Sunday, August 26, 2012

Farming God's Way

Double Portion Farm outside of Kampala.  Location of the Farming God's Way training.  
A few weeks ago, me and Ronnie and two of our friends from church, Dan and Charles, attended a Farming God’s Way (FGW) training seminar in Kampala. I had read up on FGW, knew that zero-till/no-till agriculture was better for the land than the conventional farming methods being used(i.e. plowing, plowing and more plowing), and knew I was failing miserably at trying to farm in Uganda, but not until we were able to hear about FGW from the actual instructor and have him explain everything did it all make sense. I’m sold now! I now see the error of my ways and can clearly see why I am failing at this farming bit. I am thankful for my very limited farming experience here, I am also sad that I have not treated the land and the crops with care, but I’m thankful that I have seen the bad and can now appreciate how good it will be from this point forward. You may remember a blog a few weeks ago about how the garden was coming – not too good. Most of my problems were caused by my lack of knowledge, cutting corners, and laziness. I hope to change all that. 
Josh giving a talk about FGW and the recent maize crop
  Traditionally, in this part of Uganda, farmers wait for the first rain, or rains, to come before they get the oxen ready and plow their gardens (fields to most folks, but called gardens here). They wait until after the first rains because the ground gets so hardened and compact over the dry season that you need some rain just to be able to penetrate the hard pan. This is the norm. Doing everything this way wastes the first heavy rains because nothing is planted, nothing is even ready for planting, and the surface is so hard very little rain even penetrates, so most runs off and takes precious soil with it. This is the way everyone does it, and it’s the way they’ve done it for generations. But just because we’ve always done it this way, doesn’t make it right. It was through the FGW training that Dan and Charles’s eyes were opened and they have seen the error of their ways. They now see that the way they have been farming for generations is futile and cannot be sustained, much less be profitable. I was enlightened as well and now realize I have not done a good job of stewarding the land or farming in a way that is pleasing to God.
demonstration garden
So let me tell you some of what FGW is all about and why this method of farming makes so much sense. Farming God’s Way is not some magic farming method that makes a farmer rich. It’s not a special something that God has ordained as the only way. It is just farming based on Biblical principles and good land management practices. If you think about God being the inventor of farming and the original farmer (Garden of Eden) then it makes sense that He would have better insight into how to properly farm than man would. Also, God’s ways are not our ways, and time and time again we prove that our ways are not very good. Man continues to try things in his own knowledge and under his own power, and we fail or worse yet we succeed and become prideful because we did it on our own. But really we do nothing on our own and God is still the creator of all things and it is only through Him and because of Him that we can do anything at all. The Bible says in Hosea 4:6 “My people perish because of a lack of knowledge.” God did give us a guide for how we should do life. Most of what we need to know is in the Bible or can be seen visibly in nature. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Seems pretty simple and straight forward…
making compost
 FGW was founded because all across Africa there is fertile land in abundance, yet Africa is still poor and crop/food production is low. Africans are struggling under a yoke of poverty, but that poverty is not just poverty of material possessions or capital. From the FGW website, “ we believe that Farming God's Way is part of God's solution for Africa, where it can be turned around from being the ‘begging bowl’ to the ‘breadbasket of the world’. Farming God's Way is simply a tool of equipping to empower the poor to help themselves. Farming God's Way was originated before man was on the face of the earth, when God first put His ways in place to govern His creation and their interrelations with one another. God is the master farmer who has been farming this way since the beginning and by simply following His Ways, amazing solutions to the food security and poverty crisis can be revealed.” FGW is a tool that can help to alleviate the spiritual and material poverty that is so common across Africa. FGW is comprised of 3 spheres – Biblical, Technology, and Management. Here the 3 spheres are explained in more detail.

God’s Word brings the revelation and enlightenment that the yoke is first and foremost a spiritual yoke. If we only deal with the technical and management keys we will not be able to deliver the poor. We teach six major biblical keys to unlocking the potential of the land and its people.
1) Acknowledge God and God alone (repent of our wickedness, quit looking to witchcraft or other stuff, and acknowledge God and Him alone as Creator and Lord)
2) Consider your ways (Haggai 1:2-11, why are we in the position we are in?)
3) Understanding God's all-sufficiency (don’t be dependent upon yourself or man, or governments or NGO’s ---- but only on God, He has given us everything we need to be successful and prosper in ag)
4) What you sow you will reap (we need to be working and not looking for handouts, and through wise giving we can go from Africa being the “begging bowl” to the “bread basket”)
5) Bring the tithes and offerings to God (God is the giver of all good things, and He blesses us to be a blessing to others, God is after our hearts and not our money, but we have to be willing to give up our grip on money and things and allow Him to have control - through this we will be blessed)
6) Stake your claim (pray over your land and claim what God has given you to be good)

