By Kellene Bishop
There are great deal of headlines making the news lately which all point towards the realistic possibility of a terrible drought. Drought, famine, pestilence—it’s not exactly something that we spend much of our days thinking about. However, in my desire to fortify my Spiritual and Mental Preparedness (the first 2 priorities of the 10 Principles of Preparedness) I indulged in some major research into the history of famines in world history and the human response to these scenarios. What I discovered actually confirmed in my mind that any person who desires to be self-reliant, should do so with the reality of a seven year famine in their future.
Historically speaking, famines have typically occurred as a result of a lack of water for the crops, an invasion of devouring pests, or a blight upon the crops. It’s interesting to note that as I perused the headlines over this past week which were relevant to the crops in our nation and the world, and ALL THREE conditions were present in the news stories. A blight on the wheat and tomatoes, a shortage of water for the corn, wheat and soy harvests, and an as of yet unconquered pest invading our wheat crops.
As we all know, growing seasons occur on an annual basis in harmony with the changing seasons. So many assume that a bad crop this summer will be offset by digging into the surpluses we have until next year’s crop brings us back into balance again and thus nothing significant in the form of consequences will be felt. However, the first thing I’d like to point out is that a serious drought or famine scenario will last at least one year, right? Then why is it that so many of us only look to stocking up on food for a few months or a couple of weeks? Such a far cry from having “enough”. Just wait until I share with you what else I found that lent credence to the notion of a seven year famine being in our future.
If we’re going to prepare for a famine, the best way to do so is to do so based on historical facts of other famines—NOT based on the examples of flooding, economic woes, or war. Far too many look at the crisis of Hurricane Katrina and tell themselves that they are prepared for the worst if they use the Katrina disaster as a benchmark of time for potential endurance. But the fact of the matter is, history shows us that a famine has a much longer lasting effect than a couple of weeks. Since I have little or no control over how Mother Nature will behave next year, I don’t consider it wise to only focus on a single years’ supply of necessities. In fact, out of over 2,200 instances of recorded famines in world history, only 5 of them were reported to have lasted “only” a year. If one looks to the prophecies in the Bible, we are constantly warned to be prepared for a SEVEN year famine. The Bible refers to a famine nearly 100 times and I could not find a single instance in which the referred to famine lasted only a single year, in fact, all that I found referred to seven years.
O.K. Now that I’ve stressed you out by hinting for the need for SEVEN years of food supplies, –not counting seeds since they’d be useless in drought conditions, let’s take a step back for a moment and look at the potential consequences that any famine would have on our nation, let alone the rest of the world.
As best as I’ve been able to determine, there have been at least 2,200 famines that have occurred since 100 B.C. on the earth. In looking at the statistics of the most notable famines, I’m disturbed to discover that the shortest famine was in Russia in 1600 A.D. and during that time 500,000 people perished! I think it’s important to note that our population is much more dense today than it was back in Russia of 1600 A.D. and it’s much less self-reliant than those living at that time as well. While there may have been a famine, part of the duration of the famine was met with skilled men and women who knew how to prepare a meal with nothing more than a small open fire and some grains. Yup, if a famine were to strike us today, I’m certain our casualties would be significantly worse than even the mildest of famines experienced over the last 10 centuries. Unfortunately, the recent headlines support my supposition.
A story was featured recently in which those in West Virginia who received food stamps were panicking about the food that they lost during the week-long power outage that they experienced. When the news station ran the story about how dire the conditions were for those receiving assistance, their station was inundated by hundreds of viewers who were attesting that those who receive food stamps weren’t the only ones suffering from a lack of food. There are, after all, those who barely make it without government subsidies; a week without power could have easily destroyed the majority of their primary food sources. Given the fact that over 46 million people are the recipients of food stamps today, I’m thinking that a famine would have some serious and immediate impacts on those persons, and I strongly doubt that their response to such a challenge will be to hold hands and sing Kum Ba Yah. Nope, there will be serious desperation. But I’ll come back to that later.
As I shared earlier, the famine in Russia in 1600 was the shortest famine that I saw with the fewest amounts of casualties. By contrast, 2 year and 3 year famines took the lives of as many as 13 million deaths (North China famine, 1876-1879). In fact, China had over 1,800 famines between the years of 108 B.C. and 1911 A.D. In case you’ve missed it, today China is experiencing its most severe drought conditions that they’ve had in as much as one hundred years. What was a bit more interesting/ pseudo-alarming to me was a couple of scientific research articles I came across which state that from a scientific perspective (applied math, erosion factors, and all kind of other stuff that I didn’t wholly understand) IF there were to be a famine in the U.S. today, it would last at least 3 years on the low end and 7 years was more realistic. (Hmmm…do these scientists read the Bible?) The reason they gave for this was based in part on the Farmer’s Almanac and historical data which showed that a drought season is usually followed by other types of difficult weather such as too wet too long during the planting, an influx of pests, excessive cold weather, flooding, early frosts and snowfalls, and of course disease and blight. Additionally, a bona fide shortage of food which a famine would cause in the U.S. could easily lead to the natural consequence of war and civil disturbances which hinder the successful planting and reaping of crops and also create blockades and sieges of cities which only exacerbate famine conditions. Famines are also accompanied by other serious hardships, not the least of which is the loss of the means to earn a living. This challenge is also compounded when a famine occurs because the prices of the remaining food immediately skyrockets and thus quickly devours the financial reserves that only 3 out of 10 Americans claim to have in our present economic times. Yup, feelings of desperation just keep on mounting… In fact, in the Bible there’s an account which perfectly depicts this scenario. 2 Kings 6:25-30 covers the famine which occurred during the Syrian siege of Samaria. It discusses how “fourscore pieces of silver” were required for the purchase of an “ass’s head” which amount to about $50! “The fourth part of a cab”, a pint, of –yep, bird poop, people, went for about $3! The book of Lamentations 4:1-11 covers the famine in Jeremiah’s day in which it illustrates the pathetic physical condition of the people during that famine.
