|Here we are with the other senior missionary office couple, the Bradshaws.|
Sometimes the big holidays spent far from family are the ones that make us most thankful. Christmas spent singing to our troops in Germany long ago was the first such holiday. Living in Kentucky while Len went to med school brought others. Sharing the Thanksgiving feast with missionaries like ourselves made for a happy day this week. Our shared experiences and goals made us familiar to each other. We felt grateful for all the things we usually do, and there was much gratitude for the opportunity to participate in the work we now do, but the thanks we felt for family and old friends was heightened the more for being away from those we hold most dear. You don’t take for granted the people you miss. But there will be other holidays and other feasts, and then we will cherish all of you even more because we missed you this year.
We hope you can tell how much we like the people and the area of Fresno. Usually our posts tell about new places and people in a happy way. A several year drought is one of the problems the people here face. We have had rain several days since we came and there is great rejoicing and sincere prayers of thanks in church every time. Some of our experiences in the past couple of weeks brought greater understanding about the desperate need for water.
Two weeks ago, as we were driving around visiting missionaries northwest of Fresno, we saw a large orchard that had died before its time. It didn’t take long to realize we were witnessing some of the consequences of drought and water allocation problems. Last week we visited missionaries south to southwest of Fresno and the scene was repeated many times over.
It hurts one’s heart to see once living saplings by the hundreds and thousands standing in leafless ranks, fruit and nut trees in their prime with still green trunks but dead or dying crowns. In one place a healthy vineyard flourished on one side of a road with collapsed vines of a blackened rotting vineyard across the way, demonstrating hard choices of watering some fields while letting others go. We knew that the lives of the people in the houses we passed were diminished by the loss of so much time, effort, and money for the farmers and workers, in addition to the missing future produce available. It was not so different from losses we have seen when wheat fields do not get rain, or when hail decimates the crop, but the less familiar crops in this area underlined all such tragedies. Perhaps a tree that requires years to grow and bear fruit seems more like a man.
The carefully laid out orchards, so vast and beautiful in their strict geometry as we sped past the rows, reminded me of war cemeteries and lines from “In Flanders Fields”. We paid late Veteran’s Day homage to those who fought and those who died in war as we mourned for them and the trees.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
by John McCrae, May 1915