“A Drought of Souls and Crops” by Victoria Croy
A call to action and prayer from Huntsville native and missionary, Victory Croy
Victoria is a 29 year-old native of Huntsville, Alabama. While attending the University of Alabama, she was a member of the varsity Women’s Rowing team, where she was the Senior Captain, and graduated with a Bachelors in Marketing and a Masters in Sports Management. Upon a call to missions, she began fundraising, gave up her career as a Human Resources Executive for a large corporation and sold her car. She left the states in September of 2015 and has been serving all over Europe and Africa. She is currently in South America (Colombia), where she will spend the next four months before returning to the US in August.
A Drought of Souls and Crops
An inside look at how Swaziland, a country simultaneously leading the world in HIV/AIDS and TB infections, while also facing the worst drought in its history, is coping.
How do you end a drought? Let alone, a drought in a country facing the driest conditions in its history.
By governmental alliances, contracts and treaties? By imports? By moving the population to better ground?
How do you increase health and sex education and prevention, in a country that leads the world in HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis (TB) infections?
By NGO and international intervention? By quarantining those infected? By public record of carriers?
The answer to the drought and health concerns in Swaziland cannot simply be answered by the above solutions. Sure, assistance from certain well organized and effective NGOs and governing bodies can help, and I support and encourage their aid, but they are not the sole solution.
No, you see, the answer is in prayer. The answer, straightforwardly, is repentance; from those who inhabit this dry land, from those whose souls are dry.
The Truth in the Field
This month, I am living and serving in the bush of Nsoko, Swaziland. Normally the month of March is filled with rain to prepare the crops for harvest in April. But this year, it is expected that only 10% of the crops will be harvestable.
The dirt is dry. The air and wind is constantly moving dirt and dust around. I feel like I am getting a 2016 picture of what the Dust Bowl of the 1930s was like. My team and I are having issues with our contact lenses, as you cannot keep dirt and dust from getting into your eyes and underneath your contacts.
Several of us are living outside, and there is a visible layer of dust on the outside and inside of our tents. When you plop onto your sleeping bag at night, a poof of dust rises into the air. By the time our clothes are done hanging out to dry after a solid hand-washing, they’ve accumulated a layer of light brown coloring.
All vegetation is brown and crisp. Livestock, with their bones protruding, let loose from their owner’s property, wander around looking for anything they can eat.
Game reserves have shipped their animals out of the country.
Not only is Swaziland facing their worst drought in history, but their people are dying at an exponential rate from HIV/AIDS and TB. The average life expectancy is a mere 49 years old. It is estimated that a staggering 40% of the population is infected with HIV/AIDS and 80% of those patients are co-infected with TB; leading the world in both diseases.
The UN estimates that if conditions don’t turn around, at the current infection and death rate, by 2050, Swaziland will no longer exist as a country.
Dr. B Sibusio Dlamini, Swaziland’s Prime Minister, says that the country is in “a desperate scenario, which requires urgent national and international intervention.”
It’s as if Swaziland is facing a plague with a trickle effect of more plagues. The drought doesn’t just affect crops and livestock, but the people themselves. With so many of Swaziland’s population living in very rural areas without running water and electricity, that leaves a lot of people reliant on rain being the main source of water supply.
A water shortage leads to improper plumbing and toilet flushing systems. Which in turn, leads to an increase of poor sanitation and hygiene conditions and water-borne illnesses.
A scarcity of food and water and unhealthy parents, creates an environment of lethargic and unengaged teachers and students in the school systems, especially those who live outside the main, capital city. Nearly 80% of the country’s population lives in these rural areas; which are the very people who already suffer from poor education and malnutrition.
I have seen firsthand the effects this has on the children. After spending a few days in the schools teaching, my team and I have seen the inability of the students to effectively learn. In a hot, overcrowded classroom of 50+ students, they were falling asleep, unable to fully concentrate, restless and were constantly getting up to fetch water from a bucket at the front of the classroom.
I have also spent time in a Care Point (CP) run by a U.S.-based organization called Adventures in Missions. There are several of these CPs throughout this land and they work to feed and care for local, rural children. These CPs have become a safe-haven for these kids, who have nothing else to do, little to no supervision in their home-life and no access to functioning pre-schools.
Not all of these children, in the schools and CPs, are receiving the proper amount of food a day. Untold numbers of these young people are the head of their household and come from “parent-less” homes. “There are an estimated 229,000 orphaned and vulnerable children in Swaziland- this accounts for almost half of all people under 18.”
These are unheard of numbers.
It is no wonder that most of the children we’ve interacted with at the CPs are unruly, misbehave, crave attention and long to be held. They are often dirty, have unattended cuts and scrapes, use the restroom on themselves while playing, appear sickly and wear clothes that are harshly worn and fit improperly.
Another side effect to the trickling of this plague, is a drastic decrease in crops. Which means a significant drop in jobs for the people, especially the rural citizens, who rely on working with the crops for their livelihood.
No jobs available, means no one is able to work, which means there is no inflow of income.
And what happens when demand severely trumps supply? The costs of goods increases. When 40% of the population lives on less than $1.25/day, they cannot afford to buy food at inflated prices.
Washing the kids hands before they eat.
The walk to the Care Point site we worked at; the 8 mile walk I wrote about.
Coloring with the kids in the Pre-School trying to give them some structure and creativity because they currently don’t have a teacher.
Kids eating at the Care Point.
Playing with the kids at the Care Point.
What Swaziland needs is the intervention of believers all over the world who are willing to stand in the gap for this forgotten country, who is out of the spotlight, and pray.
One night my team and I decided to pray for through the night for Swaziland. While I was praying for the drought to end and for the Lord to bring rain, I felt like the Lord was saying, “Why should I bring the rain? Why should I end the drought if the people don’t first come to repentance?”
Immediately, I did a “blind opening” of my bible and knew that the Lord had scripture that He wanted me to pray over this situation. I happened to land on Haggai 1.
I’ll be honest and say that at first I thought to myself, “Really? Who reads this book? There isn’t going to be anything pertinent in here.”
Then I saw this section of scripture has everything to do with this situation and what I felt like the Lord was imparting on my heart.
“…Why are you living in luxurious houses while my house lies in ruins?… You have planted much but harvest little…. Look at what’s happening to you? Now go up into the hills, bring down timber, and rebuild my house. Then I will take pleasure in it and be honored, says the Lord…It’s because of you that the heavens withhold the dew and the earth produces no crops. I have called for a drought on your fields and hills- a drought to wither the grain and grapes and olive trees and all your other crops, a drought to starve you and your livestock and to ruin everything you have worked so hard to get.” Haggai 1:3-11
The Lord wants to restore this land and people, but they have forgotten their first love. They have gotten their priorities mixed-up. Instead of living for the Lord and “rebuilding the Temple,” they are consumed by other things.
Their God wants repentance. Their Father wants their hearts. Their Lord wants the glory.
So, this article, this blog, is more than an informational piece about my experience in a foreign country that so drastically contrasts my comforting circumstances and upbringing in America.
It is a call to action.
It’s a call to intercession.
Not just for the rain to come and end the drought, but for repentance from the people, so that God will get the glory for the harvest- of crops, and souls- and so that the people and land will be healed and be preserved.
*Swazi Photo credit: Caleb Owens