During the “Week of Creation” several events had been organized to debate about living sustainable lives. I was going to have a talk with students in the morning and at night a debate was planned with several keynote speakers and entrepreneurs.
However, on Thursday our Prime Minister held a press conference and all meetings were canceled. That afternoon many decisions had to be made.
At Woord en Daad all events and fundraising activities had to be cancelled.
Our fast moving, dynamic country came to a screaming halt. The virus that is moving around the world also brought our country to a standstill, literally as well as figuratively. During the quiet days that are following now, I often ask myself: do we realize that our “perfect” system had really only offered us a false sense of security?
My speech for the Friday meetings had been prepared. I had wanted to talk about a meeting I had in Africa some time ago. I met Salam in Burkina Faso in 2014. 2014 was a very difficult year for the West-African country. During the early months of that year the earth literally cracked due to a long stretch of drought. Nothing was growing and harvests were failing.
During the second half of the year I wanted to go and see how some of our emergency relief projects were being implemented. When we arrived in the capital city, Ouagadougou, Maison Napon, director at CREDO, our partner organization warned us: “This year climate change is really showing its effects in our country. A new disaster is being forecast. This time heavy rains are going to destroy our harvest.” A day later I travelled north and met Salam on his farm; farmer, pastor, husband and father to five children. Together we were literally standing with our feet in the mud.
The early months of the year had seen the death of his cattle, his harvest had failed and he now was living from grain that was given to him. After the summer Salam had planted new crops, full of hope. We were looking at them and they showed little signs of life on the flooded fields. Creation groaning.
He told me how the prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread” was a daily reality for him and his family. “Yet I enjoy God’s favor. He cares for us.”
Salam himself was in no way “in control” of his life. He learned to live dependent on God. He showed me how the Biblical message had become reality in his life. Last Friday I had wanted to share how I always think of Salam when reading Habakuk 3 or when I read about the fig tree.
Last Saturday I was also thinking about Salam. I was wondering what would happen if the virus were to spread to his country. A country in which the health care system is weak and where many other things are also lacking.
I was thinking about him while doing my weekly groceries. The queues in the supermarket were long. Many shelves were empty while shopping carts were filled with groceries. Even though our government had told us we should not be hoarding, many people were doing just that. In the context of a virus that cannot be controlled we were doing all we could to stay in control, each in his own way.
I was standing in line when Salam came to mind. I was probably smiling because somebody started talking to me. First in French, later in broken Dutch, a language he was clearly still learning: “Madam, why are you smiling?”
We started talking about hoarding in the Netherlands. A country that produces so much more than many countries in the world but where now logistics to re-stock the supermarkets were being disrupted. My fellow countryman had gone through a lot in his life. But he had never expected to ever see what he was seeing now here in the Dutch supermarket. As I walked out of the supermarket with my weekly groceries, I quietly said to myself, “let’s hope we will now better understand what many of our global neighbors are going through. Many of them live with insecurity about health and food on a daily basis.
Picture ANP, Jeffrey Groeneweg