In a recent telephone interview, I was asked how the church should be praying for those suffering through intense drought. I don’t normally do phone interviews, but because of the drought, I hadn’t been able to visit my family in Gympie for over two years.
We talked about the drought and how it was affecting us. I asked that they pray for courage to go out each day and get through the daily grind of feeding stock and carting water, and that people would visit the farmers and their families.
Why would I be asking for these things first, rather than help in the form of money or even rain? While I pray for rain each day, I know that God has a bigger plan and He will send the rain in His time. While we are waiting for that glorious day, things like courage, encouragement and strength are the things that our farmers need on a daily, no hourly, basis.
While money, hay and any other supplies are essential, and they really are, they don’t reach everyone. Some farmers have been blessed enough to have stock feed in storage and are currently able to feed their stock; some just refuse to ask for help; and some just miss out because there aren’t sufficient supplies to go around. These farmers are facing the devastation of watching their pastures and stock dying and their dams drying up on their own.
We have been told that we should be having conversations with each other to help our mental health. I was asked once why that wasn’t already happening.
The answer is fairly simple: Farming today is a lonely occupation. We no longer need to borrow the neighbours’ tractor or header like previous generations of farmers did. These farmers were already having conversations with each other during the good times while they worked together. So, the conversations were able to continue when the hard times arrived. Most farms used to employ more than just the family. Today, technology allows farmers to operate multiple pieces of machinery without the need to employ staff (this is what makes us so efficient) and the cost of employing labor is extremely high. If people have staff, that money now has to go towards feed. This means they can go weeks without speaking to another soul outside their own families, even in the good times. When droughts hit, the workload goes up and so does the loneliness. Other family members often have to leave the farm in order to find work.
I ran into a farmer one day and asked how things were going. Twenty minutes later, they said that they were feeling much better and admitted that as they were driving long distances between properties to feed stock, they had a lot of time to think and worry about how bad things were. Knowing that someone understood how tough things were, made them feel better.
When you have a conversation with someone else, you often realise that there are many people out there who have just as many issues or more than you do, and you can find things to thank God for, but more importantly, you realise that you are not going through this alone.
Statistics tell us that one farmer a week is committing suicide. When they feel alone, disrespected and struggling with debt, they often see that this is the only way out. Often, they see the insurance payout as the only way to allow their families to continue on financially and do what they love. The love of farming runs through the veins of more than one member of the family. A friend of mine has written a piece about how it affects the children of farmers and how her four-year-old cannot remember what rain sounds like. Read the whole story here.
It’s not just the farmers who are affected, it’s every small business in every small town around which farms are situated. I watched a shopkeeper recently come close to tears because I had made the decision to buy an item with gifted money from their shop rather than buy the same item online.
The Bible instructs us in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 — “Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.”
Come and visit a farmer, but don’t bring your judgement: bring a willing heart to learn and understand. Things WILL NOT be rosy, they are DEVASTATING, they are NOT pretty, but farmers have to do what they do. Then I ask you to go home and get angry. Angry that dams and pipeline were not built in the past in order to make sure that things didn’t get this bad, and angry that if these things aren’t implemented, now our children and grandchildren will also face these problems in the future. This will bless the bush more than you will ever know.
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
~ Matthew 22:37-39.
Father, open the hearts of Your people so that they are willing to learn how things are with their neighbours, our Australian farmers. Father, give each of us the courage to do what needs to be done to make sure that food is available to each and every person that lives in this great land that You brought us to over two hundred years ago. Forgive us for not preparing our country for such times as these, and please be gracious to us and bless us with drought-breaking rain across the whole of our land. Amen.