By Brenda Kiš
The date is Sunday, April 17. I am across the state in the city of Flint on an unknown mission. Well, not fully unknown, but I’d never distributed water before. In fact, I’d never really thought much about the importance of water in my own life. I drink it, cook with it, bathe in it among other things. Yet here I was in an area of the United States where people had to stop drinking, cooking, and bathing with what came out of their lead-contaminated faucets!
Barbara Livesay and I joined ministerial spouses from other conferences to assist two Seventh-day Adventist churches of Flint, churches who have an ongoing ministry of water distribution that will probably last another year at least while the phosphates build up in the pipes and water until it is safe to use. Donna Jackson of the NAD Ministerial Spouses Department encouraged us all to minister to the people we met as we fanned out along the streets, sharing cases of bottled drinking water and packages of baby & adult wipes for bathing.
Wearing our turquoise “Compassion” tee shirts with our Seventh-day Adventist identity on the back, we were welcomed almost everywhere we went. At my first house, I was ready to leave when a lady finally opened the door and said she could use some water. I handed her the Fairhaven Church card that said “Somebody Cares” and asked if I could pray with her. I’ll never forget the divine appointment that God arranged for me that afternoon: she was a recent widow whose husband had passed away on February 28, just five days after mine. I was able to encourage her with the encouragement I have received from God and His people, to remind her that He never abandons us. Just before I left she looked at me with brimming eyes and said, “I usually don’t answer the door these days but I’m so glad I did today!”
At another home five of us met a lady just getting out of her car. Her college-age daughter was accepting some water from us when Glenice asked if we had “Ice Mountain” water. We didn’t and she launched into a tirade against religious groups that don’t give what people need. Her poisoned stomach could tolerate only that brand. We listened and sympathized. Before walking away, I asked if we could pray for her. It was then that she noticed the SDA logo on someone’s tee shirt. Instantly her mood changed and she lit up with joy. As a young girl she had attended the SDA church in town because a church bus picked them up. Her mother was able to keep the family in clothes but they didn’t have shoes. One of the members at church noticed and discreetly got them some shoes to wear, an act Glenice never forgot. By the time prayer was over, she and her son and daughter were ready to hug and be hugged by all of us. We parted with her words ringing in our ears: “Just last night I prayed that God would send His people to us!”
Thelma and her grandson met us at the door of another home. She looked weary from the constant care of a sick family member. When Barbara happened to mention that we had come from Berrien Springs to bring her some water, tears filled her eyes as she thanked us repeatedly for our ministry to the stricken community.
Just water, wipes, prayers, and a willingness to meet the needs of fellow human beings. Isn’t that what we’re asked to do? “I was thirsty and you gave Me drink.”
Brenda Kiš, a ministerial spouse who worked for many years at Andrews University Seminary and Adventist Frontier Missions, retired in 2015 to fully enjoy the fine art of grandparenting as well as personal work for women.
Note: Some names of Flint people have been changed for privacy reasons.