When the Rain Does Not Come
BY AWAKE! CORRESPONDENT IN BRAZIL
LAST year, severe drought ravaged much of northeastern Brazil. According to Veja magazine, hundreds of thousands of nordestinos, as the inhabitants of the northeastern part of the country are called, found themselves living “at the mercy of the rain that does not come.” The drought burned up rice, bean, and maize crops, leading to widespread famine—the worst in 15 years. In some places, even drinking water came to be in short supply.
Brazilians are no strangers to drought. In 1877, in the nation’s worst drought, some 500,000 of them starved to death. At that time the Brazilian emperor, Dom Pedro II, vowed that he would find a solution to the drought problem even if he had to sell every last jewel in his crown to do it! That was more than 100 years ago; yet, today, the problem persists. During last year’s drought, estimates were that it would affect as many as ten million people living in 1,209 cities in northeastern Brazil.
Fellow Witnesses Lovingly Respond
When reports of the drought reached the Watch Tower Society’s branch office in Brazil, immediate action was taken. Traveling representatives were dispatched to hard-hit areas in the states of Bahia, Ceará, Paraíba, Pernambuco, and Piauí to assess the extent of the problem. The traveling overseers found that 900 Witnesses and Bible students living in those areas were in dire need. Some of them were subsisting on a diet of yams; others had only rice to eat. One family had no food to eat and only milk to drink for breakfast, lunch, and supper. A Christian sister who suffers from cancer had to sell her bed in order to buy a little food. A family of six had eaten what they thought was their last meal when help from their Christian brothers arrived.
Relief committees were immediately organized to distribute food and supplies. Witnesses from Recife and from other nearby cities donated generously to those in need. But when more help was needed, Christians from Rio de Janeiro also stepped in to help their brothers. In short order the Witnesses had donated 34 tons of food and had paid the costs of transporting the supplies the 1,450 miles [2,300 m] to Recife.
In the capitals of the states of Piauí and Paraíba, six tons of food were quickly collected. A Kingdom Hall in the city of Fortaleza was designated for temporary storage of donated food. But there was a problem. How could the Witnesses transport the food to its destination? A man who is not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses kindly offered the use of his truck. However, convoys carrying food and supplies were being intercepted and looted. Would the donated goods reach their destination? The Witnesses were determined to find out. With full faith in Jehovah, they drove the truck laden with food into the area. The supplies arrived safely and were gratefully received.
Happiness in Giving and in Receiving Aid
The Witnesses who were involved in organizing relief were thrilled at the opportunity to help their brothers. A congregation elder living in São Paulo observed: “Last time there was a famine, we were not invited to contribute food. How grateful we are that we were invited this time!” Witnesses in Fortaleza wrote: “We are very happy to have been able to help our brothers, especially because we are sure that we have made Jehovah’s heart rejoice. We never forget the words of James 2:15, 16.” Those Bible verses state: “If a brother or a sister is in a naked state and lacking the food sufficient for the day, yet a certain one of you says to them: ‘Go in peace, keep warm and well fed,’ but you do not give them the necessities for their body, of what benefit is it?”
Sometimes the Witnesses donating supplies attached encouraging messages to the food packets. One message stated: “Keep in mind the promise found at Psalm 72:16 that soon, in God’s new world, there will be an overflow of food.” Needless to say, the famine-stricken Witnesses were grateful beyond measure for the kindness of their brothers. One Witness whose family received much-needed aid wrote appreciatively: “My family and I view this action as a tangible demonstration of the love of our merciful God and Father, Jehovah, and of the loving concern of his organization for us, its members. This has made us feel closer to him and to his people.”
A Lasting Solution
Ironically, there is no lack of water in northeastern Brazil; there is a sea of fresh water under the subsoil, as well as a large quantity of water in reservoirs. If it were possible to make these water resources available to all, the land could be agriculturally productive.
One day, the problem that so tormented Emperor Dom Pedro II will be permanently resolved. That day will come when God’s Kingdom through Jesus Christ will solve all of earth’s problems, including famine. Then the drought-stricken ground will see the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “In the wilderness waters will have burst out, and torrents in the desert plain. And the heat-parched ground will have become as a reedy pool, and the thirsty ground as springs of water.”—Isaiah 35:1, 2, 6, 7.
[Box/Pictures on page 15]
“Work What Is Good Toward All”
The apostle Paul counseled fellow believers: “Let us work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith.” (Galatians 6:10) The recent drought in Brazil gave Jehovah’s Witnesses there an opportunity to apply that counsel in a practical way. They showed loving concern for not only fellow believers but others as well. As a result, some individuals who had previously been opposed to the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses have begun to reassess their opinion of them.
One man was initially very unhappy when his wife decided to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. In time, the wife began to share her newfound beliefs with others. When at the height of the famine local Witnesses arrived at the couple’s home with food, the man was so impressed that he decided to do something that he had vowed never to do—attend a meeting at the local Kingdom Hall. Although he still had some doubts about the inspiration of the Bible, this formerly opposed man accepted a home Bible study.
In another locality the Witnesses reported: “We were surprised that the relief supplies arrived so quickly. The amount of food provided was greater than we had expected. So after caring for the needs of our brothers and their families, we distributed food to Bible students, to their relatives, and also to neighbors of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
Witnesses living in one village gave food parcels to some of their neighbors. One grateful householder remarked: “You people are doing what Christ taught; you give without expecting anything in return.”
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The effects of the drought
[Picture Credit Line on page 13]
UN/DPI Photo by Evan Schneider