Leaving it late

Bakers Posted by Paul and Tania Baker on Fri, 19 Feb 2016 | 0 comments | Bookmark: digg this Post this to del.icio.us Post this to Facebook

Finding a reliable source of water isn’t so easy in the Ugandan bush. There’s no national water supply – you need to find your own.

About half a mile down the road, we have a borehole. Years ago, someone discovered two underground rivers and dug an 80-foot hole where they cross. That’s where we have a submersible water pump. When the electricity is on, it pumps water all the way up to a huge 70,000-litre water tank, which is raised up on a steel framework at the highest point of the hospital’s compound. All hospital wards and other buildings are fed water via a network of pipes from this huge tank. Staff and patients also use this supply for drinking.

As you can imagine, this borehole, water pump and big tank are very important. At any one time, up to 1000 people are dependent on it.

Just under two years ago, the unthinkable happened. The water pump stopped pumping. It had been working hard for over seven years and decided its time was up. Thankfully, the year before we predicted this and bought a spare pump.

To avoid mass panic, we didn’t tell anyone. We thought we could get the new pump installed before the big tank ran dry. No-one needed to know. We had about eight hours to get water pumping again.

It took more than 20 men to haul the old pump out of the 80-foot deep borehole. The old pump was disconnected and the new one installed. All straightforward so far. The new pump was lowered down carefully and now it was time for testing.

With a couple of hours to spare we went back up to the hospital and switched on the 3-phase electricity supply to the pump. We expected a lot of coughing and spluttering as the air was forced out of the pipes, just as you would get in your house after the plumber replaces a faulty tap. But something wasn’t right. I put my ear to the pipe and could only hear a feint bubbling sound. Our worst nightmare was happening – the water would soon run out and we had no Plan B.

We went down the road again and disconnected some pipes to try and let the air out. No change. We found a rusted bend in the pipe but replacing it made no difference. With nothing left to try we went up to the big tank to see how much water was left.

I’ll never forget that afternoon. Innocent and I were standing under the almost empty tank with no idea what to do. I had my ear to the pipe that comes out of the ground and up to the tank. I could only hear the slight bubbling, so I did what you do when there’s nothing left – I prayed. It was a simple prayer; “C’mon ahead God. Help us out.”

Immediately, things got even worse – the bubbling stopped. Silence. Disaster.

Then, after about 10 (very long) seconds of silence, there was an almighty ‘wooooosssssshhhhhh!’ The water was coming. We didn’t have to explain to the boss how and why the hospital had no water – the tank was filling up, faster than ever!

That was March 2014. One year later, I was speaking in church about prayer. I used this story as an illustration of how all too often we forget to pray until all our efforts have failed. How annoyed we get with ourselves when we realise we haven’t brought our problems to the one who can shift a mountain if we have faith the size of a mustard seed.

Of course, our God is a powerful, sovereign God. He doesn’t need our prayers in order that He will act, but he does want our prayers. Through prayer, He invites us to participate with Him. Through prayer, He teaches us about His love and His power. Through prayer, He often reveals something about Himself and shows us something about ourselves.

The water pump reminded me that, when faced with a challenge or crisis, I should pray first and if not first, then pray early and if not early, then at the last minute! God will hear and one way or another, He will respond.


PS. A couple of weeks later I had to explain that even though Lazarus was raised from the dead, he did eventually die again. That’s right, the new water pump stopped working, and this time everyone knew it. Nightmare. Time to pray again!

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