The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

December 28, 2013

‘Now faith is the substance of things hoped for’

The Back Porch

By Nerissa Young

— Mom and I have been picking our way around mud puddles this week during our daily walks. Mud is a bane to people who try to keep a clean house.

Daddy never complained about the rain. As a farmer, he wouldn’t have dared. Farmers know the earth does not have to yield its rain, so they try to be thankful for every drop. Of course, the people who eat what they grow sometimes lose sight of that reality.

While we are whining about salt residue on our vehicles and the marshy ground underneath our feet, folks in other parts of the country remain in the grip of long-term drought. One such place is Jackson County, Okla.

It’s seems that’s always the way. People in one part of the country are literally drowning while people in another are dying of thirst.

In Altus, Okla., they are praying.

Sunday night prayer meetings have become a staple in this wheat-producing county where farmers have endured 15 of the past 20 years with below normal annual precipitation, journalist Bryan Painter reports on Every week since May, people gather in the county seat to petition the Lord to send the rain.

Oklahoma’s unique geography creates its unique climate. One can find lush green hills and black dirt in the Osage in the northeastern corner to near desert conditions in No Man’s Land on the northwestern corner to everything in between scattered through the red dirt rest of the state.

As farmers plowed the deep-rooted bluestem prairie grasses to plant crops, they inevitably shifted the delicate balance of sustainable grasslands for native bison to large-scale crop production requiring irrigation. Oklahomans, the nation and the world depend on the state’s wheat crop.

The first disruption of that balance contributed to the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, which changed farming practices around the world. Experts have said the abundant rains of the late 1920s and early 1930s convinced farmers that was the norm when it was actually the exception. So they plowed up prairie grass like there was no tomorrow.

While farming practices are much more sustainable today, that unique climate is still subject to moisture’s whims. Increased demands on the earth’s water table are making it more difficult to survive the dry cycles.

Altus is more than a foot off normal precipitation this year alone, Painter reports.

Kevin Baker is the pastor of Martha Road Baptist Church and a member of the Jackson County Ministerial Alliance. He told Painter, “At one of our ministerial alliance meetings in the spring, we were talking about the seriousness of the drought and how it’s affecting our economy and we decided that the only real solution to this is to ask God to send the rain.

“So we just made a commitment that we would pray every week, every Sunday night, until the drought breaks, until the lakes are filled and things are back to normal.”

Attendance ranges from a dozen people to 75.

The Pryor family raises wheat and cattle. Well, not wheat anymore. At least not now. Brad and Scott farm with their parents, Jim and Barbara.

Brad Pryor told Painter that crop insurance has helped them survive. During the down time, he helped paint his church.

Scott Pryor said the prayer meetings have brought different churches and denominations together for a single cause. “I’ve met a lot of people that I didn’t know before this started.”

Barbara Pryor offered this prayer at a recent meeting. “We love you, God, in all circumstances, in the good times and the bad times. Heavenly Father, you provide for us in ways we will never understand.”

Baker added his own prayer, thanking the Lord in advance for the rain he knows will come.

Believing without seeing and knowing without understanding are why they call it faith.

— Young is a Register-Herald columnist and former resident of Oklahoma. E-mail:

© 2013 by Nerissa Young