And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.
For a hike in the mountains, we always take water. The Mad Creek Trail in Colorado is a lovely, well maintained trail, mostly level, and partly in shade. There are no large loose rocks to turn your ankles, no rivers to cross. Wildlife are rarely seen mid-day when most people make the hike, and we saw only healthy dogs of all shapes and breeds bounding along with their owners. We walked a total of four and a half miles in almost three hours, exhausting our out-of-shape bodies.
At the end of our hike, the first thing I wanted (after a stop at the bathroom) was some cold water.
While walking I remembered that many women and children walk that far just to collect water from polluted ponds in places like Ethiopia, Rwanda, or Honduras. Their walk might not be nearly so pleasant as my mountain hike among the wildflowers. There are dangers on the trail, no shade or shelter, and always thirst, because the bucket or jerry can they carry is empty. And as they return, the bucket is heavy, very heavy. Some children make such a long trip two or more times every day.
I take clean water for granted. I have never had to pull water from a well, or even pump water just to get a drink. I have certainly never had to drink from a dirty puddle in which cows and sheep have been walking and drinking.
The blessing of clean water was never so obvious to me as when we witnessed a family turning the spigot of a new water point for the first time. We were part of a Vision Trip to Ethiopia and the timing worked out for us to see this amazing first. Before the water was turned on, we sat as guests in the home of a family who had lost two children to illness from bad water – the water they collected from a distant stream every day. Together we enjoyed delicious coffee and Kola snacks and the family thanked World Vision for drilling a water well in their community. Then we got to see the water flow. Dusty faces were washed clean, and in the most common of gestures, children cupped their hands and drank from the tap. I will never forget the joy on those faces. That alone was a gift from God.
To give a cup of cold water, even just a drink, to one of the least of Jesus’ followers, is to be blessed, to receive a reward. That’s what Jesus told his fledgling disciples. He was telling them how rewarding giving can be. Even that which we take completely for granted, when given in love, is a blessing to both giver and receiver.
How many cups of cold water could you give?