24 June 2024 at 00:00:00 JST

According to estimates by the UN Refugee Agency, around thirty million people are being forcibly displaced as a result of extreme weather-related events and natural disasters. The biggest impact of climate change is experienced by the world’s poorest people, who are dependent on the help of others. Elijah was a climate refugee when he stood with nothing in front of someone who also had close to nothing.



I met the man who could pray for fire to come down from heaven. He stood before me starving and pleading. There was hunger and misery all around. Although we still had water in Zarephath for a while, which was near Sidon, the persistent drought jeopardised the harvest. The weather god Baal only ever sent rain in winter anyway, but in summer the precious dew moistened the land and provided the plants with much-needed moisture. And if there is no rain or dew, there is always a high risk of extreme weather events such as landslides or forest fires. In addition, resources are becoming scarce, conflicts are increasing, and poverty is spreading.


When the worshipped deity is silent

The famine had made life very difficult for us when suddenly the God of the Israelites singled me out to tell me that someone was coming whom I was supposed to look after. I was just about to collect wood to bake my son and myself a last loaf of bread before all our provisions would be used up and we would probably die, when he stood in front of me.


When my husband had died, I had lost all social and economic support. Without the opportunity to earn a living, my place was with the orphans and foreigners, society’s most vulnerable members.


His clothing and outward signs showed that he was a prophet of the God of the Israelites, whom I did not yet know. The prophet first asked me for some water, a wish I was able to fulfil. And when I went to get the water, he called after me, “Please bring me a morsel of bread in your hand” (1 Kings 17: 11). Just as His God had predicted. Did he not know that Baal, the fertility god, was powerless in my country too? Did he not realise that I was a widow and could no longer afford the rising food prices? I would have loved to have shared with this stranger because I understood his need, but I just couldn’t. I told him, “As the Lord your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.”


God is with the poor and the weak

His confirmation came promptly, “Do not fear” (Kings 17: 13). He wanted me to prepare a little something for him first. He did not ask for much. But even so I knew that my jar of flour and my jug of oil would be empty after that. Yet, he asked me to think first of him, the foreigner, and then of me and my son. He demanded a degree of solidarity that was hard to bear. But he gave me something in return. He promised in the name of his God, “‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth’” (1 Kings 17: 14). His God, not Baal, would make it rain again.


I had a decision to make. Should I trust this foreigner and his foreign God in this life-threatening situation? Is not Baal the god who controls the weather? Above all, what kind of an unrealistic promise is this anyway? This is impossible and beyond my imagination. But I did not really have a choice. I would die sooner or later anyway. Whether we had this bread or not, what difference did it make anyway? So I did what he said.


A miracle

Everything happened as Elijah had promised. I took the flour I had and mixed it with the olive oil that was left in my jug. I had collected some firewood to make a fire. A typical fire was either made in a pit, which was a pottery-lined hole in the ground, or a clay pot was put in the fire and the jar was heated on the interior and the dough was baked against the inside wall.


Elijah then moved in with me and every day we had something to eat and I got to know his God better and better.


I am the widow from Zarephath, who showed solidarity with a climate refugee and was rewarded by God.

Author: Katrin Löwen


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