Carrying Water…and Complaining

We are blessed to have a very healthy spring within about a 1/2 mile, but…the water doesn’t bring itself to our house! One of our most important (and time-consuming, and difficult) tasks here is water-gathering. We see Kenyan girls, from the youngest age, carrying water in small jugs on their small heads, so that by the time they are adults they can carry 5-gallon buckets (or larger) with NO cover WITHOUT SPILLING  A DROP. It is truly amazing. However, we have not been trained that way, so we depend on arm, leg, and back muscles for lugging containers–and we’ve not been well-trained even for that.

Unfortunately, because the task is one that we are not used to, and we must do it multiple times per day in order to do laundry, wash dishes, bathe, and cook food (not to mention drink!), it often involves complaining on the part of the children. They generally start off with the best of attitudes and intentions, but somewhere between the first and second trip of the morning (or maybe during the afternoon run), they begin to whine, bicker with one another over who carries what, and feel sorry for themselves over the trial that they are suffering.

We’re working on it. It is a character-training opportunity at its best. I’m reminding the children that we should “consider it all joy when [we] face trials of various kinds.” That God works all things for good, and that through adversity we are conformed to the image of Christ. Also, I’m trying to remind them (in an encouraging rather than condemning manner) that we are “supposed to” be a light and a witness to this community, showing the character of Christ so that people will see the Gospel of the Kingdom in action. It’s difficult, because when we go to gather water, it’s typically with an entourage–often as many as 20 children and usually an adult (one who has been more than helpful in fetching water for us, praise God!). They see when we do the task in a manner that glorifies God…and when we don’t.

I was very disappointed yesterday to send four of the children to the spring, with two of them tasked with trading off a large container of water between them, only to have one of them have a bit of a temper tantrum and (according to the siblings’ reports) “scream and cry and throw the jug on the ground” when said child felt that his/her sibling was not taking an appropriate turn. I find that it is sometimes difficult, as a parent, to balance challenging children in their growth and character, with potentially frustrating them with unrealistic expectations. It is necessary to discern what is a character deficiency, and what is simply a knee-jerk negative reaction to an excessive demand. There is a need for wisdom, as well as grace, to navigate these situations and redeem them for the glory of God. I pray that we are doing this successfully.

Please share your thoughts on how you have successfully (or unsuccessfully!) balanced these aspects of child training and made the most of every character-training opportunity.