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.

4 thoughts on “Carrying Water…and Complaining

  1. Pingback: Children’s Q&A
  2. When I know I need to make the most of a training opportunity because we have been presented with a challenge, then I arrange it so I can walk through the challenge with the child/children, to guide and lead. I get down on my knees, if necessary, and do all I can to encourage, coach, teach, and serve the child, and help them be successful in the challenge they are learning.

    Another thing that helps with my older children is reminding them of the verse, “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God, in Christ Jesus concerning you.” Every single thing that happens must be received as orchestrated from an all-powerful God who allows or disallows things for only our good, because He is only good. When I hear my older children laughing because they have thanked God for taking a younger sibling to the potty for the fourth time, or thank Him that they spilled a glass of milk and now have to clean it up, or thank Him that they left their computer upstairs and have to go back up the stairs AGAIN to get it, or thank Him that the baby spit up all over their shirt… it is a joy and a blessing, because then they go on to continue to “see” all God’s goodness in all He allows–even the trials–where the thankful heart instantly reveals the opportunity to learn patience, servitude, care, humility, diligence, prayer, and more. They are instantly then thankful, in turn for God’s provision. The thanks for the baby spitting up leads to instant thanks for the precious babe, and thanks for the opportunity to practice patience and love. The thanks for having to run upstairs again leads to thanks for the huge 2-story house, and the computer being fetched. The thanks for the spilled milk leads to thanks for the patience to clean it up, and thanks for the provision of milk, and all our other food, etc.

    The other thing that God calls me to sometimes, when I see a problem area or a training issue with one of my children, is God reminds me to set the example in such a way that I am twice what I expect my children to be. If I want them to choose wisely on their computer time, then I use it almost no time at all (i.e., I deleted my FB account to ensure my children had an example in order to hopefully help them learn their own moderation. As a result, my son is very close to deleting his account, too). If I don’t want them to watch TV, then I do not watch it at all, hoping they will choose to watch very, very little.

    May God bless you where He has called you. You know He will lead with every little thing you ask of Him. He always does–especially with our little ones, does He not?

  3. I read your article, and immediately thought of a product that you might want to look into… it’s called the Hippo Roller (there are also versions called the Q drum and Wello Water), , , and . It’s a large 24 gallon jug/drum that you can roll along the ground with a detachable handle bar, like a giant wheel. There are many charity organizations that are providing these for communities in Africa and India, so that the people (women and children in particular) do not have to devote most of their days to water collecting trips, but can focus on school, and small business opportunities instead. Maybe your family could even try to begin a fund-raising program to provide these drums to others in the community, as a ministry tool?

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