It is raining again today in Africa. The grass is singing, if you listen closely you can hear it; the earth is rejoicing. Before the rains things are still: puffs of brown, a remaining dust girding itself for a final fight with the wetness – below the rolling dark of the clouds above. Then one by one the drops plunk into the brown, throwing up a tiny plume of dust. Then another, and another, and another still – a falling torrent.
We have made it through the heat.
But this doesn’t mean the danger is over. Now – because the beginning of the rains is the most dangerous time of all for the farmers. The “lean season” it’s called – when men who live from the land use the remaining strength of their arms to plow deep and straight, showing the ancient land how to catch the water – how to hold it, how to store it. Each tiny hole a womb for the precious seed – life again; cyclical and unchanging like the rains themselves.
Economists like to talk about moral hazard – decisions made by people once, twice, three times removed from their impact. For these farmers – their decisions are existential. Each seed they have eaten from last year’s harvest is one that will not go into the earth. Each field unsown means another year of need, of poverty.
There are four famines in the world right now. Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria – and Yemen. Four countries where planting is not only existential for the future but also perilous for now; days alone on the tiny patches of earth, ears perked up, alert for enemies – warrior farmers with a machete on their back or a rifle under a tree.
“Blessed are he peacemakers” said Jesus once, perched on a hill. Peace – a word used without much thought by those whose hazard is the greatest, to whom the distant violence seems academic– is nevertheless not an abstract concept as the African rains thunder overhead. Because there is nothing more vulnerable than those little earthen holes and the hungry man, hands trembling as he places in each one that precious scarce seed – careful to not spill even one. It is they who we fight for – and with.
God gave us the seasons to remind us that although things change – they also stay the same. That despite the moral hazard of so many, who walk through supermarkets without a thought as to whence the bounty comes – we still need him. Because water and seed – earth and sunlight – planting and harvesting; these will always be our constants. And reaping their bounty can only be done in peace.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9