The Waters of Life

“When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them.” – Isaiah 41:17

For twenty years, the New Mexico congregation I serve has organized “immersion trips” to the Arizona/Sonora border. Our goal is to immerse youth and adults in the issues of the borderlands and to learn about the people who live there.

The groups attend immigration hearings and witness parents in shackles being sentenced to deportation. They visit the Wall (it’s already up) and meet with Rev. Randy Mayer of El Buen Pastor UCC, who’s been involved in immigration issues for decades, and also meet with Border Patrol agents to hear their stories. They visit the Sonoran Desert Museum to explore a landscape that stretches across all our human-made borders.

And they experience that desert. With Los Samaritanos volunteers, youths and adults walk the migrant trails. They put out water jugs and pick up abandoned backpacks, sandals, stuffed animals, children’s clothes. Sometimes they come across wooden crosses that mark where someone has died.

For all its beauty, the Sonoran Desert can be unforgiving. Summer temperatures reach 120. Finding water is always a concern. Even in winter, a person can die of dehydration. Water jugs along the trail make the difference between life and death. Sometimes the groups find jugs slashed to drain the water out. That’s as hard as seeing the crosses.

According to Isaiah, God is intimately concerned with providing water for the poor and those in need. “When their tongue is parched with thirst,” the Prophet proclaims, “the Lord will answer them.” God promises not to forsake them. Neither should we.


You give us the waters of life, O Lord. Help us offer life to others.

ddtalithaarnold2013.jpgAbout the Author
Talitha Arnold is Senior Minister of the United Church of Santa Fe (UCC), Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is the author of Mark Part 1 and Mark Part 2 of the Listen Up! Bible Study series and Worship for Vital Congregations.