Our Common Thirst: A Drink I Got at a Migrant Camp
I just ended a crazy ministry year with a trip to Spokane to speak to high school and college aged girls who are in the midst of transition and desiring faith in its midst. They were beautiful young woman who shared honestly and thoughtfully and listened with a deep desire in their hearts to seek Christ and His plan for their lives. It was a sweet time and I especially enjoyed seeing some old students from college ministry days who have since gotten, married grown a beard, bought a house, (you know-gotten old), and are raising two beautiful girls while doing youth ministry at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Spokane.
We left Spokane on Father’s Day and headed out to Tall Timbers Ranch and spent a week there speaking to families that came from a myriad of places in order to spend the week with their kiddos resting, playing, adventuring and growing. At the same time that I got to share story, I got hear story and it never seizes to amaze me how much God is chasing us all down and trying to love on each and every one of us. Near the end of the week, we got the option to go canoeing, zip lining, hiking, swimming or to go to a migrant camp near Wenatchee. It was a scorching day and we hopped in an old van, the kind creepers drive, and headed out with a couple of camp counselors and two other families to serve the kids of “pickers”. The van “apparently” had air conditioning but it was not far reaching and Rob and I had no windows in the very back row. People’s body odor smelt as though it was growing in size and stench by the mile and I was like that kid that wanted to know “Are we there yet?”, like every 5 minutes. Coupled with the smell and the sweltering weather, I began to feel like I was going to lose my camp lunch.
We finally arrived and drove into this flat field with a lot of white tents lined up and down in rows. Each family that worked in the fields lived in one of those. That was their house. I hopped out of the van as quickly as I could noticing people might have wondered why a bunch of gringos were showing up on the scene. We headed to the center tent where people gathered under its shade. It felt dreadfully hot, silent and awkward. But as soon as we blew up a pool, got out the bubbles, gave up the super soakers and lined up the slip n’ slide, this party got started! Little by little kids from every age wandered around the corners, watched for a moment and then dove right in. They grabbed buckets and doused us. They super soaked us like it was the greatest thing ever. I poured bubbles on the plastic slip and slide and girls and boys ran down, fell on their stomachs belly flopping onto the slide as if they were penguins. They giggled and laughed and chased us. We got out the parachute and played Duck Duck Goose and Sharks and Minnows. It was a hoot!
I screamed. I tend to be a screamer when people chase me or when I play games and people are after me and I am losing. I think because of my screaming, the young boys had decided I was the one to get. I hadn’t planned on getting wet and the next thing you know I was covered. Every square inch of my body was sopping wet and my jeans were eventually going to need to be peeled off my body. I ran into the only other two gringos that I saw there by the bathrooms. They stared at me in a way that I haven’t been looked at like since college. I knew it wasn’t how good I look drenched. I noticed their matching orange hats and shirts which said they were prison inmates. It felt as though they hadn’t seen a female in years. That was awkward. I hurried back to the kids because my screaming was more useful there.
These cute kids wouldn’t give up dumping buckets and buckets of water on me. If they didn’t have buckets or super soakers they found cups. I tried to say “timeout” and that didn’t work. I tried to ask to be “amigos” and that didn’t work. I tried out running these kids and that certainly didn’t work. I finally succumbed to being their target and this, for whatever reason, brought them much joy.
My daughter met a little girl named Virginia and she immediately took to Bella. She hugged her and pulled Bella wherever she wanted her to go. They blew bubbles, played the parachute shark game and soaked in the muddy hose water. Though Bella knows no Spanish, her and Virginia hit it off as though they needn’t share a language because they already had one.
Aidan started a scrap game of football. Of course he did. And the older boys came out of the shade and their tents and were playing as if they had played together in the neighborhood their whole life. Even if for a moment, they weren’t migrating anywhere but from offense to defense and loving just that.
I needed this day. It refreshed my soul. I was scorched and tired, not just physically. And I saw something happen for all of us at the migrant camp. We all were parched and in need of relief and refreshment. And together we found joy and laughter and commonality around our need for the water. We needed its cool. We needed its joy. We needed its excuse to revert back to childhood. We needed its cleansing. We needed its invitation to play together. We needed its quench. And we got it.
I think more amazing, beautiful, life changing, border breaking, class shattering, boundary busting, relationship building would happen if we would center around our commonality of need. It is when we realize we are all underneath the same sun. We all have skin, no matter the color that is adverse to sunburns. We all migrate and move though territory, circumstance or country. We are all torn asunder by economic injustice or economic oppression or economic idolatry. We all desire to play and laugh and connect. When we gather together, as unexpected as it might be to make friends, we can connect because our commonality is in our need and our desires. We are withered and we are thirsty. And water meets us all. It quenches our thirst. It cools our toil. It alleviates the piercing heat.
When Jesus asked the woman at the well for a glass of water, she was alarmed at why He would even be conversing with her. She was a woman and a Samaritan no less. He was a man and a Jewish one at that. He then offers her water that He says will well up into eternal life and she shall never thirst again. I think He gave me yet another cup of that water when the young boy who had chased me all afternoon chucked another bucket of agua on my face and finally said we were “Amigos.”
Jesus’s water is for all who are thirsty. He gets out a hose and sprays it on the sun drenched. He migrates into the places and spaces that are a dry and weary land to quench those who think their circumstance and very life are too far from God. And the cup He hands out reminds us all that no matter who you are or where you have been, nor where you call home, you can be His friends.
Let us not forget our common thirst.