Wednesday, January 11, 2017

“May we always be burdened with thinking of the suffering of others, for that is what it means to be human.” ― Kamand Kojouri

          I guess it doesn’t matter why, whether it’s from man-made global warming, or just an unnatural cycle of seasons, but there just hasn’t been enough rain in the last two months.  Usually, for all but one of the eleven years we’ve been here, there has been more than adequate rain, but not now.  Now, there are areas of severe drought all around us.  It’s strange because you can drive through an area of dead crops and dry and dusty rice paddies and about ten kilometers down the road, the fields are green and the crops are being harvested.  There are just many huge areas of drought around.  It’s not too bad in Bunda, but just forty kilometers away in Karikakari people are going hungry.  We have about six churches out in that area, and they have all been hit hard.  There is not much we can do, and it’s killing us.  To be surrounded by hunger and not have the money or the facilities to make much of a difference is depressing to say the least.  When this happened eight years ago, we loaded up our car with 100 kilo bags of maize and drove them out to the churches.  We made four trips which was all we could afford.  We’re back in the same bind.  Bishop Festo came in today to tell me of the troubles in the area around him.  Shaban checked the prices and a 100 kilo bag of maize (that’s about 225 lbs.) is selling for $50.
We were able to buy about 500 pounds of maize today and pay a dala-dala driver about $5 to drive it out to Bishop Festo’s place.  A “dala-dala” is an eight passenger minivan that been refitted to hold about sixteen people but it can carry more.  There is a saying here that there is no such thing as a “full” dala-dala, there is always room for one more.  This is a fairly cheap and well-used transport system here and in almost every developing country.  So, as I write this, two of those big, heavy bags of maize are headed out to the hungry people at the Methodist Church in Karikakari.  We can only do this two or three more times because there is not enough money anywhere to feed all those who are hungry.  It’s very depressing to know that you can help, but you can only help a little and only help a few.  It would be impossible for us not to help however, remember “I was hungry and you fed me?”  It feels good to be able to help, but it feels bad to know how many need help.  It’s easy when you are in an area not affected by the drought to forget those who are.  It’s why even though the industrialized countries could feed every hungry person on the planet, it’s just not done.  Laws, treaties, subsidies, protective tariffs, and lots of other things I see as non-Christian prevent good being done.  There are enough farmers getting paid not to grow corn that the corn they’re not growing could feed every hungry person in Tanzania for a year.  It has always been thus, and I don’t see any changes coming.  Food aid comes to Tanzania from the U.S. every year and keeps about two million people from starving, but that doesn’t allow for the droughts that plague different areas of the country.  Our own news reports that, “Tanzania, an impoverished Eastern Africa of 50 million people, has witnessed six major droughts in the last 30 years. The disturbing trend is said to have generated the spread of disease, the threat to power generation caused by water shortage, and a major food crisis as a result of crop failure.”  Knowing this makes the delivery of two bags of maize seem pretty puny.  I’m sure those who get to eat that maize will be very grateful and will thank God.  It just makes what we can do seem so little and ineffective.  Welcome to the world of the caring missionary in a poor country.  We see the suffering, the death, the poverty, the hunger, the malnutrition, and the diseases that make what we do seem so little, too little.  It’s why not all missionaries can stay and live among the poor, but it’s what God has called us to do.  So, a small token it may seem to us, but a few 100k sacks of maize can save lives, so that’s what we do.  Hope comes in knowing that the rains will eventually come but not until late March or April.  In the meantime, some will die, some will get sick, and many will go to bed hungry each night.  It will make having our own meals a bit more difficult.  Mother Teresa had to deal with her Sister’s of Mercy doing without food since the people they were serving didn’t have any either.  Mother Teresa insisted that each Sister eat a certain amount every day because if they were ill, not only could they not help anyone else, but others would be required to help them.  So the Sisters stopped starving themselves, and so we eat, also, but our hearts are heavy nonetheless.

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