Management We have to teach the poor to make a sustainable profit for them to come out of poverty.
The 3 management keys are:
1) do everything - On time
2) To high standards
3) and With minimal wastage

Technically, the laws that God has put in place in creation for the most productive ecosystems in the world include little or no soil disturbance, no destruction or incorporation of surface organic residues and a significant biodiversity of species. In keeping with this we model our agricultural practises on the above through:
1) No plowing
2) 100% mulch covers (which we refer to as God's Blanket)
3) Practice rotations I realized I have not been doing everything to a high standard.
Dan checking out the FGW gardens
 I do not go about my normal day in such a way that my every action is an opportunity to glorify God. In fact, many times it is the exact opposite. My farming has not in any way been viewed by myself or others as a way to reflect God’s glory. My garden looks really poor and other than the weeds and termites, there isn’t much thriving. We plan to implement FGW omany of the gardens around the Obulle area. We feel through farming we can transform this small area of Uganda for Christ. If our farms are operated in such a way as would bring glory to God, then others will see it. These farming principles should carry over into all aspects of a person’s life and not only will we be farming God’s way, but now we’ll see men loving their wives God’s way, and raising their children God’s way, stewarding money and possessions God’s way, using their time in God’s way, leading their families and communities God’s way. Next time I blog about gardening in Uganda it will not be a blog about how everything has gone wrong. Instead, it is my hope that through farming we can change people’s hearts, worship God, profit, and alleviate spiritual and material poverty in this area.
mulching is a huge part of FGW
Much of this information was taken from the FGW website 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

A few weeks ago I posted a blog about travelling to Kampala and then onto Rwanda.  I also mentioned that I was going to be looking for a bike while we were in Kampala so as to make my life here just a bit easier.  My mom called me a week or so before we headed to Kampala and told me that a man she knows read that blog and had given her money for me to buy a bike!  I was beyond excited.  I had sent money with friends that were going to the city about a month before and they came back empty handed.  However, I had this feeling like I was spending way more money than I needed to be at the time and just wasn't really at peace about the amount I had sent with them.  It was as if I had buyers remorse even before I bought anything!  I had even been looking here in Soroti with no luck.  For months I looked on my own with no luck, so I just decided to pray and see where that led me.  I knew that if God knew what was on my heart in the way of a need, that He could let someone else know my need too.  So when my mom called to tell me about the money, I knew that God was to be glorified.   
I just think it is so neat how the Lord works.  If I had continued to try and find a bike, I would have found a decent used one here in town.  If I had found a bike then I wouldn't have written that blog where I mentioned that I was going to be looking for one in the city.  If I had not written that in the blog then this man would not have been able to be obedient to God in his giving.  And if he wasn't able to do what God was asking him, then God would not have been given the glory.  It may seem like a simple way to look at this whole situation, but I love the simplicity of it all.  Everything!  God's grace, His salvation, His love, His will.  It is all simple if I am obedient.  
I am thankful that God cares about the details of our lives.  I have mentioned it before, and probably will again in the future, but the small things that matter to us, matter to Him as well.  I am still learning though that if I let those small things consume me, they have a tendency to grow into something much larger than what they needed to be.  However, if I take a step back and go to the Lord, even with the little details, He will provide the means to an end.    

My new ride.  First new bike in 20 or so years.   Thank you Lord!  

Riding around 'cause I can!

This is Bro (or Broseph).  The world's strangest looking cat.  Between his yellow eyes, missing teeth, scaly ears, and gosh awful "meow" he is something else to look at.  But not having any pets here (having had pets my whole life) I am thankful for this little toot.  Again, just a detail about my life that the Lord knows and He let Bro find me.  When we first got here, this cat was skinny and mean.  Now he is feed little minnow fish daily and sleeps on my lap.  There is even the added bonus of having less mice and rats around the house as well! 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Uncle Mike

This is a sad post for me to write.  This morning I got up, early like always, and started heating up some coffee (I cold brew it over night because we don't have a coffee pot) and turned on the computer. After I had my cup of coffee I sat down to check emails and see what the rest of the world was up to as I slept.  I scrolled through Facebook until I found a post from my sister saying that my uncle had suddenly passed away.  I had to re-read it because I was certain that she did not mean our Uncle.  My brain was telling me that when she said "Uncle Mike" she was referring to a man that she may call "Uncle" but he is in no way related.  Like how Colin and I get called Uncle and Auntie here.  But I read some of the comments and my heart sank when I realized that it was in fact my Uncle Mike, my dad's older brother.  I guess he had a sudden heart attack and died as a result.
Uncle Mike about two years ago with his nephew Phoenix and great nephew (my sisters little boy) Josh.   

