Finding God in the Water

I’ve always loved water.

I loved when summer vacations meant a long drive and then a week at the beach.

I loved “creeking” at Girl Scout camp. I loved looking for crayfish when I went to Boy Scout camp with my brother.

At church camp in middle school, I tried kayaking for the first time. My favorite part? When we had to practice falling out of the kayak and getting back in again. We tipped our kayaks while in the still lake water, just in case this happened while we were on the river.

As I grew older, I began to feel God’s presence through water.

On Church of the Messiah youth retreats in high school, I’d find a waterfall to stand next to. I’d pray or journal, sometimes even sing.


Even while attending American University in Washington, DC, I was able to find water, both through camping trips and retreats, as well as through hikes around Theodore Roosevelt Island. I saw an eagle fly for the first time while hiking in Washington, DC.

We often think about water as having the power to cleanse and renew, even when it destroys everything first. “And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.” (As a side note, my “Countdown to Missionary Retirement” indicates that I have 40 days left before I end my term of service, and while it will be nothing like in the age of Noah, I wouldn’t be surprised if the rainy season brings similar weather to Miami-Dade County.)

During the United Methodist Candidacy process, we talked about “One Baptism, One Call.” God created each of us, and God calls each of us to something. I believe God has called me to social justice ministry. When I began to think about baptism–which also involves water–in this way, it became so much more meaningful than the action of putting some water on my head as a baby. I was baptized into a community of Christians who each have unique gifts, and when we use our gifts fully and in a unified way, we form the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12).


While serving as a Global Mission Fellow US-2, I have also been lucky enough to find water: the ocean! (Now that I have well water, I have also experienced times without water, like when the electricity goes out and there is nothing to power the water pump.) Other than searching for shells, watching nurse sharks swim by my feet, and napping in the sand, one of my favorite things to do at the ocean in South Florida is snorkel.


In most aspects of my life, I like to be in control. When I am in control, I don’t worry. It’s foolish, really, to go through life that way.


The first few times when I went snorkeling, I started to breathe rather rapidly as soon as my face plunged under water. I knew that I could float, that I could breathe through my snorkel, and that my nose was covered by my face mask/goggles. Even so, I forced air in and out of the snorkel quickly, because I needed to feel in control.


At times, my relationship with God has been like snorkeling. I know that God loves me and wants what is best for me. Yet, I sometimes have trouble living into that truth. Instead, I flounder around, seeking to overpower God. When I ignore the Holy Spirit’s pull on my life and instead seek to do my own will, I always end up worse off than I would have been if I had let go. Moreover, I often contribute to our structural sin when I don’t do what God leads me to do. Snorkeling, for me, is a reminder that I need to just relax and trust in God.

For many of us in the US, water is so common that we (unfortunately) take it for granted. I am grateful that God has used water, which I see and experience everyday, to teach me more about God.



Emily Kvalheim

GMF US-2, Class of 2015-2017

South Florida Justice For Our Neighbors

Miami-Dade County, FL




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