I’m old enough to remember when there was a movement which was very popular in the US and some other countries around the world which went by the name of “Survivalist” and the name itself gives you an idea of how intense it sometimes got. It was a movement made up of people who wanted to be ready in case something like a nuclear war or a pandemic or simply the failure of technology happened, leading to the collapse of organized society and civilization and leaving whoever was left alive to fend for themselves in a post-cataclysm world.
The “survivalist” movement was not explicitly anti-Semitic or racist, but there was a fair amount of overlap in the membership of this movement with other movements that were, including militia groups in the US and Skinhead gangs in the UK and other countries.
Maybe that’s why, these days, the term “survivalist” has been largely replaced by the less emotionally intense term “prepper” as in, people who are trying to be prepared for the possibility of finding oneself fending for oneself in situations where something has happened which has made the usual agencies of government, civil society, commerce, etc. unable to provide the services they usually provide. With the increase in disruptive weather and natural disasters all over the world, the idea of “prepping” has gained legitimacy and momentum all over the world, including here in Israel.
As I said in a previous blog post on this topic, I think Believers should take part in making such preparations to take care of ourselves and others (especially vulnerable people such as children, those who are physically disabled and also the elderly) during times when things that we’re used to counting on being there when we need them are, for whatever reason, not available.
The Bible tells us that as we move closer to the end of this Age, conditions for everyone will get more and more difficult in all kinds of ways and for all kind of reasons. Preparing for the challenges this will pose is simply a matter of being responsible for whatever God has put in our care, whether you’re a pastor of a large congregation or if you live alone with no one but a goldfish to keep you company and everything in between.
However, there’s a couple of downsides to prepping.
For one, as I said at the beginning, it is associated in the minds of some with the “Survivalist” movement which had some toxic elements. So “prepping” can draw some negative attention, including from Law Enforcement but also from your friends and neighbours.
Another downside is that to seriously prepare for natural and man-made disasters, it is necessary to make a fairly substantial investment in time, money and effort. That’s time, money and effort that won’t be available for other things we all need, and if the disasters we’re preparing for never happen, it will mean we wasted all that time, money and effort.
After studying this problem for much of the past year, I’ve arrived at what I hope is a balanced approach.
There are five hobbies one can engage in that will allow one to prepare for most of the disasters that one might find oneself experiencing. They’re all pretty benign, so you’re unlikely to attract any negative attention from pursuing them. Also, doing these things will bring many benefits to your life even if you never have to use the skills and equipment you acquire by practicing them to respond to a disaster. These are also ways you can build relationships with your family and community, which has all kinds of complementary benefits for everyone.
The five hobbies are fitness/exercise, camping, gardening, woodworking and needlework.
The first is the mother of all no-brainers. Everyone needs to be exercising regularly in order to keep in good health. This is something people need to do whether they’re trying to prep for disaster or not.
The best program for fitness that I’ve found is HASfit. It’s easy to find on the internet and there are MANY testimonies about it that it’s the most user-friendly, easy to get into and stay with exercise program out there. If you use it consistently over time, it’ll become a part of your normal routine and the resulting improvement in your physical health will produce benefits in every other area of your life.
Once again, these benefits will accrue to you whether or not you ever find yourself grappling with a natural and/or manmade disaster, because EVERYONE gets older, and the older you get, the more critical your physical health becomes to every other area of your life.
The second hobby, camping, is also a bit of a no-brainer.
During the recent events in the US which saw brutally cold weather crashing the power grid in Texas and causing widespread shortages of all manner of goods and services in many other parts of North America, millions of people had no way to keep themselves warm or cook their food other than to build a bonfire in their backyard or otherwise make use of the gear and knowledge that they had acquired by pursuing the hobbies of camping and outdoor cooking.
A similar natural disaster could strike the area where you live with little or no warning, leaving you without shelter, electricity, a reliable source of food and/or clean water and other necessities of life for several days or even longer. You need to have a plan for how to manage things in such circumstances and camping is a great way to learn the skills and acquire the gear and equipment which will allow you to do that.
It’s also a great way to have fun with your family and friends, and once again, even if you never have to use this gear and these skills to survive (and help others survive) a natural or man-made disaster, getting out into nature is something that can have many benefits for your life, so it’s worth doing for its own sake.
The third hobby, gardening, is one I mentioned in previous blogs.
Now, obviously, few people will have a large enough garden to produce sufficient food to feed themselves or their family and friends for an extended period of time if the grocery stores aren’t working. But the reason this hobby is worth pursuing is because it will allow you to acquire the tools and knowledge in how to grow crops, and that will be invaluable if/when you ever DO have to make growing your own food a long-term, high priority project.
Again, gardening also has many benefits to your life even if you never have to use these skills and tools in an emergency. It is very calming to work in the garden and there’s also health benefits to getting one’s hands into the soil and breathing in the fresh air. Eating the food one grew, even if it’s just a few carrots or peppers or spices or whatever, is very satisfying. Gardening is also a great way to teach children about where food comes from and many other valuable lessons.
As I said in a previous blog, if you’re a pastor there are MANY lessons that can be taught to children and adults by having a garden and using it to demonstrate the many agricultural stories in the Bible.
The fourth hobby, woodworking, is a bit less obvious than the others.
But again, acquiring woodworking tools (especially the kind that don’t require electricity) and the knowledge to use them can prove invaluable to helping you manage a crisis. There are innumerable possibilities that might require a person to have the tools and the knowledge to work with wood and other materials in an emergency. Repairs will need to be made to homes and other buildings, emergency shelters might need to be built, etc.
And for pastors or Sunday school teachers, remember that Jesus was a carpenter, and there are metaphors and allusions to this craft in some of His teachings. So, if you’re the kind of pastor who likes to occasionally use a visual aid in your sermons, you can use these tools to help teach some of these lessons.
For fathers, I can tell you from personal experience that making stuff out of wood with my children has been great way to spend quality time with them while at the same time teach them important life skills in all kinds of different areas. As a bonus, we’ve taken the pieces of scrap wood down to the bonfire pit and used them to teach other lessons about starting a fire and using it to roast hot dogs, marshmallows and just in general have the time of our lives.
Finally, there’s needlework, which broadly includes sewing, knitting, etc.
If you’re still reading this, you probably know by now why I’d include this one in my list. Creating and repairing clothing, blankets and other things that might be needed but difficult to acquire or repair in an emergency has obvious applications. It’s also just an important set of skills and tools/material to have in general, for both males and females.
My mom made quilts as a hobby and it gave her many opportunities to teach all kinds of things to younger women. It’s a great way for families and communities to bond and teach each other things.
The best way to learn about these hobbies is by asking someone in your community who already knows a lot about them to teach you and mentor you, but if there isn’t such an individual available, a tremendous number of books, websites, youtube channels and other resources are available. Just do a simple google search of “getting started in camping” or one of the others, and you’ll see what I mean.
Last but certainly not least, the most important thing any of us can do to prepare ourselves, our homes, our families and our communities for whatever is coming in the months and years ahead is to be in daily prayer, Bible reading and fellowship with other Believers. These are the basic building blocks of a healthy spiritual and communal life. If we don’t have such a healthy spiritual and communal life, all the other things I’ve talked about in this blog will be of limited value.
May God give us all the knowledge, motivation, resources and discipline we’ll need to prepare ourselves and our loved ones for what the Lord brings to us in the days, week, months and years ahead.