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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

The Horn of Africa — A Place Where Horror and Hope Converge

By Mike McClaflin
Nov. 6, 2011

The stream beds tell the story. Once a source of life and sustenance, they are now empty, cracked and barren. The herds of livestock that drank from them have died; the crops that grew nearby are gone. Now, with no food or reliable water source, people living in the area see few options of escape and fear a similar fate.

Across the Horn of Africa, this scene repeats many times. The region — encompassing Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya — is in the throes of its worst drought in 60 years. One United Nations official reported that little to no rain has fallen in this area in 10 years. Nomadic herders desperately look for food and water for their herds. Along the dry, dusty roads, carcasses of sheep, cattle, goats and even camels are scattered, evidence of their fruitless search. On the horizon the only visible clouds are filled with dust and sand, not rain.

Lack of supply has caused food prices to skyrocket beyond what most people can afford. In the economy of the area, bartering is key. Without livestock or grain to negotiate a deal, the available food is inaccessible. The result is a growing epidemic of malnutrition, sickness and death. As many as 10 million people are at risk, including at least one-third of the region’s children.

Probably the site of greatest suffering is Somalia, where widespread civil unrest and brutality by militant groups further compound the problem. To escape the violence, huge numbers of people are fleeing the country. Many die before they reach help; those who survive often endure the horrors of rape and cruelty from rebel forces. Close to half a million refugees have come to Kenya; others have fled to Ethiopia. Sudan and Djibouti will likely be inundated as the situation drags on.

The Horn of Africa is on the brink of one of the greatest logistical and humanitarian challenges in recent history. These nations are ill-equipped to handle such a massive influx of people, especially as they deal with the effects of drought within their own borders.

Of all the governments in the region, Kenya is the most organized in its compassion efforts. With the strongest evangelical influence, it has the finest network and delivery system for providing relief assistance of all kinds. As a result, more than 1,300 people pour into Kenya each day, desperate to find help. A refugee camp in Dadaab that was intended for 90,000 refugees is now home to nearly 450,000 people. All of them come seeking food, water — and hope.

Believers are eager to help, but as time passes the problems they face are becoming overwhelming. Central Kenya is considered a breadbasket of Africa, but the continuing famine threatens to dwindle its supply. As long as the violence in Somalia remains unchecked, the likelihood of refugees remaining in Kenya long term is high. Making sure a half-million people are fed day after day, week after week, month after month would strain even the best agricultural enterprise. Kenya’s resources alone cannot keep pace with such enormous need.

Hunger is the top priority of the current relief efforts, but other needs — such as sanitation and shelter — are emerging. Without a plan of action, these needs will soon create humanitarian disasters of their own. Kenya lacks enough depth in its own governmental resources to sustain a lengthy crisis like this without being stressed to the point of unraveling. Before long the nation will be tapped out of its available resources, both administratively and structurally.

Even in the face of such overwhelming need, 1.2 million believers in 4,000-plus Assemblies of God churches in Kenya are strategically already in place, working together to do what they can. Church leaders are rising to the occasion to minister Christ’s love to the suffering. Believers are giving sacrificially so Somalis can receive the help they so desperately need in this time of crisis.

Congregations are receiving offerings and acquiring food, which still can be purchased in-country. Volunteers are willing to spend time in the north and assist with food distributions. Hauling food day after day in the amounts needed at the camps is a daunting effort, so church leaders are looking into the possibility of building temporary structures for food storage as well as housing for pastors and relief workers who want to minister there.

Another means of assistance is drilling water wells. A well that was drilled in the north a few years ago is pumping enormous quantities of water, but more wells are desperately needed in other locations to meet the growing demand. 

Kenya cannot address the needs of refugees long term without the strength of believers and all they have to offer. Assemblies of God World Missions and Convoy of Hope are partnering with the Kenya AG to assist in every way possible. Without a strong national church fellowship and outside ministries to work with them, I can’t imagine how the nation would handle what is happening.  

No one can predict when the dry creek beds in the Horn of Africa will tell a different story — one of life instead of death — or when the horrors of famine and unrest will end in Somalia. But believers in Kenya are determined to provide hope to suffering people now. Through their quick, generous response, they will be significant participants in the saving of tens of thousands of suffering people.

Mike McClaflin serves as Africa regional director for Assemblies of God World Missions.

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