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MD church prays for rain

BY RACHEL CLARK | LOTHIAN, MD | August 26, 2002

"Bring about this rain, this life-giving thing. Let the rain fall and wet all of the crops."

—John Hines

The morning had not yet broken Monday when a dozen members of Mt. Zion United Methodist Church gathered to pray.

The group circled around a flagpole in front of the church and asked God for rain. The crunchy brown grass under their feet was evidence of one of the area's worst droughts in history.

Church member John Hines leaned on a tall, black umbrella and looked into the indigo-colored sky.

"Bring about this rain, this life-giving thing," he said. "Let the rain fall and wet all of the crops."

The Rev. Ramon McDonald led the 6 a.m. service.

"Whether it (rain) feeds crops, wells, gardens or an overall dryness or drought, we just need rain," he said. "We, as a people, simply cry out to you."

Amidst the whistling of crickets and the soft chirping of waking birds, church member Al MacDonald prayed that God would recognize the severity of the drought.

"Dear Lord, we have a serious situation here," he said. "We pray for those who have suffered already from the drought ... not only to bring rain, but to increase the faith of the community."

After the group closed the prayer, Hines pointed to the sky.

"If you look up, you'll see clouds are already forming," he said.

Farmer Rick Catterton hopes Hines is right, even though it may be too late to salvage this season's crops.

"Some (farmers) saw this drought coming in the fall," he said. "As it got to be worse through the winter, we didn't have a real good sense of how bad it was going to be."

The lack of water makes the ground hard to plough, Catterton said.

"The first six inches is bone dry," he said. "It's as dry as I've ever seen it."

But, Catterton said, if it rains too much, "it might be too wet to get in the field."

For many, this year's crops are lost.

"It's kind of a little late for moisture in the crops now, except hay," Catterton said. "And the state can't help so much because we're in such a pitiful financial state."

But the drought affects more than crop farmers. People who own livestock are suffering as well.

"Others have livestock that need crops to eat through the winter," McDonald said. "There are a lot of people with horses and other types of livestock, and this hits them as well."

Since Jay Tice only farms to supplement his income from another business, the lack of water hasn't hurt him as much as it has others. But the drought has dried up all the grass on his land and his livestock needs to eat.

"I'm going to start putting hay on the pasture now because the pastures are nothing," he said.

Although rain is forecast to fall this week, McDonald said the church has been praying for precipitation all summer.

"We've had rain forecasts before and it hasn't come," he said. "But we prayed around the pole a few years earlier and it rained and rained and rained."

MacDonald said it rained three times that week and the rain stayed mostly in their area.

"It rained so much some farmers came by and asked us to pray to stop raining," he said. "Some farmers even called this the 'rain belt.'"

Church members are hoping for the same effect for their second prayer service.

"The flagpole, church and circle aren't claimed as the power," McDonald said. "If we pray and it rains all day long, it is God."

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