A Water Boy
by Al O’Connell
“Now that’s some high-quality H2O!” - Robert (The Water Boy) Boucher Jr.
Robert Boucher Jr., an up-and-coming star athlete for the 1998 University of Louisiana, has always been one of my top role models. He began his football career at the sterling age of 31 and never forgot that the most important player in the game is often the guy or gal caddying water on and off the field. He knew that the spirit was connected to water, and, without water, the spirit may wither and falter.
What an instructional metaphor.
In the book of Isaiah, we hear a similar connection between water and life. The prophet Isaiah writes of God’s promise, “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my spirit upon your descendants, and my blessing on your offspring” Isaiah 44:3. To be people of God is to model this promise and bring needed water to those who suffer and become parched for justice. Here is where First Lutheran came in.
As the new guy on staff, I was nervous when Pastor Stephanie handed me her credit card and her daughter, Hannah, and told me to go pick up “about 1,000 bottles of water,” for the Wednesday night summer concert series (yes, you should go). I wanted to make sure I delivered the goods. As Hannah and I drove to Sam’s Club, we noticed dozens of folks flailing around downtown Fargo. Dehydration, draught, and dysfunction—can you name a better place for the Holy Spirit to show up?
The forecast for the next two days was above 100◦ F with little to no cloud coverage. It was going to be brutal, but the Gospel thrives on brutal. The staff at First Lutheran quickly rallied behind the mission of setting up on Broadway Square and handing out water. Over 600 bottles of water were given in two days, 100 hours of service shared between those gathered, and countless relationships strengthened in Christ. That’s all good, and I’m sure Robert Boucher Jr. would be proud, but I still need to tell you about John.
John was suffering across the street and had been dripping sweat in the shade while exhibiting signs of heat stroke. John needed water. It took a few of us to move him and get him needed medical attention, but after we did—Jesus moved through him. I noticed he was raising a ruckus with one of the medics and trying to force something into her hand. It was only after she came up to me that I found out what it was— John wanted to pay me $1.45 for the water.
Let me be clear, we didn’t take his money. His heart gave greater riches than any piece of paper or metal. Instead, we asked him patiently to either join our congregation here at First Lutheran or join us in giving out water during the next day’s continued heat. John answered by bringing three of his friends and giving out water for two hours the next day, amplifying our outreach and “pouring water on thirsty land.” He saw his shot and lived out the Good News with us.
So, here’s the take-away in the form of a prayer:
God, almighty quencher and divine giver, you see and know our potential as fountains of grace and goodness. You excite us and renew our barren hearts to places of mystical wonder. You show us how to model the winding path of your rivers, and respect the powerful waves of your oceans. With you, we’ll tap into some “high quality H2O.” Amen.
by Al O’Connell, Youth Director, First Lutheran Church