Bill and his wife Laurie work in Uganda, sharing the gospel and agricultural practices among local communities. He has seen firsthand how the ‘renewal of minds’ (Romans 12:1-2) affects our relationships, not only with our Creator but with creation too.
I loved walking the rolling hills through the homesteads with Pastor Deo and the others. The Biiso community had obviously been expending huge effort in hopeful anticipation of rains. It was hard to find much unprepared soil; a lot of sweat with a hand-powered hoe.
Across much of Africa, the land provides the livelihood for the majority of families, who live as smallholder farmers. Most of these families struggle to survive. And so, although over 70% of people in Uganda are rural farmers, it is rare to find a single person who aspires to be a farmer. Like the families in the surrounding communities, Pastor Deo and his family live from what their farm produces. And like these families, they had been living through a season of hunger each year. But he was willing to try new things and asked me to come and share about Farming God’s Way with a group meeting at his church. The small trial plot that group planted near the church building became a testimony which people came to see through the following weeks. Its rows of maize and bean plants thrived!
That began regular visits to the Biiso community, where we were able to share this exciting resource. Particularly applied to agriculture, biblical principles are interwoven with responsible management and sustainable technology. We studied what God tells us in his Word. We observed and learned from what he shows in and through his amazing creation. The community came to know the Master Farmer, discovering his design and intentions. Together we learnt what ‘Farming God’s Way’ meant.
That day, on that walk, we visited 12 plots. 12 dusty gems with potential to reveal the fruitfulness of blessing flowing from obedience to God. 12 plots that could become beacons of hope to draw those around to Jesus. 12 little plots. Not a lot to show, but each one profoundly marking a significant decision to take a step. I was amazed. They had made a beginning!
We went to each person’s plot, evaluating and affirming their efforts, correcting and demonstrating so each could be well prepared for planting. And we prayed a dedication and commitment over each plot – before the seen and the unseen audience.
We talked of the spiritual and physical roots of poverty. Of hearts and wills singularly submitted to God, of minds renewed, made possible through God’s gift of abundant life in Jesus. We talked of the God-given dignity of being a farmer, a sacred mission as caretaker of his creation and the resources that he’s placed in our hands.
There are so many obstacles and things working against the farmers experiencing success and knowing fruitfulness on their farms and in their lives. Jealousy, theft, sabotage, fire, animals (domestic and wild), pests – millipedes particularly in Biiso – and disease. It can feel overwhelming.
My visits to Biiso now involve formal teaching and a lot of interaction, debriefing the experience of the past several months, making observations of what had gone well and what the challenges had been. Group members now address each other’s issues and explain Farming God’s Way to the new people who join us. On one visit, two members, Maurice and John, carried the bulk of the teaching. They explained some principles and shared their experience with the group which included nine new people – all in the local language.
It’s a journey of patience and perseverance, a walk with hearts yearning for an outflowing of God’s grace and goodness in that place. There is disappointment when someone falls away. Others exude enthusiasm about their gardens. But what a joy and privilege it is to be part of bringing people into relationship with God and growing in depending on him. How amazing to see his earth respond in abundance to heartfelt stewardship!