Written by Alyssa Esparaz
Hearing about a plague of locusts might cause you to think of a Bible story told to you in Sunday School. For Behaliu, a farmer in Minjar County, Ethiopia, hearing of locusts reminds him of stories told by his father’s generation of farmers.
“Our fathers used to tell us how the locusts’ impact left them hopeless, taking away their food and livelihood. We listened as though it was a folktale.”
But the current crisis facing Behailu and other farmers in East Africa is no folktale. It’s a nightmarish reality.
Today, as Behailu looks out over his field of wheat and teff crop with dread and anxiety. With every gust of wind that rustles his crops, he scans the sky in alarm, hoping the gusts do not bring a swarm of locusts.
A community faces crisis together
These swarms cause destruction, ravaging months of hard work in a few hours. The locust invasion has been a particularly devastating blow in light of the COVID-19 crisis, which has shaken the economy and heightened the risk of food insecurity.
In October 2020, several counties in Ethiopia were first ravaged by swarms of locusts. Farmers watched helplessly as most of their harvest was lost.
In the weeks that followed, Behailu dreaded being the next county to be hit. The father of seven’s entire livelihood depends on his harvest. Farmers in the area were advised to harvest as quickly as possible to save their crop—but for many, that was easier said than done.
“Because of high demand, hiring help became unaffordable,” Behailu says. “As much as I worked hard, when the day ended, the field looked untouched. I said to myself that I would be lucky if I could save something for my kids to eat.” Thankfully, he wasn’t facing this crisis alone.
“What affects them, affects us!” says Pastor Solomon of Areti Mulu Wongel Church, a local church and Compassion partner in Minjar. It was with this sentiment that the church community sprang into action in response to the locust crisis.
“We decided to coordinate the church members and mobilize the youth to help the farmers with their harvest,” says Pastor Solomon. “We wanted to pass the message that we stand by them whenever they need support.”
The church brings life and hope
The church provided equipment and volunteers, and also secured additional help by hiring daily labourers to work alongside the volunteers.
Behailu was the first farmer to receive support. His daughter, 15-year-old Dagem, is a Compassion sponsored youth. She saw how stressed her father was.
“After the church and my friends from the Compassion centre helped with the harvest, my father was relieved,” she says. “I consider myself very lucky to be part of a community that cares.”
Behailu was overwhelmed by the support. “When friends of my daughter suddenly came to my farm, I couldn’t believe my eyes,” he says. “The work that could’ve taken me weeks was finished within hours. They not only saved my family from hunger—they also prevented a possible bankruptcy.”
The church has continued to help other farmers, including those who aren’t Compassion-assisted families. The impact of the church’s efforts has since been recognized by the local government.
It’s a powerful testimony of a church bringing life and light to a hopeless situation. As farmers faced destruction, death, hunger, and bankruptcy, this local church came alongside them to be agents of restoration and light.
This is the relentless kind of love that the Church can and should be to a world in crisis.
For more stories of hope amidst crisis, visit Compassion Canada’s website.