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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Stories of the Thirsty
Confronting the Poverty of Curiosity

By Jerry Wiles, President Emeritus, Living Water International
Special to ASSIST News Service

HOUSTON, TX (ANS) -- One of the things we notice among 3- and 4-year-old children is that they ask a lot of questions. They are always asking, “Why?” “How?” and “What?” They have a healthy curiosity. They learn fast because of their curiosity, thirst for knowledge and high level of interest to and desire to understand.

Children everywhere are curious and thirsty to hear true stories from the Word of God

Unfortunately, many people lose that curiosity and thirst for knowledge as they grow older. Albert Einstein said, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” And, William Arthur Ward, one of America’s most quoted writers said, “Curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning.”

A question I have been pondering lately is, “Can curiosity, interest or thirst be created or developed?” It is often said that we don’t know what we don’t know, and many people have no interest or curiosity in finding out what they don’t know. However, the Scripture says that we should let our speech be with grace, seasoned with salt. Salt does create thirst, but it can also irritate or offend. Jesus said that, as His followers, we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We are to let our light shine that others may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven.

One of the advantages or benefits of working with, volunteering or being associated with an organization like Living Water International (LWI) is that often people ask what we do, just based on the name, Living Water. It may be a bumper sticker, a lapel pin or a garment bag that stimulates a conversation. Many times I’ve had the opportunity to share the vision and mission of LWI with someone in those encounters, and occasionally, to share the Living Water of Jesus, who satisfies the deepest thirst. Sometimes we connect with those who are receptive and eager to embrace the Good News and become a follower of Jesus.

Great effort often goes into getting water for the basic needs of more than 700,000,000 people in the world today who are without access to clean, safe drinking water

Something we often hear from people who participate in our Orality Training Workshops is that it gives them confidence to simply ask questions and tell stories in a non-threatening way. It’s an effective method of hiding the Word in our hearts, of equipping followers of Jesus with just what is in their heads and hearts, that can be reproduced in the heads and hearts of others. With adequate Orality Training, people can go to the ends of the earth, communicate the Good Story of Jesus to every person and make disciples among all people groups.

A lady in a Central American country, who participated in one of LWI’s Orality Training Workshops, told us she has never learned to read or write. She went on to say that she can now share her faith with her family and others in her community.

A man in his 80’s, who attended an Orality Training in the United States said, “I wish I had learned this 70 years ago.” The training was truly transformational for him, and he began to have a new passion for sharing Christ with others and using the methods in his Bible teaching. He found that it increased his effectiveness for engaging people in conversation, communicating spiritual truth and assisting others on their journey of following Jesus.

Many women have never had the opportunity to attend school, but can learn and retell stories and effectively spread the Gospel

I think most of us would be encouraged by the number of people who are open to spiritual conversations, when we simply ask questions and tell stories. While not a majority, there are always people who have fertile hearts. They have a certain amount of curiosity and interest to listen.

The Apostle Peter said to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us, but we should be prepared to sow the seed of God’s Word, which tests the soil. Sometimes we just sow a seed, at other times we water a seed that someone else has sown, and occasionally we may reap a harvest, but it is God who gives the increase.

There are all kinds of thirst and we find thirsty people everywhere. In the physical realm, when people do not have clean, safe water, they drink whatever is available. In some of the places where LWI works, we’ve heard stories of the desperate measures people go to in order to satisfy their thirst for water.

Children have resorted to eating dirt or sucking on tree limbs in order to get some moisture. A young man who escaped while a child soldier in an African country, told me that when he could acquire a 16-ounce bottle of water, he could make is last four days. Physical thirst is not a bad thing, as it lets us know that we have a need, an indicator that our bodies need water.

In addition to physical thirst, there are various other kinds of thirst, like a thirst for change or a thirst for knowledge. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who … thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” It is actually sad when people do not have a thirst, when there is a lack of curiosity or interest. Many are content with the way they are and have no real desire to change or grow. Others are in their comfort zone and resist change; you might say they are living in the poverty of curiosity.

Something we often observe when people experience a demonstration of the love and grace of God, is that it sometimes creates thirst, curiosity and interest in hearing and knowing more. For example, in some communities a new water well, hygiene training and sanitation can cause people to ask why we do what we do. They become curious and interested in hearing about the love of Jesus.

Women often spend hours every day carrying water for their families

It is encouraging how stories communicate and connect with people all over the world. Someone has said that we are wired for stories. A missionary/evangelist and cross-cultural church planter in Ethiopia said, “We used to go into communities and pass out tracts and preach, and the people wanted to run us out of their communities. But now that we have Orality Training, we go and make friends, ask questions and tell stories, and the people want to follow Jesus.”

God is doing an incredible work in the world today, often in the midst of crisis and difficulties, and many are becoming curious and thirsty for spiritual truth. These are strategic times for us to pray, care and share with those we encounter every day.

For additional information about the Orality Movement and training opportunities, visit –

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This story is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of the ASSIST News Service or ASSIST Ministries.
Jerry Wiles serves as president emeritus of Living Water International ( Living Water is one of the world’s leading faith-based water solutions organizations with operations in Asia, Africa, and Central and South America. Having gotten involved in orality-based evangelism and disciple making strategies in the 1980s, he has been a paradigm pioneer in the orality movement and presently serves on the advisory council of the International Orality Network. Wiles has more than 35 years experience in ministry and international mission work. He can be contacted at

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