Thomas Fuller once wrote “We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.” This past weekend after surviving snow, ice, subzero temperatures and power outages, our challenging week was topped off with the dry-well experience that the English historian spoke of over 350 years ago.
It was Friday afternoon when I began to relax, knowing that warmer temperatures were coming and life would be back to normal. Well, the new normal anyway. My relaxing was fleeting as I received a call from City of Keene officials warning me of an impending water crisis due to the many days of cold and the demands on the existing water supply. Sharing the news with our student life team, they sprang into action drawing up contingency plans for keeping close to 300 residence hall students hydrated. As the “well went dry,” help was already arriving.
First, our student resident assistants banded together to round up all the water jugs on campus in one central location. Next, due to the community connections of Wil Iverson, our men’s residence hall dean, water was on the way. Raintree Homes arrived with their office water dispenser and six bottles. Lane Concrete & Excavation provided us with a 250-gallon water container to store non-potable water, which students quickly filled with melting snow for use in the bathroom facilities. Family Nutrition Center in Cleburne invited us to come fill up 15 large water jugs with clean drinking water. Chad Hutchinson, our gymnastics coach, worked with the Texas Conference Transportation Department securing 30 cases of water for immediate use. Chef Sualua Tupolo, our dining services director, arranged with our food service vendor, Ben E. Keith Company, to allow us to pick up some cases of water being held for later delivery. Cole’s Portable Sanitation brought us the last two portable sanitation units in their inventory. County Judge Roger Harmon, County Emergency Management Director Jamie Moore and Commissioner Mike White helped secure several pallets of water. Pastor Michael Gibson was the liaison between the university and the Keene SDA Church, tapping into additional resources.
Breaking the ice on the duck pond late Friday night, a bucket brigade was formed to haul water to the residence halls for use in the restrooms. The work continued Saturday morning as student volunteers went to work filling large trash barrels outside the residence halls with water from the swimming pool. With the immediate urgent needs of our students being met, our focus turned toward helping the community. I met with the City of Keene Mayor Gary Heinrich, City Manager Mike Boese, Chief Werner from the Keene Fire Department, Chief Hunt from the Keene Police Department, and city commissioners and key city personnel at 10 a.m. Saturday morning where a plan was laid out to meet the needs of the community. Over the next three days, students volunteered to distribute bottled water to over 400 families as they drove through our Barron Chapel parking lot. Firemen were on hand in the adjacent parking lot to fill community members’ containers with non-potable water. Working alongside the students on Saturday, I experienced an extra touch being applied to the water bottles being distributed, words like “God bless you,” “Have a nice day” and “Come back tomorrow if you need more water.” As president, I was moved by their willingness to help and their genuine care for those they were serving. For me, it resonated well with our tagline of “Knowledge, Faith, Service.”
Today, I feel thankful that the sun is out warming the campus. The sidewalks are clear of snow and ice, and with the water again running freely, our students have returned to the classroom.
There are many lessons to be learned from the events that occurred this past year, particularly this past week. I have learned not to take things for granted – from the conveniences of toilet paper and hand sanitizer, to the necessities of water and electricity. I have seen in action the value of a community coming together to meet the needs of individuals. This coming together strengthens our relationships with one another and with our neighbors.
Every day, as I walk to my office, I pass a beautiful large Nathan Greene painting. It is entitled, “Living Water.” This painting depicts Jesus pouring water from a large vase and as a result, the proliferation of life abounds. I am reminded that His life-sustaining well will never run dry as His supply is boundless. Relying on Him when the storms of life temporarily paralyze us will provide peace, grant courage, strengthen resolve, cause gratitude and will provide a proper perspective for us to understand and meet the needs of others.
I am blessed to be a part of a wonderful community!