Kathy Hillman: Thirsty? Life-giving and eternal-life-giving water

"Thirst" is the theme for Texas Baptists' 2015 Week of Prayer and Mary Hill Davis Offering.

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Thirsty? Our son Marshall was thirsty, although he didn’t yet know it. Both Marshall and Michael played Little League that summer, often back-to-back. With temperatures soaring in the 90s, Marshall’s team played first in a lengthy 7-inning contest.hillman marshall baseball 425Marshall learned a lesson about thirst—not to mention dehydration and heat exhaustion—while playing Little League. (Photo / Courtesy of Camp Stewart for Boys)

In the days before concession stands carried bottled water, Marshall grabbed a Dr Pepper before joining friends to play catch. Meanwhile, his brother’s team took the field. Late in the game, a friend urgently called: “Marshall needs you. Now!” I ran. Marshall writhed with cramps, eyes watering from pain. I touched his flushed, burning forehead.

kathy hillman130Kathy HillmanFortunately, our physician’s son was playing, too. In no time, Dr. John diagnosed dehydration and heat exhaustion. In just hours, Marshall was scheduled for the eighth-grade trip to Washington, so we bypassed the hospital. Marshall promised to drink gallons, bathe in ice-laced water and trust the doctor with the D.C. decision.

While on earth, Jesus also experienced physical and emotional thirst. More importantly, he understood spiritual thirst. His encounter with the Samaritan woman in John 4 illustrates. He also calls us to share life-giving and eternal life-giving water.

“Thirst,” the theme for Texas Baptists’ 2015 Week of Prayer and Mary Hill Davis Offering, compels us to drink deeply from God’s word and presence. Then we turn our eyes to 12 million Texans who need Living Water. The $4.2 million offering supports more than 85 ministries designed to serve others, share Jesus, and start and strengthen churches. Perhaps for you, like me, a few have become personal.

hillman river ministry children 425Texas Baptists help quench the spiritual thirst of children along the Rio Grande through River Ministry. (Photo / Kathy Hillman)My grandparents lived in Marfa, an hour from Presidio and its sister-city, Ojinaga, in Mexico. First Baptist Church became involved soon after River Ministry began. Gran and Dad talked about needed jobs, clinics, pure water and Living Water. Later, my eyes and heart saw firsthand. Driving through one colonia, our van lurched to a stop. Out my window, I spied a “house” of cardboard, tin and a wooden game board. Children played barefoot in the glass-flecked mud.

Texas Baptists work daily with local congregations, associations and interior churches to quench the thirst of more than 5 million individuals who live along Texas’ 1,254-mile border with house-church evangelism, health clinics, training and more. Through Texas Baptist Disaster Recovery, we’re rebuilding houses in Ciudad Acuña following the May tornado/flood.hillman river ministry acuna 300Texas Baptists have a long history of ministry in Acuna. (Photo / Kathy Hillman)

In partnership with Buckner International, we’re providing children’s activities and sports camps and with Baptist University of the Américas, educational opportunities. Nearby ministries feed girls and boys and assist with literacy.

For several years, I served on the interview team for ethnic/minority scholarships to Texas Baptist universities. One recipient became a friend. hillman jolanda haley mugJolanda Haley Jolanda Haley hailed from Fort Worth and dreamed of graduating from Baylor University. I invited her to my office. She came. While she was in college, her National Guard father deployed, and things were tough. She said: “The scholarship was a blessing, because it was renewable as long as I kept my grades up. It motivated me to stay focused on my studies, and it was encouraging to know I had the support of the Baptist convention.” Jolanda graduated in 2008, landed a great job, passed the CPA exam, and married Keith Hamilton Sept. 5 of this year. She and her husband remain active in church and minister to the thirsty in their world.

One of my friends birthed a mentally challenged child. The Special Friends Retreat holds her heart and mine. At the retreat, Bible studies, songs and a talent show are designed for participants and their thirst for God. Meanwhile, their parents encourage and support each other.

hillman vancouver downtown 300Vancouver is home to 3 milion people. (Photo / Suzy Wall)Participation on a Woman’s Missionary Union More Than Gold team during the 2010 Olympics laid Vancouver, British Columbia, on my heart. More than 300,000 college students study in that city of 3 million people who speak 200-plus languages. Texas Baptists’ partnership program offers cross-cultural ministry in a thirsty land where just 7 percent of the population know Christ.

Minnesota-Wisconsin’s exhibit at the Baptist General Convention of Texas annual meeting offers tasty apples and cheese. In 1956, Baptist churches in those states requested BGCT affiliation. Even after becoming a separate convention, ties and partnerships continue. Twice, my husband, John, and I drank deeply from refreshing Bible study, worship and fellowship at the Mary Hill Davis Offering-funded retreat for ministers and wives up there.hillman minn wisc signing 300One year at a Minnesota-Wisconsin Pastors & Wives Retreat, former Texas WMU President Jeane Law and her husband, Dan, arranged for former Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr to speak. (Photo / Kathy Hillman)

These and a myriad of other ministries don’t just happen. God leads. Texas Baptists follow. Together through prayers, gifts and personal involvement, we offer life-giving and eternal life-giving water.

Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13).


Kathy Hillman is president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. She also is director of Baptist collections, library advancement and the Keston Center for Religion, Politics and Society at Baylor University.

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