Friday, October 09, 2009

Watching Africa Blow Away

We drive across the East African plains and wonder at the moonscape they have become. Along the roadside, the trees stand brittle and covered in a heavy coat of dust. The faces of the little shacks along the way are the same. Fine, powdery dust has lifted easily in the dry wind and painted everything a lifeless brown. The monotony of color is strange and disturbing.

Even from my desk by the window in my bedroom at our house set in a watered garden, I can see the dust. Carried on the tired wind, it billows against Mt. Meru, the quiet volcanic mountain that our city sprawls at the base of. Instead of misty blankets of moisture, Meru is shrouded in a gritty cloud of dust. Though I don't see it coming through my window, I feel the build up on my keyboard and stop to wipe it often.

Africa, it seems, is blowing away.

Even the elephants are skinny. We passed four or five herds as we traveled last month and I was saddened by their sunken contours. BBC reports that livestock and wildlife alike are dying in droves. We pray, asking God to protect them and to not allow human life to be lost.

"The worst drought in ten years." That's what they're saying.

Now, everyone knows that East Africa experiences cyclical droughts, but this is different. A combination of man-made and natural factors have collided to set up the perfect non-storm. No rain of significance over the last couple of years and 2 harvests in a row have failed now.

"And, what will happen?" I wonder to myself. Will East Africans stop felling the trees that draw their rains? Will the farmers finally learn to protect their topsoil by ploughing with the contour of the land instead of up and down the hillside? Will the pastoralists who have lost so much grazing land reduce their herds and stop stripping the fragile environment right down to bare earth?

And will the world notice?

The middle aged folks in wealthy western countries are the kids who passionately attended or at least watched the Live Aid concerts back in the mid-eighties. Stirred by famine in Ethiopia, Bob Geldof's dream event raised about 150 million pounds in financial assistance. Those who hold the world's discretionary funds have been here when they were young and unstoppable.

But what came next? HIV/AIDS followed on the heals of famine and while it spread quietly at first, it spread quickly. By the end of the nineties, Africa was in full blown crisis and Bono was asking that we drop the debt. In a staggeringly massive effort of evil, Rwanda invited her citizens to kill each other and, en mass, they did. Since then, that bastion of stability, Kenya, has shown the real shape of her heart by dividing along tribal lines and killing several thousand of her own during elections. And Zimbabwe... What a mess. Corruption of all sorts all over the continent? Yes. All the while, global warming and global economic crisis have piled their burdens of destruction onto this continent that should be plenty able to feed herself.

Geldof's concert-going activists are tired and in financial crisis. They've grown up and have all the mortgages and car loans to prove it. They have kids with expensive education bills and many of them have lost their jobs, their homes and/or their retirement funds. Their sure foundations have crumbled underneath them and there is fear in its stead.

BBC can tell us this is the worst drought in East Africa's last decade, but does anyone out there have the stamina to help her face it?

I sit at my desk, watching Africa blow away, and pray mercy.


Carolyn said...

Dear Lisa:

I just watched Letterman tonight after I came home from work. Kristin ? who is in some movie coming out this week, was talking about her trip to Kenya, and her group finding a one year old baby elephant by itself, skinny, dehydrated, etc. He couldn't see.....wandered away from the herd. Her group and the Maasai gathered the elephant, carried him miles away, fed him, and found him a doctor who is going to fix his eye so he can see. She was very enthusiastic about it. She did mention the anyone who watched tonight would have heard about it. What people can do about it from here? Not so sure. But I will spread the word, and I am praying....

Timothy Wright said...


Thanks for this Lisa. I am so self absorbed. I will pray for rain for Africa and your family as you become the spiritual rain that people so desperately need but are unaware of. Have been blessed by your 24/7 prayer talks.

Carlisle, England

stacey said...

Thank you... for your words, care and prayer. Thank you.

lisa said...

Thanks, all, for your notes. Carolyn, that's interesting that you just saw someone talking about the struggling elephants there. And Tim, I appreciate hearing that my talks have been a blessing. Thanks for letting me know :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi Lisa,
I'm praying for mercy, rain and blessings with you. This whole planet needs mercy!
xoxo, Dore'

lisa said...

Just an update to say we had a rain last night. It didn't last too long but it was a decent little rain. Of course we ran out into it and danced around :-)

jb said...

hallelujah, may the rains come.
i sit in san francisco and my heart hurts for africa.
in fact i am crying just a little.
jesus have mercy...send rain, gently and slowly and steadily.
have mecy.

Hannah said...

Lisa, I'm sitting in a London office trying to find the inspiration to write an article about Kenya, a million miles away. Your blog reminded me of home, thank you. I can feel it in my pores agin - I will get to work :-) Greetings to all in Arusha and thank you for sharing your thoughts!

Carolyn said...

Dear Lisa:
Yes, I think it's interesting that I would have just seen that too. I re-read this tonight, just before heading to bed, and these verses came to me. You spoke them to me many years ago, and the way you spoke them left an impression on me. May they bring blessing on you now as they did back then.
Hosea 6:2-4 (Today's New International Version)
2 After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will restore us,that we may live in his presence. 3 Let us acknowledge the LORD;let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises,he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains,
like the spring rains that water the earth." Amen.