Bible group praying for rain in Merced

Edna Bordwell and her friends have been praying for rain for more than a year. Lately, with a drought declaration fresh in people’s minds and the ground tinder-dry, they have decided to get serious about their prayers to bring rain to this area.

About 45 members of the Morning Glory Bible study group at First Baptist Church of Merced beseeched God for about a half-hour Tuesday to reverse the drought. Bordwell said the group has joined Central Valley Catholic bishops who have asked their congregants to seriously pray for rain.

“We need a real weather miracle,” Kim Beames said. “He is capable of answering our prayer; he is a god of compassion, knows and can supply our needs.”

Beames’ husband is a rice farmer. She knows all kinds of workers – mechanics, truck drivers, processors and others in the food chain – are affected in a drought.

Last Friday Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in California, urging residents to cut water use by 20 percent. He said the state is facing perhaps the worst drought since records were first kept.

Nancy Johnson and her husband farm more than 200 acres of almonds and walnuts. She said they began irrigating their trees several weeks ago.

“We are praying for God to bless us with much-needed rain here and in the mountains,” Johnson said. “Forgive us for taking it (rain) for granted. It is always in the Lord’s hands.”

Bordwell, facilitator of the Tuesday morning Bible study, which normally attracts 75 to 90 women from churches throughout Merced, said the group will continue its prayer vigils in the months ahead. Their numbers were cut in half Tuesday because of flu.

“We’ve been praying for rain for 18 months,” Bordwell said, “but decided to get really serious about it this morning and hope other churches do the same. We pray the clouds pour down their moisture and abundant showers on all of Merced. We are hoping our small gesture of faith and prayer will encourage other churches and faith-based organizations to get praying.”

Merced Irrigation District leaders say 2012-13 proved to be dry years, and the current water year is shaping up to be a third dry year and the driest year on record. The U.S. Climate Prediction Center has forecast below-average precipitation for all of January and February.

Jim Dudley, meteorologist with the Hanford-based National Weather Service, said the rain outlook for this area still looks bad. “I wish I had better news on the weather front, but it’s bad,” Dudley said.

Merced has had no rain in January, but normally would have received slightly more than 2 inches of rain. For the rainfall year that began in July, Merced has had 1.01 inches of rain. Normal rainfall would be 5.87 inches.

Jacklin Flores has faith that things will change. She and her husband used to operate a farm labor contracting business and have empathy for those engaged in agriculture.

“My prayer today was for the workers,” Flores said. “We put our trust in God. It’s all in his hands. He shall provide.”

Meri Collins’ prayer is specific: When the rain comes, she wants people to recognize it came from God and that people’s hearts will be drawn to God in gratitude.

Sandi Torgerson of Atwater has two horses and many of her friends also have horses. She has discovered hay may be hard to find and said some cattlemen are selling off their herds because there’s no rain.

“I’m praying God will turn our brown hills green with new growth and bless our community with a great blessing of rain and the clean air it can bring,” Torgerson said.

Becky Tucker’s husband is a sweet potato farmer. During her prayers, she said, she thought of her husband, who was setting up sprinkler systems. The rye that is grown for groundcover around their trees is only a couple of inches tall now and should be about 4 feet tall.

“I pray that God just dumps jars of water on us,” Tucker said.

Bordwell is hoping the efforts of the Morning Glories, women of all ages and denominations who meet Tuesdays from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. for Bible study, will be a springboard for other congregations’ prayers for rain.

Carolyn Downey encouraged those attending the Tuesday session to carry umbrellas with them in their cars. She said every time she looks at her umbrella it will prompt her to pray for rain. During Tuesday’s prayers the women opened their umbrellas as they prayed for rain.

Bishop Armando Ochoa of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno and other bishops called for people to pray for an end to the dry weather. The California Conference of Catholic Bishops has asked people of all faiths to pray for rain as reservoirs dip to historic lows.

Ochoa prayed that God “open the heavens and let his mercy rain down upon our fields and mountains.”

Dudley, from the weather service, said high clouds visible in this area have very limited moisture. No storm systems are foreseen through the end of the month as persistent high pressure keeps diverting them from Central California.

Brown hasn’t ruled out mandatory conservation measures if the drought persists. MID officials are expecting the irrigation season to be short, with growers’ entitlements as little as an inch of water per acre.