It is difficult for me to comfort family being so far away, but I can pray for everyone and I ask that while reading this and through out the day you may also keep them in your prayers.  Both of my dad's parents are still alive so please say a prayer for them.  Also, pray for my dad, Tony, as this will be especially hard on him.

Thank you for your continuing prayer support for Colin and myself and for my family.  


Monday, August 6, 2012

A few wells and trips

Jane's well with all the family.
The "Johnson" family and their new well!

Dan pumping another working well.  The family was not home to take a picture with.
This little guy is one of Emma's neighbours and he is just one of MANY that use this well.  Two weeks after we installed the pump the re-bar (?) handle was worn smooth.  

Emma and his family and their new well.  The little guy in the front is Abraham (the shorter on in the button down orange shirt).  He has been sick on and off for the last three years, and he is only four.  Jennifer our team nurse has treated him for everything she can without doing any blood work and nothing has helped.  Please pray for healing over this sweet "little man" (as Emma calls him).  He may have to go to Kampla and have blood work done and that would be a HUGE expense for his parents, and there is not guarantee that they would get any answers.    

The old widow and her new well!!  She walked miles to attend our church last Sunday to praise God for blessing her!  She was so thankful and said that now if she just wants a cup of water all she has to do is go out her door and get one.
Colin and Naboths hanging out just eatin' some corn.  

Me and baby Nathan.  This is Dan and Rose's newest addition!  

We are getting ready to leave on Wednesday to attend a Farming God's Way seminar here in Uganda and I am looking forward to what information will be presented.  I do not really know much about FGW, but have looked at their website and their Facebook page.  This is what FGW's Facebook information said they were "Teaching and training the developing world in Biblical farming principles. We are trying to farm God's way. Join us on t
he journey of applying biblical principles to agriculture. We want to be a part of the larger work that FGW is doing on the continent and in the world."
  So, it should be really neat!  Plus we are bringing along two guys, Charles and Dan, from the Obulle village to go with us so they can learn from the teaching as well.
We will come back only to turn around again in a week and head to Rwanda to renew our VISA.  It will be nice to have a day in Kampala when we come back from Rwanda so we can stock up on some of the things that we can't get here in town.  There are some clothing items that Colin is very much in need of and I really hope I can find a good bike.  I can walk to most everywhere I need to go here in town, but I have to walk through the bar area in order to get to the main road and that is not a good idea.  However if I had a bike it would be faster to peddle through or I could take a longer way around.  Either way, I hope I get lucky in finding a good bike!  Also, cheese and bacon...we get to stock up on cheese and lots and lots of BACON!
All our drilling has been on hold for the past month due to harvest and people working their gardens.  We have also been waiting on a shipment of more pipe to come in so we can drill another 10 wells.  I think that once we return from Farming God's Way, Colin will have the guys start up again.  Even with us leaving for Rwanda and being gone for a week, the crew can handle the drilling.  That is what we had hoped for when we started!
I am pretty excited today because I have my friend Helen coming in from the village to give me my first language lesson!  Helen speaks very good English and teaches at the nursery school at our church.  The kids are all on break right now so I thought I would snag her for a few weeks of language!  It is hard here to learn Ateso because most everyone speaks English, even in the village.  And if they don't, someone close by can and they are usually sent for to act as translator.  So now the long process of language learning begins!
A few prayer request

  • Safety as we travel over these next few weeks
  • That we can get a 90 day VISA stamp upon re-entry to Uganda
  • We are starting to work on getting our work VISA so pray that everything with that goes smoothly.  We are trying to get on with an NGO here and so far we don't see any problems, just it can take a long time.  As of now we have to leave every 3 to 6 months and getting our work VISAS will allow us to be here for three years before we have to reapply.  
  • One of our fellow Water For All-er's got some really bad news about one of their parents.  A couple that is planing on coming to Kenya found out that his mom has a brain tumour.  As far as I know there is still a lot of unknowns, but please pray for healing for James' mom.
Thanks for the continued support and for all the prayer!  God is really doing great and wonderful things here in Uganda and we are so blessed to be a part of all of it!