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9 years ago written by

feb14_disc2My family calls it the barefoot desert death march. I took my wife and sons for an August visit to Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. Chaco is a difficult-to-find but spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Site consisting of massive stone ruins, complex road systems and calibrated astronomy and observation tools — the heart of a thriving Chacoan culture that gave birth to modern Southwest Native Americans. Among the many petroglyphs at the sprawling Chaco site is the “1054 Supernova” that depicts the stellar phenomena that created today’s Crab Nebula.

Hiking to this particular petroglyph requires an 8-mile jaunt in blazing heat across a closed trail. It was closed because a flash flood had cut through the trail, requiring any people desiring to behold the ancient star chart to traverse a muddy, fast-moving desert river. To cross the river, the family left shoes on the bank of entry. We then dared to travel barefoot the ½ mile (1 mile round-trip) from the river to the cave overhang housing the ancient Anasazi image.

Avoiding scorpions and rattlesnakes was no problem, though we saw them. Tarantulas and lizards added to the desert charm. Scrambling together through the blazing sun was even fun for a while. Admittedly, the kids (teens) did not seem to see the great significance of a long, hot hike just to see an old scrawl on the side of a cave wall created by the “ancient ones.”

What the family remembers most is that dad failed to pack enough water. We had enough for halfway; 102 degrees and no shade after a barefoot crawl through desert wilderness are not everyone’s cup of tea. But walking 4 more miles (with shoes now) and no water did not win dad any Father’s Day points. We were thirsty.

The hot, steamy, sun-baked water bottles in our truck awaited the family after the trek. Under other circumstances, the water would have been repugnant, but we enthusiastically guzzled the steamy liquid. The barefoot desert death march made us thirsty.

Sometimes in life, we seek after laudable goals and launch out on our trek to achieve them. These good goals include providing for our families, growing the church, leading people to faith in Jesus and being physically fit. The treks take different forms. But without preparing for the trek by bringing our supply of “living water,” we will run dry. We will burn out.

Jesus said, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them” (John 7:37–38).

There is only one source of Living Water who dwells within a willing heart and springs forth to bless the faithful, and from the abundance of that joy, bring new life and hope to a parched and weary land.

We are focused on drinking from that well. We want our churches to grow. There are patterns, systems and skills that can help every church do this more effectively. But there is never a substitute for a heart transformed by the Holy Spirit, passionately directed by love for God and neighbor. God will not lead new converts to dry wells from which to drink.

Mark Adams is the superintendent of the North Central Conference. This article is adapted from a post on his North Central Reflections blog (


[1] Are you thirsty for more of God?

[2] How can you access rivers of living water that will bring fruitfulness to your life and church?