The physiological description of the brutal death of Jesus has always challenged me. There is something about John’s telling of Jesus’ crucifixion that felt connected to the work of helping people gain access to clean water in communities where a virus found in the bloodstream was doing its best to destroy the immune systems of its targets.
It was not just that John’s description included blood and water flowing from the pierced side of a man crucified. Perhaps that would’ve been enough of a reason to connect it to a mission and name an organization. It was more that this scenario was the physiological evidence that Jesus had died. It was both blood and water that served as notice that a huge sacrifice had been made. In the 15 years of our work, the sacrificial nature of serving and supporting has brought to light a host of different deaths that had to occur in order for life to spring forth from the ashes.
We first had to die to the idea that we could always make a big splash or get to the challenge and overcome it first. We had to die to the idea that we could somehow find the silver bullet and fire it into the belly of the HIV/AIDS and water crisis and make it end.
We had to die to the desire for simple answers and actions in the face of complex and deeply complicated problems.
Most of all, we had to die to the perception that we were the smartest, most capable and equipped people to handle the kinds of challenges found only in the beautiful and frustratingly human land of Eastern Africa.
In this season we are more aware than ever that the misguided concept of Americans knowing best how to solve African challenges has to end. The actions and designs born out of the ideology that Africa is a land void of indigenous expertise are the very actions that perpetuate the ongoing health and economic crises in communities where local people simply need to be given the opportunity to employ their own knowledge and ability.
When we die to the idea that western organizations with western ideas are the point, we can begin taking on the role of support and service to the true experts in the field. When we die to the idea that we must play the role of the primary hero in the story of Africa’s health development, the real heroes will gain access to the spotlight and in turn, we will see life emerge. We will see communities become more resilient. We will see the spirit of empowerment, agency and investment foster the growth necessary to beat the kinds of illnesses our world is facing today.
We can celebrate new life, a resurrection of sorts, in many different ways. For Blood:Water, we understand that clean blood, free of HIV, and clean, safe water only come through putting to death the urge to lead rather than serve. Watch and see how our African partners fulfill their mission to bring health and wellbeing to their neighbors.