Modern times, ancient stories

Editor's note: Abby Stalsbroten will be in Kenya with World Vision March 25-April 8.

John Steinbeck is one of my favorite authors. Right now I’m reading his classic, The Grapes of Wrath, about the migration of farmers in the 1930s from the Midwest to California and the downward spiral of poverty they endured along the way. A central theme of the novel is hunger. It focuses around one family and their search for work and food in increasingly desperate conditions.

In the Horn of Africa, this family has had to survive on only one meal a day. (Lucy Murunga/WV/2011)

He writes, “How can you frighten a man whose hunger is not only in his own cramped stomach but in the wretched bellies of his children? You can’t scare him — he has known a fear beyond every other.”

Over and over again as I read this book, I want to feel safe in the assumption that this happened in the wake of the Great Depression and be glad that all that is behind us now -- that the “fear beyond every other” is a distant and conquered one.

But I’m headed to rural Kenya this week to cover this very same story, in 2011. It's a modern time with an ancient story -- stories of families who go for days between meals, whose children are listless and frail from malnourishment. Some of these families have lost a child, a parent, or a dear friend because they couldn’t get the food they needed.

Rising global food prices since 2008 have put a strain on families in rural areas to purchase staples like wheat, corn, and soy. Compounding this strain is a severe drought in Kenya for the past several months that limits the crops that hungry families can grow.

On this trip, I’m not sure what I’ll see and who I’ll meet. I know that the situation is bad, and predictions are that hunger will only worsen in the Horn of Africa in the coming months. In preparing for this trip, I’m beginning to feel the same anger and sense of injustice Steinbeck communicates in his story from decades earlier, in a country far from Kenya, but centered on families who aren’t so different.

Stay tuned for a reflection from Abby's trip when she returns later in April. And watch this video on the drought in Kenya.


Read more posts on hunger.


    I was in rural Kenya in 2009, and my wife returned in 2010. We witnessed, first hand, the drought conditions there. Locals indicated that drought has existed since 2005 or 2006!! Unimaginable!! Apparently, there had been an occasional rain, but nothing sustainable. We watched (in Mwingi), while crossing bridges, as several men cooperated to dig large holes beneath dried-up river beds. We watched as smaller teams of women and children dug holes, filling buckets, with what water they could dig far enough below the river bed to extract. To some whom I shared Christ ..."bitter grapes" are all they taste right now. It seems that the truth of the gospel is difficult to swallow down a dry and parched throat.

    @Steve Terrell- I truly appreciate your comment, and believe we all should consider the words you've said in our own desire to share the gospel message in cross-cultural environments where there are immense challenges like drought. Thanks again.

    “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” --Mohandas Ghandi

    Sounds like Ghandi echoes your sentiment, Steve. It's a good thing to bear in mind, as is, "Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words." --unknown

    Many times, meeting people's immediate corporeal needs is the only door to spiritual restoration; furthermore, that--in and of itself--is sharing the gospel. "Gospel" just means "good news"; water seem to me to be the best news possible to those without it.

    It's amazing how many opportunities we have on a daily basis to share some good news, both locally and internationally.

    I just returned from kisii, kenya last week. We went into some very rural areas and found the people to be very welcoming as well as knowledgable about the christian faith. I personally didn't see any suffering from drought, but I can see how it woulden't take long to have a big impact on their daily food source. Their government is just not set up to protect it's people from a drought.

    @Cory- What a great experience to get to travel to Kenya. My guess is that Abby's trip is in a very different part of the country than where you were... I'll ask her and we'll make sure to put it in her next blog post :)

    @Lori Weitzel- I LOVE the illustration, thanks for sharing it with us. [PS: The book you're reading is by the president of World Vision <strong>U.S.</strong>:)]

    Leave a Comment

    The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.