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Sentinel Watch

A spiritual response to drought and famine

From the October 10, 2011 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

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The famine in the Horn of Africa is ravaging (see “World Bank steps in to help an overwhelmed Kenya,” The Christian Science Monitor, September 2). In Kenya, where I live, it is estimated that close to four million people are faced with starvation. Many have died, livestock and animals have been wiped out, and the pictures of suffering are disconcerting.

Nevertheless, in the true spirit of good neighborliness, Kenyans have made donations big and small to help ease the effects of a drought said to be the severest in more than 50 years. Other donors have included foreign governments, UN bodies, local and international NGOs, and many more.

How do we find our way out of this drought and famine? And how can we find a permanent solution to the seeming cycle of suffering and relief, which has a way of repeating itself with the vagaries of climate and harvest? Many good suggestions have been discussed, including the rehabilitation and management of water resources for irrigation, sinking of boreholes, the farming of high-nutrition drought-resistant crops, and potential dietary changes among local communities. But to be able to turn this around in meaningful and lasting ways, we must also mentally turn upward from the material picture of lack, to understand and focus on God’s abundance. This spiritual stand is what will ultimately bring about the required shift.

Jesus Christ, in his mission here on earth, met the needs of many who were hungry. Think of the story of his feeding of the five thousand. At the end of a full day of healing and preaching, Jesus was advised that since it was getting late, the people should be sent home to their villages where they could get food to eat. Jesus said instead that they should be served something to eat right there—but the only food available was five loaves and two small fishes. He took it, looked up to heaven and gave thanks to the Father, broke it, and asked the disciples to pass it round. What was initially a small dinner turned out to be a meal for at least 5,000, and after they were full, twelve basketfuls were collected of what remained (see Matt. 14:13–21).

His understanding that food, what really sustains, is not truly in matter (fish and bread), but that it is a spiritual idea, gave him victory over hunger at that event. He demonstrated that a spiritual idea can have no shortage, cannot die, and cannot dry up. By extrapolation, we would be quite right to conclude that the twelve basketfuls of leftovers were enough to feed more multitudes, based on the Principle that Jesus applied. In Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “Divine Love blesses its own ideas, and causes them to multiply,—to manifest His power” (p. 517). How can we, then, spiritualize our idea of food when it comes to areas affected by drought or famine?

Just as Jesus’ prayers multiplied the apparently available resources on hand in his day, ours can do the same today in the Horn of Africa.

Jesus looked to God, Principle, to multiply what was available. We can do the same in our prayers today. Through our recognition of God’s present guidance, people’s perceptions change and we see goodness, substance, multiplied. Outreach is uplifted, practical efforts become more effective, and obstacles are overcome. Our motives become purer, and our prayers remove the fear, hopelessness, and apathy that suggest that the issue of famine is too great to address. We can be certain that the God who cares for us is also with individuals in need, guiding them to good solutions.

As we unite in prayer about these issues, we can expect our spiritualized consciousness to have an effective result. Our prayers are not supplications for God’s intervention in a disastrous human situation, but instead they can be a recognition that God is indeed present and that each individual is His loved, spiritual reflection. God does not send evil or give purpose to those who would harm others in need; God is Love and does not visit evil upon His children. Just as Jesus’ prayers multiplied the apparently available resources on hand in his day, ours can do the same today in the Horn of Africa and similar situations elsewhere.

Prayer, manifested in kindness, compassion, and giving, is going a long way to heal famine and ease suffering. It is pouring out love in a place that is in need of love. When we fix our gaze above an apparent picture of lack to the spiritual reality of God’s abundance, this is where we can find lasting solutions. Rather than trying to heal a situation, while stuck in the grip of a mesmeric picture of want, we can see as Jesus did, recognizing that God is the inexhaustible source and supply of all good.

In Science and Health, Mrs. Eddy put it this way: “Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need” (p. 494). “Always”—at all times, and in all circumstances. 

Nellie Gitau lives in Nairobi, Kenya.

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