Isaiah 58:11
and satisfy your needs in parched places…

Reflection by Dea Podhajsky

I live in a parched place. Yet when I read the words “and satisfy your needs in parched places,” the image that came to mind was not of the surrounding desert which changes through the seasons from ashy sage green to dusty copper before turning a moribund brown. Instead, I saw a raisin withering in the sun, an image from Langston Hughes’ poem Harlem.

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?

The final line of the poem is “Or does it explode?”. Last year at least 227 people died crossing from Mexico to Arizona through the desert. Their dream of a better life exploding.

Isaiah writes of “satisfying needs in parched places.” Rain renews, repairs, and sustains. But not all rain is equal. The best rain is a slow, steady, sustaining one which penetrates to a plant’s roots – not a torrential rain that offers only temporary respite as it rushes over the desert filling up the washes and destroying things in its path.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu offered a metaphor about water in the form of a river. “There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.” We must do both. We must provide immediate support and aid to refugees and asylum seekers, but we are called to do more to become a sustaining life-giving rain. The rain that goes to the roots and repairs and satisfies. We must find ways to keep people from falling in the river, ways to assure their needs are satisfied in all places.

Earlier in the book of Isaiah, the prophet wrote of the damaging power of water and gave us an assurance. “And when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.” God will be with us. God will protect us.

Questions for reflection:

  • How do you react when your dreams do not come true?
  • Record heat in Arizona not only increased the number of people dying crossing from Mexico to Arizona in 2020 to 227, it is also blamed in part for the fact that 500 homeless people died in Metro Phoenix in the first nine months of 2020. Many believe that soon those displaced by climate will contribute substantially to the world’s population of refugees. The Episcopal Church’s Covenant for the Care of Creation is “a commitment to practice loving formation, liberating advocacy and life-giving conversation as individuals, congregations, ministries and dioceses.” How do you see that work as a tool to use in “satisfying needs in parched places”?
  • How can we apply the wisdom of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s words: “There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river? We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in”?


After 30 years of teaching English in public schools in Iowa, Washington, and New Zealand, Dea Podhajsky retired in 2004. In retirement she has taught English to refugees and been active in groups working for social justice as well as traveling internationally. She is a member of the Church of Transfiguration in Mesa, Arizona.

Langston Hughes’ Harlem:

What happens to a dream deferred?
      Does it dry up
      like a raisin in the sun?
      Or fester like a sore—
      And then run?
      Does it stink like rotten meat?
      Or crust and sugar over—
      like a syrupy sweet?
      Maybe it just sags
      like a heavy load.
      Or does it explode?