The Gospel of Farming
In my life some things change abruptly while others do so gradually. This is true even with my beliefs that influence my life style. Several factors could contribute to this though, the main ones being my personal factors, God’s involvement, influence from other people and environment. In light of this let me share with you about my experience with farming.
Being born to a farming family I loved enjoying the produce: corn, sorghum, millet, wheat, barley, beans, flax, potatoes, tomatoes, mustard, pumpkin, etc. I enjoyed all these as food, but I didn’t like the work it involved to get the produce. The only work I loved in the farm was to keep the birds off the crops by hurling tiny stones at them using a sling – it was fun! Well, I also loved tending our sheep.
In one of the languages that were spoken in our area the word “farmer” had, in towns, a connotation of uneducated, of lowly life style, uncivilised, and naïve person. In that language people would even use the word as an insult. So the perceived hard work and the stereotype attached to farming made me to hate it. With it I also hated village life! So on several occasions I had asked my dad to sell some of his cows, buy land in the town and build for us a house there and move in. He always said that he was not skilled for town life, but village life, and that if we go to live in the town we may go hungry and may not be able to get what we need for our life. But he told me that I am free to live anywhere I want once I finish my schooling. So as a young boy, I had dreamt of living in the town next to our village unaware how my life would unfold; also unaware of the factors that would determine my life style.
After finishing high school, I began to appreciate what my dad and the rest of our family had been doing throughout the years for a living. So, since then whenever I go to help with the farm work I did it happily. I also looked for opportunities to help in the farm or with the animals. But it was since the second half of 2004 that a complete change of attitude towards farming began to take root in my life. During that period while reading and studying my Tigrigna bible I came across the Book of Job. I had finished the book more than once before. But this time I began to learn a lesson that I never learned from it: Farming.
“In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.” (Job 1:1-3, NIV) And according to God, there was no one on earth like him (Job 1:8).
My eyes were opened to see the great farmer – Job – whom I never saw in my past readings of the book. These three verses of the book showed me that God’s people, as Job was, could be farmers – actually great farmers! I began to think of my dad and appreciated him more. Prior to that I had thought about Job’s blamelessness, his fear of God, and his shunning of evil. But I had never given a serious attention to his “farmerness” (if such a word could be permissible in English). I noticed that he excelled spiritually, as well as physically. He was one complete person. Seeing this, I began to sense that farming was set to grow roots in my life. Job’s story that starts with farming ends with farming.
“The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. And he also had seven sons and three daughters.” (Job 42:12-13)
The mention of all the animals and servants in his farmerness story made me to think of it as a story full of milk, meat, land, cultivation, harvest, transporting produce, joy, stewardship, etc. Job’s farmerness story gave me a great lesson on farming. It showed me how farmerness was a noble life style. After all, it was instituted by God who wouldn’t institute anything less than noble.
The next year I found myself not only helping my parents with farming whenever I went to visit them, but I also managed to mobilize my workmates to make a garden at our work place. We had plenty of space as well as plenty of water. First one colleague agreed to join me. Later on one by one all agreed to join. We planted tomatoes, spinach, lettuce, chilies, and onions. Farming began to win my heart, thanks to Job’s story.
When I stayed in Kenya I was only able to plant two trees, and care for one other planted by a different person. But this love of farming grew in me when I went to South Sudan. In the last four years in South Sudan I had the joy of experimenting with different types of plants (especially vegetables). Many crops, vegetables, and fruit trees do very well in the area where I stay in South Sudan. Yet a big proportion of the population had been going hungry for years, and now the war has worsened the situation.
A wonderful truth was told to Adam and Eve before their fall. I would call that truth as “The gospel of farming”. This gospel required them to work the Garden of Eden and take care of it as well as keep God’s command (Genesis 2:15-17). God didn’t dissect farming from keeping his command. Farming was part and parcel of keeping God’s command. If Adam and Eve were to focus on farming alone they would fall short of God’s plan. Likewise if they were to focus on keeping God’s commands alone without farming, they would fall short of God’s plan as well.
Some months ago while reading from James I came across 2:18 that stated, “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.” (NIV) I thought of Adam and Eve as the first fruits of all he created. And I thought of Christians as the first fruits of all he created as well as the verse states. If I can be related to Adam and Eve, then the gospel of farming is related to me. I need to do it (work the land and take care of it) or at least get work done on it. I don’t have to go and dig somewhere, but I definitely have to work and care for the land either directly or indirectly. I am embracing this gospel. And it makes me to think that no one should go hungry for “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1:3 (NIV). Yet a need stands to tell the good news to the poor, to those who didn’t hear the message, and to those who have been deceived by the devil. There are multitudes in South Sudan who don’t know that God has called them to work and care for the land. There are also multitudes that don’t know that God has indeed blessed their land.
Through Farming God’s Way (FGW) trainings and other ways, in Mango Ministries, we had been teaching people how to grow food for themselves in a better way. Some of them have already picked these teachings and went ahead and tried to grow in FGW approach at a very small scale. With time, as they master the technique, they intend to increase the size of their gardens. One of our trainees told me that he has planted kale in the FGW approach and his kales are now doing very well. Another one has plated sorghum at a large scale for the first time in his life and he is expecting great harvest soon.
- That the lessons these South Sudanese friends are learning would help them and their communities get out of poverty and hunger.
- That we at Mango Ministries would be able to continue teaching and mentoring them.
- That in the future I would not only be trainer on farming but better farming practitioner.
- For peace so that people would be able to produce for them selves.