RAIN . RAIN . RAIN. Yup, that's what the need is. Something called Rain.
No rain. It is January. The weather is like spring. The sky is clear. The grass on the hills is dry, the lakes are at 33 percent of their capacity, a meager snow pack in the mountains, there's no food for the cattle in the hill country, the farmers have crops and orchards they may not be able to irrigate come summer, the northern California communities are starting to get alarmed, water conservation is becoming a reality, farmers are irrigating tree crops in winter, unprecedented, never been done before. It is starting to look like summer in the dead of winter. Concern is growing to alarm.
The water situation in California is dire.
An announcement: It's official: Worst drought on record.
Season total so far: 4 inches rainfall.
Normal season total in January: 18 inches rainfall.
PEOPLE START PRAYING.
I gather the children at my church to tell them the story of Elijah. I tell them why it didn't rain for over three years... not even a drop of dew. I explain how the hearts of the people turned hard against the Lord. That God wanted their attention. I bring it home. I show newspaper pictures of Lake Oroville with its barren basin, looking like a puddle of water at the bottom of a steep canyon. Time to learn how real prayer works, the reason I have chosen this story. It is a teachable moment. Do we have the faith? First, private prayer, the children and leaders getting our hearts right before God. Next, we gather in a circle, children and leaders. I explain that we are going to pray, in faith believing. We begin to pray. Three children ask God to send rain. One says, "We don't want it to be like when Elijah lived. We don't want the people to turn away from you. We need rain. Could you send rain?" I ask God to send us an abundance of rain. We leave. Will God answer our prayer of faith? I knew it was a risk. Yet. It was in my heart that God wanted us to do this ... together.
No rain the next day...and the next day, and the next, and next. Then a few sprinkles--but not much. I pray and I pray, and I pray some more. Please, Father God, won't you send us some rain. I want God to perform a miracle just for the children, and for everybody else in California. I pray several times a day. Other people in the State are praying, I read about it in the paper. I ask Facebook friends and Twitter contacts to pray.
I wake up to clouds on Wednesday, it's Awana children's club day. That morning the rain begins to descend. It starts to pour, and pour. By evening, it has been a steady rainfall. My heart rejoices. I can't wait to connect the dots with the children.
I gather the children to tell them the end of the story of Elijah. They learn about the contest at Mount Carmel. We see the prophets of Baal crying out to their god to send down fire. Nothing happens. They plead, beg, cut themselves. Nothing. nothing... Elijah stands up. He repairs the altar. He says to dig a trench around the altar. Precious water is poured, and poured some more, over the sacrifice--streaming down the altar into the trench. Elijah prays a simple prayer before the people and the godless prophets of Baal. He asks God to show his presence by sending fire to the sacrifice. Fire bolts down from heaven--consuming the sacrifice, the stones, and even the water in the trench. The people see the might of God. They fall of their faces. "The Lord, He is God. The Lord, He is God," they acknowledge. A rain cloud appears in the distance. Elijah declares, "Hurry down the mountain for I hear an abundance of rain. The rain pours, and pours, and pours. God has answered.
The children and I speak of our own miracle, the rain God has sent. We pray, our words thank God for the rain. His answer to our prayers. We ask for more rain. God sends some more in the weeks to follow. Our faith has been stretched. We see in living color what God has provided. Not only the children, but the adults find that their faith has been strengthened.
Since that day, when we asked for rain, northern California has received approximately seven inches of rain. There is grass on the hills. Lake Oroville is at 45 percent capacity. There's a deeper snow pack in the mountains and some runoff for the lakes. The plants look refreshed. The drought has eased, at least to some extent, the situation less dire.
No, California isn't out of the woods and the drought will still affect us. There will be conservation measures, and less crops in agricultural regions. But. But, it certainly is better than it was. I"m glad the children prayed.
Thank you, God, for answering the faith of a child.