“The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, ‘Mortal, can these bones live?’ I answered, ‘O Lord God, you know’” (Ezekiel 37:1-3).
Carlos German López and his wife, Anita Aguirre, live in the municipality of Concepción de María in Honduras. The municipality lies in a region that is part of the “dry corridor” of the Santa Ana community. In this area, farmers face difficult challenges accessing water for their households and farms. Rain comes in only four months of the year, and residents face long periods of drought. The dry conditions mean Carlos, Anita and their neighbors are at heightened risk of food crises and hunger.
The valley of “dry bones” could be a metaphor for many regions of the world. As changes in the world’s climate continue, drought is an increasingly serious problem. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations found that for 36% of the countries that experienced an increase in hunger between 2005 and 2017, the increase in hunger coincided with a drought. In 2017 alone, 51 low- or middle-income countries experienced early or delayed onsets of growing seasons, 29 experienced shorter seasons, and 28 experienced both. The scarcity of freshwater worldwide is expected to contribute to significant negative outcomes, including increased hunger and increased violence as communities vie for the scarce resource.
Farmers such as Carlos and Anita know the importance of water. “Currently, our biggest issue is the scarcity of water for human consumption, for our animals and for crop irrigation,” says Anita. “This problem forces women to work even harder in order to collect water. … Here, we do not sleep during the summer months, in order to grab a little water; we need to wait several hours by the well.” Without access to water, maintaining a farm can become nearly impossible. In some regions of the world, such as the dry corridor of the Santa Ana community, farmers may risk losing their way of life because of drought and other climate-related events.
Farmers and others who make their living working the land know the intimate relationship between humans and the rest of God’s good creation. Dependent on soil, water, sunlight and more, farming reminds us of both God’s abundant provision and the interconnections between humans and the rest of creation. Scripture, too, reminds us of these connections. As the ancient Hebrews journey from Egypt, they do so in hopes of a fertile land from which they will be able to draw sustenance. In many of the parables of Jesus, creation serves as an illustration for God and God’s coming reign.
Despite how far we have come in knowledge and technological advancement, this remains true: we will not survive without the rest of creation. All of creation rises and falls together. For some, such as Carlos and Anita, that truth is lived every day. For others, it may be easier to forget our dependence on the creation God has provided — and the responsible stewardship of it to which we are called.
As we journey in hope toward Easter, we are reminded in Holy Scripture of God’s promise that salvation is not for humans alone but for all of creation, which “groans” until God’s reign shall come in fullness. Our hope is an active hope, though, and we know that God has called us to work now, tending to both human communities and all of creation.
With support from ELCA World Hunger and the Lutheran World Federation’s World Service/Central America program, local organization Red COMAL (the Alternative Community Markets Network, in English) is helping farmers such as Carlos and Anita learn new techniques and strategies that will help reduce their vulnerability to food insecurity while protecting the land on which they rely.
Through a project implemented by Red COMAL, Carlos was trained in agroecology, an approach that focuses on food production and sustainable management of resources. Carlos has learned to diversify his crops and helped establish a system of stockpiling corn for times of scarcity and emergency. He also learned how to select, rescue, reproduce and store native seeds, which has helped him plant new crops for his family and help other farmers in his community.
Through the program, Carlos, Anita and other farmers are learning new ways to care for the land and themselves, to breathe new life into the dry corridor of Santa Ana. And perhaps that’s a good way to think of the season of Lent. Even as we journey with Christ toward the cross on Good Friday, even as drought, death, hunger and poverty continue to confront our communities, God is at work in, through and among us and our neighbors, breathing new life just when we think all is lost.
That has been our journey these 40 days. From a hotel in North Carolina to a dilapidated thatch house in Malawi, from a Kenyan school to a Bay Area restaurant — we have walked alongside Manhal, Mrs. Kamela, Evelyne, Jamie, Carlos and Anita as they challenge us and invite us to hope together for a just world where all are fed.