Good land is a gift. But even good land, even gifted land is susceptible to the elements. In recent weeks the land of Matara has been drenched with unprecedented rains and our hearts flooded with heaviness.
The rains began to increase in frequency and intensity during what would have been the harvest for season C. (Agricultural specialists divide the growing seasons into A, B and C to track various seasons of planning, cropping and harvest.) The most direct impact was that crops of beans and corn were compromised or diminished resulting in less food to harvest to feed the families or take to market.
But the rains kept coming. As the season A planting season began, the rains did not let up. When cropping would have been in full swing, there was hail that damaged all the remaining crops. The region had been hit especially hard. Our friends in Matara lost most all their crops as did all the neighbors.
Agricultural experts and national leaders are fearful of what this means for the food security of the entire country, as season A represents 35% of the food for a given year. Those in Matara share that concern… how can they lose so much of their food and survive?
We are all grateful that those permanent homes are completed, providing protection from the heavy rains for the families. Originally the men had constructed temporary homes when they first moved to Matara, and they became kitchens for the families once they moved into the better structures built over this past summer. As you can see, the rains demolished many of the old rooms. Even though it is only the loss of a kitchen now, destruction is still demoralizing.
The region is reeling after two bad bouts of rain that have crippled food production for the foreseeable future. Now everyone scrambles to use what little money they have to buy food to feed their children, but there is little available. And the cycle gets worse – less food means weakened immune systems. It means kids staying out of school due to illness but also the help the family forage for food. Government health officials are worried, they have already seen 5,000 children drop out of school in one province.
The families in Matara have suffered some of the side effects of the rains and food shortage. The increase of water means more mosquitoes and more malaria. The last three months we have seen more children home from school with malaria.
While their businesses are strong, the economy has seized. No one is buying anything since they are using any available money for food. So our friends who make soap, shoes, baskets and such have no demand, no market for their goods for the time being. Their income has been cut off, too.
The good news for our friends is that there is a safety net for them – they have friends who are walking alongside them amid the highs and lows, the sun-kissed days and the rain-drenched nights. We have bought food from other provinces to keep our friends from deep hunger. We are making sure they have access to the health clinic to get treatment for malaria. We have purchased seeds from other places to allow them to start over. They are grateful – and they know that their friends are a great grace to them in this time of trouble, a grace their neighbors cannot claim.
So this week the men and women of Matara take to the fields once again to try and salvage what they can, and to make the most of the remaining season. They hope that if they can plant quickly enough, there will be enough time for the seeds to mature for harvest. They are praying for more sun, less rain and continue to lean on God’s goodness and the grace of their friends near and far.
Please pray for the families of Matara. Pray with them for the weather to cooperate and the food to grow. Pray for the other Burundians who also struggle in these hard times. Our God is in the bread business – and we pray we can see His surprising abundance this season and that we can be part of His distribution team!