At first, the videotape seemed overwhelming crowds of dull-eyed, hungry people, crying children with the distended bellies of malnutrition. I was at a meeting where international assistance professionals were presenting the findings of a recent trip.
It now appears that due to the drought in the Horn of Africa, the majority of food crops are considered to have failed, even in areas long regarded as the breadbasket of the region. Perhaps as many as 14 million people face the possibility of starvation. The word famine was certainly on my mind and probably on others' as well.
The magnitude of the situation seemed beyond me. And currently living in Ethiopia, I feel all the more impelled to try to help. For many years I have been accustomed to turning to the Bible and to Mary Baker Eddy's major work, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," as a way of guiding me in prayer. But here I was absolutely stymied. How could my prayer help so many millions of people?
The topic of famine is not unknown in the Bible; in fact, the word appears almost 100 times. Sometimes the Bible refers to several people whose prayer led to inspired solutions, as when Joseph, who occupied an important position in Egypt, was prompted to begin a program to hold back part of each year's harvest from distribution. His prudence saved not only Egypt but also his own people from famine (see Genesis, chapters 4147). At other times, however, even the Bible refers to famine as an unavoidable catastrophe and sometimes points to God as the cause.
But I have learned that God never sends evil. In fact, God is always the source of good, and this Biblical promise is not empty: "But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:19).
Perhaps the key is in how we approach God. If we see Him as a source of chaos or of incomprehensible evil, our own thinking can blind us to a spiritual solution. Perhaps we need to approach God in the same manner as did Jesus, who advised his followers in what has since been called the Sermon on the Mount: "Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?... But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:31, 33).
These Bible verses lifted me out of hopelessness. Starting from the kingdom of God, not from the problem, I knew that God loves all His children, whether they call themselves Christians, Jews, Muslims, or whatever else. No one can be left out of God's all- encompassing love.
I felt intuitively that a solution would be found, because no matter how big the problem, God remains infinite. I was interested to find that Mary Baker Eddy wrote in Science and Health, "Both Science and consciousness are now at work in the economy of being according to the law of Mind, which ultimately asserts its absolute supremacy" (pg. 423).
I don't know specifically how this crisis will be averted through the divine "economy of being," but I love this injunction in II Corinthians: "By an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality" (8:14).
It seems to me that all international assistance efforts are following this guideline, whether consciously or unconsciously. I was heartened to learn recently that the United States has led the way in announcing that an additional 100,000 metric tons of wheat are available for Ethiopia. While there will be a continuing need for foodstuffs, and the logistics of transport and distribution are formidable, I know that progress is being made.
What's more, I learned that the word famine has been substituted by "food crisis" in discourse about the problem. This isn't just political correctness or government-speak. While a "famine" brings the connotation of unavoidable evil, a "crisis" can be solved. I know that across the globe, men and women of good will, motivated by a Christlike love for their less fortunate brothers and sisters, will find inspired solutions.