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Professional engineer Jeff Morrish can’t engineer the weather—no matter what fellow members of his Susanville, Calif., church say. But after several drought years, in 2015 he started a group praying for rain, even though others said prayer would do no good at all.
Rain or shine, Morrish and others in the Pray for Rain group at Susanville Church of the Nazarene, known as SuzNaz, kept meeting on Monday evenings. Sometimes a few attended, sometimes as many as 25.
On the evening I visited in February, attendees sat with heads bowed and eyes closed in chairs along the sides of four long white plastic tables pushed together to form a square in the middle of the room. Along one wall sat a desk and computer and printer, and on another hung a whiteboard with a half-erased Sunday school Bible verse. Morrish began by praying for the knowledge of Christ to permeate the souls of people as the rain saturates the soil: “Just like the rain and the snow, it refreshes and brings life. Your presence brings life as well. … Help men and women to see Christ in all that’s happening. Help them to see You in all circumstances.” Around the table, group members responded with petitions for healing the land and “restoring this nation to one that loves You.”
A soft voice asked God to open hearts in mourning and grief and bring comfort. “Thank You,” a strong, deep voice intoned, “that young people are coming to call on You.” Another prayer begged God to send people to their knees to ask for help, to make the group members bold to share His answers to prayer and bold to go out in expectation looking for what He will do. Retired teacher Sue Sommerville referenced James 5:17-18: Elijah, a man with a nature like ours, prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.
What were the physical results? California had average rainfall in 2015 and 2016, then record rain in 2017. Some areas of Southern California in 2018, though, received less than half their average annual precipitation. This year California had one of its driest Februaries on record, followed by a wet March. Meteorologist Mike Alger, of KTVN Channel 2, in Reno, Nev., the closest population center to Susanville, said those fluctuations are no surprise. Others say California boasts one of the most capricious climates in the United States.
But one member of Pray for Rain, Mary Dillion, plans to keep praying until water fills Eagle Lake, a 24,000-acre natural basin 16 miles north of Susanville. Another, Bob Bengard, says he wants to launch a sailboat at the north end of the lake before he and his wife, Gail, die. When Gail says the water is nowhere near deep enough, Bob answers, “We only need 2 more feet.”
Eight people showed up at Pray for Rain on March 16, and six on March 23: Morrish planned to continue meeting within coronavirus under-10 requirements. They prayed for neighbors’ health, for hope and peace, for God to stop this plague—and for rain.
—Shayla Ashmore is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute mid-career course￼