Story 1: We traveled nearly 2000 miles in early May, from Kansas to Illinois, to Indiana, to Ohio, and back again. It was 10 days of thunderstorms, showers, blustery wind, cloudiness, and driving in windshield wiper mania! Everywhere we went, the creeks and rivers were swollen, puddles filled every rut, and we shivered with temperatures unseasonably cold. Spring, it seemed, had a hard time shaking the chill of winter and the sun just couldn’t break through the thick, dark clouds. Too much water! People were weary, worried, and tired as they sopped up water from flooded basements. Even worse, there were drownings of animals and people who couldn’t escape the terrifying rising waters. When we returned to Kansas, we had one day of blessed sunshine, then more rain, and then two days of sunshine. Water receded but the conversation about its power, destruction, and burden was common.
Story 2: I am recovering from back surgery successfully. It’s a brutal experience and I am grateful for a positive recuperation. One of the suggested helpful activities was pool therapy and for the last nine months, I have been exercising in a warm-water pool. The irony of this experience is that I am very afraid of deep water. I never took swimming lessons—and I never ventured too near lakes despite growing up in Minnesota. The icy water and dark waves told me to stay clear. Now, decades later, my therapist gently led me to the shallow end of the pool, holding one hand while I grabbed the guard railing on the pool’s edge with the other hand. Hanging on, never letting go, I allowed water do its healing thing. I could step, bend, and stretch without hurting. By now I can do the forty-minute therapy routine without a therapist—and in the deeper end, still holding on. I can relax. I find water a soothing environment.
Story 3: All of us began life swimming—in amniotic fluid! We found precious life and water to be connected in the womb. It’s an incredible and universal truth: we all swam before we crawled or walked! Water supported life.
Story 4: Most religions, especially Judaism and Christianity, have rituals of cleansing and baptism as central to their experience of healing, transformation, and belonging. Water cleansed, provided an escape route for the Hebrews from Egypt, and later Jesus is baptized and called Beloved. Baptism is a symbol and sign of being included in God’s saving grace. Water is life.
Prairie View is a place of endless creation. The water of healing happens to people who are experiencing the terrors of mental “floods” and behavioral “storms”. However, through intervention, the “surgery” of therapy, life is renewed. Over and over, new life happens; old hurts and troubles are washed away. The Spirit of God is constantly creating—even in our time, in our community, in our families. Praise God for this power! Thank God for the creative power at Prairie View.
Rev. Dorothy Nickel Friesen is a retired Mennonite pastor and denominational minister who has served on the Prairie View Board of Directors. She lives in Newton.