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Praying for rain in la-la land

Followers of Jesus need to take seriously the stewarding of the resources entrusted to us by God

by Perry Engle

When I travel away from my home state of California, I often hear the jokes about being from “the land of the fruits and nuts.” What people don’t realize is how much water it takes to keep all of our fruits and nuts alive.

California is in the midst of the worst drought in modern history, and it’s no laughing matter. For the first time in our state’s history, the governor recently ordered mandatory drought restrictions, which include a 25 percent reduction in urban water usage.

Since I was born and raised in SoCal, I’ve often thought that lack of water might be the pin that bursts the bubble of our consumeristic lifestyles. After all, we do live in a semi-arid climate, with over 22 million inhabitants vying for limited resources in a five-county area. I’ll leave the discussions on global warming to those smarter than me. What I do know is that it rains and snows far less in California than when I was a kid. And whether it is a cyclical pattern or fundamental climate change, the outcome is the same: God’s people need to lead the way in conserving God’s vital resources.

We often get hung up on the politics of conservation and resource management, and how all of this affects farmers and businesses. While these are weighty issues, we need to make sure they do not overshadow the importance of individual Christians and church communities doing what they can when crises such as these arise. We do well to remember our biblical value of living simply and how it applies to the way we live our lives in a world of limited resources.

Some of the small ways our family is working to conserve water during the drought include capturing water in a bucket while the shower warms up, and then using it to water plants on the patio; setting automatic sprinklers to irrigate for less time; shortening our showers; turning off the spigot when lathering up; and generally viewing water as a valuable resource rather than just something to be poured thoughtlessly down the drain.

A bigger question is how I and local churches might change how we view the expansive lawns that tend to dominate our landscaping in Southern California—lawns kept alive by automatic sprinkler systems with water imported from the Colorado River. Would we be willing to expend the cost for a more reasonable, drought-tolerant design that, in the long run, would be more in keeping with the Mediterranean climate in which we live?

These are immediate questions that face those of us here in the West. Yet each of us, no matter where we live, can set an example for a life of moderation—the kind of life that might, in turn, help strengthen the social fabric of our communities and regions. Of all people, followers of Jesus should take seriously the stewarding of the resources entrusted to us by God.

Join us here in the West in praying for rain, so that we might continue our grand tradition of exporting fruits and nuts to every corner of this magnificent world in which we live.

This article originally appeared in the spring/summer 2015 issue of In Part magazine.
Perry Engle

Perry Engle is a tree hugger and proud of it. When not carrying buckets of water from his shower to his garden, Perry serves as bishop of the Midwest and Pacific Conferences of the BIC U.S. He and his wife, Marta, and their family live in Ontario, Calif.

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