I have visited Armenia many times over the years to work with the Bible Society there but one trip in particular stands out in my mind. Looking back, it was just a small incident in the midst of a long car journey, but it’s something I have never forgotten.
I was travelling with Bible Society staff and some church representatives in a remote region of eastern Armenia to distribute Scriptures to schools in small towns and villages. As we travelled between towns, the country around us was wild and empty with nothing to see but the ever-present shape of distant mountains.
We had been driving in silence for some time, lost in our own thoughts, when one of my Bible Society colleagues said something rather startling.
“We’re not far from the forest where the lemonade spring is,” he announced brightly.
Probably a joke
I looked around at my fellow travellers, thinking this was probably a joke. My experiences of visiting colleagues in different countries had taught me that a lot of fun could be had by telling an ignorant and trusting traveller from England some crazy tales just to see how gullible he was! A lemonade fountain in a remote forest, miles and miles from anywhere, sounded like one of these tales.
But everyone else nodded enthusiastically, and it was agreed that we would divert from our planned journey and visit this mysterious-sounding place. We left the main highway, stretching straight and endless into the distance, and ended up on a narrow road that wound deeper and deeper into the forest.
We eventually stopped in a clearing and got out of the car. I looked around skeptically.
“It’s only a short walk from here,” I was told as I followed my companions.
Ten minutes later we stopped.
“It’s here,” someone said. “See, just here, by the rocks.”
And there it was. A small jet of water bubbling up out of some well-worn rocks. My colleagues gestured for me to take a drink. It was a hot afternoon and I didn’t hesitate to try the cool water. And as I took my first gulp I understood why they called it the lemonade spring: it tasted lemony! Not like the lemonade you buy in big plastic bottles in supermarkets but lemony, nonetheless.
There is no doubt some unremarkable scientific explanation for this ‘lemonade spring’: mild citric acid in the water, perhaps caused by natural salts in the rocks. I sometimes wonder why I still remember that short incident so clearly but I think it may be because I learnt a few things from it.
Surprises and diversions
I learnt that life is full of small and unexpected surprises and diversions, and that we should welcome them and thank God when they come. We could have kept to the arrow-straight highway, checking our watches anxiously. Instead, we ventured into a forest to experience something delightful. It was a lesson in trust for me as well: just because something sounds unlikely doesn’t mean it isn’t true.
And it was a reminder of how much we need other people to point out things that we would otherwise miss. If that little spring was in England they would put a fence around it, put it on the tourist map and charge admission. But out there in the wilderness of Armenia, hours from anywhere, there was just the local knowledge of someone who had been taken there once by someone else who had been taken there. God can use every bit of our knowledge and experience to bless others.