Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Hurry up and wait

What is that pipe?’ we asked as we drove from Kalgoorlie earlier this year.
‘Where does it come from? Where does it go?’
‘How old is it?’
‘Surely they don’t pipe water from Perth to Kalgoorlie!’

The answers are amazing. In the late 1800s as gold was discovered the town of Kalgoorlie exploded with people, but there was no fresh water supply. A plan was hatched to build the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme – a pipeline to deliver 23 million litres of water a day from a dam outside of Perth to the West Australian goldfields over 500kms away. The plan worked, the scheme opened in 1903 and still operates today. Astounding!

Knowledgeable sandgropers delight in telling the tragic tale of the pipeline’s chief engineer CY O’Connor. O’Connor, a brilliant engineer, was constantly ridiculed during the construction of the pipeline by critics who were sure that the system of eight pumping stations would never work. The day finally arrived to turn on all the valves, but sadly no water arrived. A few more days passed…still no water. O’Connor defeated by the now victorious critics ended his pain by taking his own life on a beach at Fremantle. Three days later, so the story goes, the water finally arrived at its destination. It is part of the folklore, a bitterly sad story about a brilliant man who was not patient enough to see his scheme deliver.

There is only one problem with this apocryphal West Australian story. It’s not quite true. O’Connor did design this engineering marvel and he did attract enormous public criticism, condemnation and slander. Sadly, he did take his own life but in 1902 about a year before the pipeline was completed. O’Connor’s pain was too great. Less than a year after his death, his day of vindication finally arrived. Today his name is revered as a visionally and an engineering genius. The story has been embellished, but the tragedy remains.

Hurry up and wait, is a phrase often heard in military service. Most of us are not good at this. We want an answer, quickly. We want a solution, yesterday. We want a vaccine, now. We desperately want our old lives back. But right now, we have to hurry up and wait.

The old book uses another word, persevere. The gift of patience, to push on, to remain steady and to live in hope.

As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. James 5:11

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