“Don’t Drink The Water!” (And Yet We Do!)


One of the first pieces of advice that I received upon arriving in Argentina as a missionary was “Don’t drink the water!” My companions and I were expressly charged that we should only drink bottled soda water, or soda pop, but never tap water. The reason was that the water was not always safe. In many places of the country the water was contaminated with “Bichos”, which is the Spanish word for bugs. More precisely, it meant that by so drinking you could contract parasites. The ten missionaries that came down with me all understood that we needed to obey this rule if we expected to stay healthy over the next two years. So with that knowledge we all parted ways and traveled to our different assignments.

I was sent down south to a small town named Cipolletti, population 10,000. Days were hot and long and soon I found myself in places where tap water was all that was available to drink. I resisted the temptation to drink the water at first but it was only a matter of time before my resistance wore down and I started a routine of drinking water from whatever source that was available. Once I recall getting a glass of water out of the tap in the apartment, holding it up to the light and seeing little “things’ swimming around. In my thirst I didn’t hesitate to gulp it down. And so it was that not long after arriving and despite the warning, I partook of the forbidden waters of Cipolletti.

As you might imagine over time I started to feel somewhat sickly and I struggled to keep weight on my bones. I went to a doctor after I had been out about a year and he confirmed that I had parasites. I don’t recall the names of all the critters that were in me, but I do know that they caused me to come home about twenty-five pounds lighter than when I left, which is a lot of weight for a guy my size. Although I had been warned,  like most of the missionaries, I broke down within weeks of arriving in the country.  The only saving grace was the medicine I was given to kill the parasites. But to this day I’m not sure if I got them all!

Often the commandments of the Lord are very straight forward and we can see the benefit of following them. But like my experience as a missionary in drinking unsanitary water, we tire of making the effort, and even though we know the consequences are not good, we go against good counsel and drink the “poison”. Thankfully, our soul saving grace is the Savior!

“And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mark 2:15-17).

I have long since left the mission, but like most, I have from time to time made mistakes and ignored good counsel. We all drink of the “poison” even though we know that it may make us spiritually sick. If not for the “good physician”, we would be in dire straits. But through the Savior’s cleansing medicine of redemption, we can be clean again and free of spiritual sin. We live in unholy times! It is difficult but not impossible to keep our lives clean and free of “Bichos.”  However, when we do sin, let us look to the Savior for healing so that we may be whole again.

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