Joe and I are in Johannesburg. Yesterday, we were with friends on a tour of the area. We described the water crisis in Makhanda/Grahamstown to the others in the car.
“It’s bad,” I said, “Parts of the city have been without water for eight days so far. We haven’t had water for two days. But an organization called Gift of the Givers has come and has started distributing water.”
“That’s a Muslim organization,” said our host, the Rev. Clayton Moitsiwa, a priest in the Anglican Diocese of Johannesburg. “They do a lot of good work in South Africa.”
I didn’t know that it was a Muslim organization. With all the talk of Gifts and Givers and capital G’s, I figured it might be Christian. We talk like that.
“We need to hear more stories like that,” said David Copley, Director of Global Partnership and Mission Personnel for the Episcopal Church, and our supervisor. “We usually only hear the stories where there’s conflict. We need to make sure the good stories get told too.”
So, here’s the story. Makhanda/Grahamstown, in the municipality of Makana, in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, is experiencing a water crisis. Severe drought has left the area’s reservoirs extremely low and crumbling infrastructure in the city means what water there is isn’t drinkable. Water already isn’t reaching many area. Schools have been closed and children sent home because toilets can’t be flushed and there’s no water for washing. The water may be completely shut off any day. We’ve had some rain, but not enough to replenish the area’s supplies.
On February 12, Gift of the Givers arrived with trucks full of bottled water. They started water distribution that day and continued the next. They are also talking about digging boreholes (wells) in the city to provide water. The local paper reported on this act of charity.
Here is information about Gift of the Givers from their website:
Gift of the Givers is the largest disaster response NGO of African origin on the African continent. Having been established on the instruction of a Sufi Sheik, Muhammed Saffer Effendi al Jerrahi (a spiritual teacher) in Istanbul, Turkey, on a Thursday evening, 6 August 1992, Gift of the Givers has delivered life saving aid in the form of Search and Rescue teams, medical personnel, medical equipment, medical supplies, medicines, vaccines, anti-malarial medication, high energy and protein supplements, food and water to millions of people in 43 countries, South Africa included.
Our motto is simple: “Best Among People are those who Benefit Mankind” and accordingly we serve ALL people irrespective of race, religion, culture, colour, political affiliation or geographical location, unconditionally.
We actively seek to build bridges between people of different cultures and religions engendering goodwill, harmonious coexistence, tolerance and mutual respect in keeping with the divine injunction:
“O Mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Almighty is (he who is) the most righteous of you.” (Sura Hujurat/the Inner Apartments, Chapter 49, Verse 13.)
If the information on their website is correct, I’m competitive enough that I’m surprised that the largest disaster response NGO of African origin on the African continent wasn’t founded by Christians.
I’m also grateful that thirsty people are getting water to drink.
And I’m thinking of some things Jesus said about people who give the gift of water: “Whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward” (Matthew 10:42) and “I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink” (Matthew 25:32).
The second verse is from the story Jesus tells about people who discover, much to their surprise, that they are counted amongst the righteous because they treat Jesus with compassion. “When did we do that?” they ask. “Truly, I tell you,” Jesus says, “just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).
” . . . that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other).”
A good story to share.
Photo by Stephen Kisbey-Green in Grocott’s Mail, February 13, 2019