Priming the Pump

“When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.” John Ruskin

We hauled up water from a well when we lived in the interior of São Paulo state; the little village of Neves had no water mains. For that matter there was no sewage mains either. The well was dug before we came, done by hand of course down some twenty-five feet through hard soil. Those who had done that work built a stone curbing that extended a few feet below the ground to a few feet above. We learned to draw water with a windlass, a rope and bucket. The apparatus situated on the curbing was made, I assume, right there in Neves by a craftsman.

Doris and our well


We installed an electric jet pump down near water level—a task I might better have left to someone used to those wells. My recollections are vivid of Doris lowered me by rope with a loop for my foot down where I could work. But the pump at timers was obstinate; it would not provide water for our family and at times it simply quit working. So I would have to go down that well again and make repairs.

But the job was never done till the pump was primed. It needed enough water to allow it to begin its work of pushing water up to our tank under the roof of our home. No priming—no water for a shower. So I would take down into the well not only tools but a bottle of water for priming. With the depth of the well and that slim rope in mind, Doris and I both tried to be very careful.

If you are familiar with a hand pump at your cottage or hunt camp you would know its leathers might dry out and then the pump lost its prime. Or if a defective foot valve in the well began to leak, then that pump needed to be primed. The last person using the pump then must leave some water in a pail for the next priming. That water was essential. If there was no water, the next person at the well would go thirsty.

Just imagine if you were travelling in a desert area and were desperate for a drink. An oasis with trees and grass would provide hope but suppose the pump there would only suck air–you might then be in a bad way. But if you saw a sign: “Prime the pump—water is in the bottle by the tree.” Then water from the well would slake your thirst and save your life.

The traveller who had drunk deeply always needed to leave water to prime the pump for the next person. If you had drunk deeply does it not seem fair that you would prime the pump for someone else?  Now I’m getting to what I really wanted to say when I mentioned the well out there in the village of Neves.

This is Christmas program in which the blond girl at the middle and back, when she was in Neves drank of the Living Water and later began an organist in a large Baptist congregation. This is some of the priming Doris did while in Brazil.


If anyone of us has drunk deeply of the life that Jesus the Christ has provided through family and church, does it not seem fair that we leave the Living Water to prime the dry pump of someone who is thirsty. My word of counsel is, “Don’t throw away the water that will prime the pump for others.” Let us pass on some of that water that may save the life of a thirsty traveller.

The Kaspersons, Lutheran missionaries visited us in Neves. They were great folks in passing on the Water of Life.

Let me tell you about the feelings that are behind what I have written. Doris and I during the last few weeks have been spending time sorting through boxes of stuff we used in our ministries in Brazil, Haiti and pastorates here in Canada. We both had worked hours putting some of that priming water into buckets that could be used to prime the pump for other thirsty people. As we now discard those buckets it seems we are erasing memories built up over the years. Part of life seems to be lost. But as I have thrown out stuff I came across a couple of notes from people who were thankful for the priming water we had left them. Those words of thanks made it all worthwhile.

Now I am hoping that others, many others will pass on that same water of life to those who thirst.


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