“Their visage (teeth) is blacker than a coal; they are not known in the streets; their skin cleaveth to their bones; it is withered; it is become like a stick
They that be slain with the sword are better than they that be slain with hunger; for these pine away, stricken through for the want of the fruits of the field.
The hands of the pitiful women have sodden (lacking in emotion towards) their own children; they were their meat in the destruction of the daughter of my people.”
Wow. People were unrecognizable because they were skin and bones with rotting teeth and women began to see their children as a meal ticket—literally!. That’s rough to swallow especially if you are of the habit of reading the Bible not just from a historical perspective but as a warning of what’s to come as well.
Wanting some specific details of a person who actually endured a famine, I came across and account by the historian, Flavius Josephus (The Life and Work of Flavius Josephus). His account of the famine which struck Jerusalem in 70 A.D. as a result of the siege of Romans was nothing short of horrific to read. I was particularly struck by the account of how violent men were to one another all for a scrap of bread, even resorting to torture in which stakes were plunged into body cavities in an effort to entice the victim to reveal where they had hidden their scraps of food. What’s worse is that it was a no win situation. If the person denied they had no food, they were tortured, assuming that they just hadn’t been convinced sufficiently to reveal its hidden location, but if a person immediately gave up their food in an effort to save themselves from the horrific torture, they would still be tortured because it was assumed that if they gave up their food so quickly then they must have more hiding elsewhere. Those who managed to find food would close up their homes while they ate of it, only to raise the proverbial target on their home as the criminals interpreted a closed up home as being one in which someone was eating. Those whose health was deemed to be superior to others were tortured for their food, while those whose bodies were decaying were presumed to be sufficiently desperate to acquire food by all means and thus were still a target of the desperate criminals. To me, he most disturbing account conveyed by Josephus was that the invaders would lift up the children from the ground and reach into their throats to lay claim to the last morsel they might find for themselves. I was all to familiar with the emotion Josephus attempts to describe in that the robbers displayed the emotion as if they were entitled to the food that they would steal and that the victims were somehow stealing from them if they ate anything while the robbers were the least bit hungry. Sound familiar? But even worse, he describes many instances in which the barbarians would conduct themselves as such even when they were NOT hungry in order to maintain the fear among the community of victims and likewise maintain their “skills” of intimidation and destruction.
Preparing for the possibility of a seven year famine certainly isn’t convenient, may feel very overwhelming, and some may say that it will make the crazies look that much more crazy, but when I consider how often the Bible refers to SEVEN years of famine in both an accounting of history and a prophesy of the future, I frankly don’t dare to shrug off such a warning. It’s interesting to note that even in the Mormon faith they were profusely commanded by several leaders over the span of decades to have 7 years of food provisions. While the church leaders have reduced the number of years that they now encourage their members to have on hand, they have NEVER claimed to have rescinded the counsel or override the counsel of a seven year supply. I also take into account that I won’t be the only one partaking of my supplies. It’s fathomable that dozens and dozens of family members and close friends may find themselves in dire straights and need my “excess.” I’m not talking about the folks who pride themselves on being idiots and whose only preparations involve a map of their neighbors’ homes so that they can loot and plunder. It’s conceivable that my family member who’s been preparing for many years could experience a fire or the damage of earthquake that would leave her in desperate need.
Like I’ve said previously, I’m all about believing in miracles, but I don’t think that the miracle of the loaves and the fishes would have occurred if NO ONE brought any fish or bread. As such, I keep my focus clear and frankly, it’s doubtful that I will ever feel like I have “enough.” I figure that if I do end up having sufficient to share then it’s His job to lead the right people to me and help me to defend myself against the wrong kind—even if that’s an overzealous DHS employee. Additionally, here’s another something I do know which helps to quell the feelings of being overwhelmed…if preparing for a seven year famine IS a viable plan that I’m supposed to follow, then I don’t have to do it all by my lonesome. I have experienced far too many times the generous hand of the Lord when I’m doing my best to be obedient with a limited number of resources. I find that so long as I’m doing my part to the uttermost senine, He always steps in with the rest.
You think a seven year famine is far fetched and that I’m officially loonier than those who jump into the Arctic Ocean butt naked? Well, I really only have one response to that.
“…Thus saith the Lord concerning the prophets that prophesy in my name, and I sent them not, yet they say, Sword and famine shall not be in this land; By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed.
And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword; and they shall have none to bury them, their wives, nor their sons, nor their daughters; for I will pour their wickedness upon them.”
–Jeremiah 14:15-16—see also verses 17-22)
Yeah, I think I’ll play it safe and gamble on the side of the Lord. And you?