Many Biblical stories take place at the Jordan River. Joshua leading Israel into the Promised Land. Elijah and Elisha crossing on dry ground. Jesus’ baptism.
Between scattered descriptions and stories, your imagination probably conjures up images of a great and mighty waterway.
Up until recently, you would have been correct.
Unfortunately, the current state of the river has totally degraded since the 1960s.
“It didn’t have the wonder I anticipated. It’s small, it’s low, it’s brown, and it’s unrecognizable from what we might imagine the great River Jordan to be.”
In 2010, Joel Kelling visited the Jordan River for the first time.
He may have disbelieved his Google map if he wasn’t on a guided tour. The tour guide narrated this place as being the real, original Jordan.
At that time, Kelling was on a university trip through Oxford Brookes University. The mostly non-Christian group didn’t seem impressed, and justly so. Based on the current state, their reactions affirmed what a drastic shift the river had taken.
There was a time when the Jordan River was a mighty flow. In fact, right up to the 1960s, it pretty much held up to its historic grandeur. As the tour guide said, “It used to be a powerful river. It was dangerous to cross.”
Time passed without Kelling doing much about it, but the “strange sense of responsibility” he felt that day never left.
In fact, it only grew. His wife, Fiona, also came into agreement with this need.
Joel and Fiona now serve as Anglican missionaries in Jordan.
They’re experiencing a new perspective on how Christians could’ve let this occur when the river seems to be such a significant Holy site in the Scriptures.
Christianity Today describes it well, “Between political turmoil, the refugee crisis, and other local conflicts, Christians living in the Holy Land have many things vying for their attention.”
Kelling thinks the first step is awareness.
“A lot of people locally don’t even know what state [the river] is in.”
In historical past, this river would have constantly flowed about 1.3 billion cubic meters. Right now it might be 30 million cubic meters on a good day, but it’s usually closer to 20.
To put that in perspective, an Olympic-sized swimming pool is about 2,500 cubic meters. So, every second, the Jordan would’ve filled about 533,334 of those swimming pools in its original state. Now it would average 10,000.
The Kellings have decided to begin their work by getting involved with EcoPeace, a local environmental non-profit organization that brings Christians, Israelis, and Palestinians together to advocate for the Jordan River.
This NGO has been working to resolve the Jordan issue for years. Their traction is slow for the same reasons Kelling came to realize once he and Fiona got there – other pressing needs are taking precedence.
EcoPeace needs the belief of locals and support of Christians worldwide to make advancements before the entire river is forever damaged by negligence.
EcoPeace isn’t just focused on the Jordan River either.
They have developed a master plan that seeks to revive the whole area, as they foresee the damage being done here expanding across the valley. Their mission is to stop the way it’s going and rather revive the valley, toward the Sea of Galilee, and then out to the Red Sea.
EcoPeace has broken their efforts into more manageable missions. Over the course of time, they wish to complete everything by 2050:
“Pollution Control, Sustainable Water Management and River Rehabilitation, Sustainable Agriculture, Jordan River Basin Governance, Ecological Rehabilitation, Sustainable Tourism and Cultural Heritage Development, and Urban and Infrastructure Development.”
As a whole, the plan will require 4.58 billion. Some of that might come through government funds, but the reality of these projects is that it takes more than one “village.” Every one matters.
If you want to learn more about the missions surrounding the Jordan River check out their website at ecopeaceme.org. This site contains updates and many resources regarding the project.
Prayer is also deeply desired by the Kellings. First, that God would be glorified in their mission while in Jordan. Pray also for salvations. Second, this topic of the river is dear to their hearts so pray God provides awareness through their efforts. Amen.