In his famous poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” Samuel Taylor Coleridge describes the plight of unfortunate sailors aboard a doomed ship, who were surrounded by ocean water but for obvious reasons could drink none of it: “Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink.”
In a similar way, as I trekked through Himalayan mountain villages in the northern reaches of Nepal, I saw water in abundance. We walked through it, forged a path over it, and watched as nationals enjoyed it with no apparent problem. But pure, unadulterated water was harder to come by. In the West, it’s something we take for granted, imbibing the liquid in abundance and without hesitation, even from a city drinking fountain or a faucet in our own homes. We think nothing of the ice that floats in the cup we get from the drive thru at our favorite fast food restaurant, and most of us haven’t experienced a waiter asking us if we would prefer the water hot or cold with our meal.
However, as with nearly every other aspect of life in Nepal, water is something that Westerners must consider on mountain treks or city walks. Drink it from bottles, or don’t drink it at all. Purify it, but don’t touch it to your lips unless you’ve done so. Twice when brushing my teeth I forgot the water lecture the missionaries had given and inadvertently consumed tap water. Their warning was good to heed. Glancing at the Centers for Disease Control website, you’ll find warnings for travelers that include the possibility of typhoid or Hepatitis A resulting from contaminated water in Nepal.
But clean water in the physical form can easily be obtained by Westerners. It’s not expensive—about 20 cents a bottle in Kathmandu. And yet, without it, the trip would be impossible.
Two millennia ago, people’s need for water was the same. One woman came to draw water for her household when she met a Stranger at the town well. After speaking to her with a perception that no other human had ever done before, He said, “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”
It is that eternal water supplied by the Fountain of Life that Nepal needs more than a clean water source. According to Operation World, only 2.85% of Nepalis even claim to be Christian. How else will these millions hear that they can obtain everlasting water unless Christ's followers proclaim His truth to this needy nation, where scores of ethnic groups have yet to learn of such a wellspring in this spiritually parched land!