the next several years he depends on the kindness of strangers to survive. He travels with other war refugees seeking a safe place to rest.
At one point his uncle joins the band of refugees. He protects Salva across the desert to a refugee camp. When Salva wearies of walking, his uncle walks beside him, setting small goals, “Can you walk to that bush up there?” Salva does.
“Let’s walk to that hill.” Salva does. With a series of small goals, Salva learns to pace himself to finish the walk. HIs uncle also monitors Salva’s supply of water, limiting him to sips on their three day walk across the desert. The last day they come upon five men who died from lack of water.
After years in a refugee camp, an American family opens their home to Salva so he can finish his education. Salva has no clue if his family survived the war until a United Nation list of hospital patients lists his father as a patient receiving treatment for waterborne parasites. Salva visits him and wanted to return to their village and his family. His father says, “No. The soldiers will find you and force you to fight.”
Salva goes to the United States and helps establish “Water for South Sudan.” WFSS drills wells in villages to provide clean, safe water.
Late, his story crosses with Nya’s back in Sudan where Nya walks miles every day to fill her container with dirty water and carry it home, only to turn around and walk back for more. There is no time for school. The family needs water. One day Nya’s mother nods to the five-year-old sister and tells Nya, “take her with you, she has to learn.”
No time to learn the ABCs, the younger sister must learn learn the vital lesson, “We need water, and you can fetch it.”
Salva’s drilling team comes to Nya’s village. The villagers help by walking to the muddy hole of water and carrying it back for drilling of well. Once finished, the well releases Nya and other children from carrying water all day, every day. The village receives instructions on how to keep clean water flowing. Nya receives an additional blessing when WFSS begins building a school. No more walking. Now she can sit and learn how to read and write. All this because Salva and others came to drill wells to ensure everyone drinks clean water.
The book lingers in my thoughts as I consider the ease with which I utilize clean water, shelter, safety and education. “Water for South Sudan” continues to drill wells today. According to their website they have completed 577 wells to date, rehabbed about half of them to keep the wells working and held 678 hygiene trainings to keep the wells clean and emphasize the use of latrines.
Water means life, and if we give a cup of water in Christ’s name, Scripture promises we will not lose our reward. Such a simple thing – water – with such a big impact on whole villages of adults and children.