We still haven't had any rain. We could hear thunder coming from other mountains. Taunting us. There isn't even any dew on the ground. I walk our grass airstrip most mornings for exercise and my feet usually get soaked. By the time I come to the house my shoes are squishing out water with every step and I can ring lots of water out of my socks.
This has not happened in weeks.
There are other factors attributed to this drought that are making life hard for the people here (including us). The ground is so dry and cracked that bugs are going into the ground to eat the few sweet potatoes everyone has left. I walked through the dry anemic vines of sweet potato in my own garden yesterday thinking that it is now time for what I planted six moths ago to be harvested. Normally, harvest time for me is very frustrating. The vines are so full, thick, and tangled that it takes longer to find the original mound than it does to actually dig the potato out of the ground. This time it was very easy to see the source of the vine, although harvesting did bring some disappointment. I was able to pull out a couple of decent sized potatoes, but then noticed that I only had small nubs in other places with the obvious nibble marks of an insect's pinchers. It was hard to realize that the same thing is happening to my friends, who don't have frozen veggies to fall back on stored in freezers.
Another unexpected hardship with this drought is fire. I know that sounds dumb, because drought always brings fire problems in the U.S. but I just never considered it here. I tried to burn my trash a few days ago and the flames quickly spread into my garden. Fortunately, we were able to put the fire out pretty quickly. However, a huge part of gardening here for the Hewans includes clearing land and burning it to get ready to plant. People are still doing this in order to be ready to plant as soon as rain comes. Yesterday as one of our friends was burning a garden a good safe distance away from his house, the fire soon got out of control. The flames actually travelled underground through the dried root system, up into the stumps and logs surrounding his house. My husband had to run up there with his chainsaw and cut logs that were literally in flames, so everyone could roll them down into the river and away from his house.
Everyone is getting desperate, and is constantly coming to tell my husband that their gardens are done and in one or two weeks time they will no longer have any food to feed their children. Meanwhile he is doing all he can to plan for and get help. He's writing anyone he thinks will listen and help and we are paying for flights so that our village can buy rice. It's a lot of pressure and frustration for him. Kinda like a doctor trying to save a dying man while his entire family knocks on the door of the operating room to tell that doctor, "Did you know this man is dying? Can you help him please?" And when he tells them the days the plane is coming so they can start gathering money to buy food they ask, "What about our brothers in ________ village? Their gardens are dry too." All we can do is say we're sorry. The plane is small and can only carry so much and we can't afford to pay for a flight for every single Hewa village (there are a lot of them) nor is there an airstrip in most of these villages.
Today he held a pray meeting for all the believers to remind them that they need to put their trust in God, not him, and not the government or other aid relief. He planned to have everyone read and study Matthew 6:25-27, but then realized those verses have not been translated into Hewa yet. So here we are in the middle of the jungle, desperate to help desperate people. Doing what is supposed to be our "real job" in discipling believers in times of trouble rather than just solving all their problems for them, and we can't even share meaningful, life-giving verses to the people.
It was a great reminder, though, that this IS our real job. To get the Word in their hands because we won't be here forever. We may not be here for the next drought, but if we do our jobs correctly then God's Word will be. They won't have us to turn to - only Him, and He is a much better source of help. The ONLY source of true help and comfort.
But…that doesn't mean we sit here and do nothing. We're still doing whatever we can: writing reports, petitioning - begging everyone we can, paying for flights so they can buy rice. They may be missing a lot of God's Word right now, so we must become that Word. The living verses. Showing them that God WILL provide for them, and maybe this time he is providing through some inadequate Americans pleading their case to whoever will listen.