The blazing sun scorched the covered wagon as it slowly rolled forward across the barren desert. In the distance, missionaries riding in a wagon and on horseback saw an old Native American man lying against a sandstone rock, with nothing to shade him. Only a few scattered cactus plants stood nearby.
“Water,” cried the abandoned man as the missionaries approached him. Jacob reached for his canteen and loosened the cap.
“Jacob,” said one of the missionaries, “as is custom among his people, he has been left here alone to die. He has lived a long and noble life, and—”
“And he still has much to live for,” Jacob sternly interrupted.
“We may not have enough water for ourselves,” the missionary added.
“I can’t watch a dying man beg for water,” Jacob insisted. “I’ll give him a drink from my canteen.” He leaped off his horse and knelt beside the old man.
The other men shook their heads and began to move on. After the man had sipped from the canteen, Jacob climbed back onto his horse.
“Don’t leave me here alone to die!” the man cried.
Jacob pulled the reins and called to the others, “Stop!”
“How can you even think of taking on this extra burden?” another man cautioned. “As it is, our water cannot last until we reach the next water hole.”
The Native American man sat there, listening.
“I promise you that he will drink from my own canteen and ride my horse,” Jacob answered. “After he rides a while, the water will make a new man of him. I will enjoy a short walk. If we have faith, the Lord will provide for our needs.”
The old man didn’t want to take the saddle, but Jacob said, “The ride will do you good.” The man smiled weakly as the caravan moved on in the hot desert.
Jacob knew it was the right decision to share his water, even though his companions were also right about needing water for their own survival. Their supply was running dangerously low.
Jacob walked next to the man mounted on his horse in silence for hours and watched the sun sink lower in the sky. The evening temperature was still very hot. When they stopped for a drink and to let the horses rest, Jacob poured water from his canteen into a tin cup and gave it to the man. He nodded gratefully.
“Sorry for what I said earlier.” One of Jacob’s companions patted him on the back. “I believe you’re right. The Lord will provide for our needs if we first look after the needs of our brothers.”
By the next afternoon, the canteens and the water barrel in the wagon were empty. The horses could go no farther. Jacob glanced at the man, but still not a word was spoken.
The Native American man walked aside a few yards to a mound of rock and sand, climbed on top, and looked in all directions. “I know where water is—it’s a tribal secret,” he said.
The rest of the party slowly followed the man to a small plateau. Even the tired, thirsty horses seemed to know that their last chance to survive was just a short distance away. Looking under a bush, the man lifted a flat rock and said, “Look. Damp ground.” He dug down a few feet, and within a few minutes, water gurgled up from the dirt.
The little company was saved! They continued on their journey and the old man returned to his people—all thanks to Jacob Hamblin, who shared his water and his faith.
“As we help the sick and … attend to the stranger, we personally give gifts to our Savior.”
President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, “A Christmas with No Presents,” Ensign, Dec. 2001, 5.