Saturday, April 24, 2010

We're Farmin' Now!

Last week was amazing! It was a week of seeing God shower down blessings on us every day. I wanted to post about them, and just did not have a spare moment to do it. This week has been different – a week of daily challenges, not so much fun to blog about. Ministry is often like that. But the same God who blessed us so obviously last week is the God who walks with us through the challenges, seeking to teach us to trust Him, no matter what, and know that He is still at work, still on the throne, and always faithful.

Let me tell you about just one day last week. Earlier in my visit, Gracious told me that in her village, she had an acre of land her father had given to her, and she was willing to let us use it to plant food for the children. I was excited to make use of the land, and Wednesday was the day we planned to visit the village. First, three of us took the public taxi (14-passenger van) to Kampala, with only about 15 minutes lost to “the jam” (the twice-daily traffic jam which can literally take hours to unscramble). Next, “footing it” (walking), first to purchase our precious seeds, and then about a mile uphill to the next taxi park, through streets (yes, literally walking in the streets) teeming with people going about their daily business: hawkers, vendors, beggars, transporters, men, women, and children, all dodging boda-boda drivers, wheelbarrows, bicycles, taxis, cars, trucks, and buses. Then, on to our next public taxi, another 14-passenger van, stuffed with 21 people, for a long, slow journey into the country, punctuated by a roadside stop where villagers surrounded the bus offering “eats”: roasted chicken, goat, or beef skewers for 500 shillings (about 25 cents); bottled water (same price); sim-sim wafers (seeds bound together with honey); g-nuts (peanuts), pineapple, and other offerings, with transactions taking place through open windows. (I have not yet figured out how to predict when or why the out-of-town taxis or buses will stop for “eats’, but I learned on my bus trip to the north (7 hours) that you don’t get to stop at a restaurant, so you better get your lunch on these 3-minute stops.) After enjoying an hour and a half of sweltering heat and no personal space, most of it on bumpy dirt roads, we disembarked at a very small town where we hired two boda-bodas (motorcycles) to take us the last 25 minutes to the “village” (which designates any rural area where people live). Total time for the trip: about 4 hours, to cover a distance of maybe 40 miles as the crow flies! Total cost, one way, (not counting eats) for transport for 3 people: 27,000 shillings, or about $13.50, which is more than some of the people in the worst housing in our neighborhood pay for rent. Transport eats up a good share of your budget, and has to be considered when calculating the price of anything you buy. Fro instance, I spend 6000 shillings for two bodas to transport the sacks of rice, beans, and posho home when I do our big bi-weekly shopping trip to nearby Gaba market – and then I either have to hire another boda for 2000 shillings, or walk the 45 minutes (uphill) home, carrying what the bodas don’t!

OK, back to Wednesday. We arrived at Gracious’ village to be greeted by her 75 year old father, a small man with merry eyes and a ready smile. Even in the heat, he was dressed in his traditional kansu (a long white garment worn over shirt and pants). What a delightful man! Although he doesn’t speak English (and I don’t speak French, Kinyerwanda, Swahili, or Luganda, his languages), I felt his warm welcome. His wife and daughter-in-law fed us a traditional lunch, with warm grape soda as a special treat for the visitors and head of household only. We ate in the sitting room with Gracious’ father – dirt floor completely covered with mats, 2-person wooden couch with cushions, small table, and one wooden chair. Nothing else in the whole room, except the colorful cloths covering the seat and back of the cushions, and a two-year old advertising calendar poster on one wall. Gracious’ mom ate in the other small room with about 12 people – all relatives, including some of the orphans they care for. Gracious’ father has a tender heart for orphans, and for years has cared for relatives and non-relatives alike in his small home. He has really put his money where his mouth is, even buying property for some of them, which is HUGE here in Uganda.

In fact, as we went outside to assess Gracious’ land, I found out that this man had chosen to bless the orphans of Redeemer House by giving us the use of about 5 additional acres of land! I don’t think I can convey what a huge blessing this is! In a country where land is at a premium, and so many people long for a parcel just big enough to feed their families, God has provided us with enough land to feed all of our kids, and then some! And just over one week later, it’s already all planted! Gracious’ brother Steven, who is a very good farmer, hired a team of 15 men to clear and plant one acre a day (at a cost of 30,000 shillings per day, plus lunch for about 20,000 shillings, which gives some perspective to the 57,500 shillings we spent for transport on Wednesday). We also bought a lot of seeds, herbicides, and three hoes. It was a substantial investment for us, but it will pay off in the long run. We now have an acre of beans, 2 acres of corn (which is used for maize flour, or posho), an acre of sweet potatoes, an acre of cassava, and an acre of vegetables (tomatoes, onions, eggplant, carrots, green peppers, cabbage, pumpkins, watermelon, and I can’t remember what else!) More food than we can eat! And we get two crops a year here, so we will plant again in the fall. Steven has offered to manage our land for us, hiring the men again when it’s time to harvest, and he even offered to plant a “banana plantation” for us (not for good, sweet yellow bananas, but for matoke, the green plantain-like food that’s cooked to mush that our kids love so well – although I can’t understand why for the life of me!) Our crops were put in a little late, so pray the rains continue long enough to give our crops a good start – and more importantly, to help Uganda to have a good harvest to avoid the food crisis and starvation that cost the lives of so many people in the North experienced last year.

For the time being, we can bring food to “town” (which is what the whole area around Kampala is called), where we can sell some of it from right in front of our house. God had a plan when He brought us to this new house – it is right on the road, with an ideal place in front to set up our “shop”. I’m thinking we will be able to employ one of the single moms in the neighborhood who otherwise would have no means of feeding their children – another way to share the blessing! And with the money we make – and we believe we will make money, because the one thing that always sells here is food – we can buy our other staples: milk, eggs, rice, oil, sugar, salt, and our once-a-week meat. This is our first step to becoming more self-sustaining, and as the orphanage grows, we will sell less food and use more for ourselves. In fact, we are using more food than ever, because we are feeding more people every day – more about that in another post – so this is such a blessing! I also believe it is another sign that God has plans for Redeemer House to grow.

Before we left for home on Wednesday, Steven took us to his banana plantation, where he harvested a couple of “hands” of matoke for us. He sent us home with a gunny sack full of matoke and another one full of cassava and pumpkin (which added 3,500 shillings to our transport bill). The kids were delighted – for two days they ate like it was like a holiday at our house! But God has bigger plans than just feeding them well for a couple of days. He has rescued them, and He has shown once again that He plans to give them a future and a hope!


  1. I really like this post! May God continue to bless you.

  2. What a fantastic story and true miracle. Thank you for sharing and for reminding what it means to find joy and count it all blessings. God is amazing; your story is just another bit of proof that he cares about all of it. I found your blog on The Hands of Hope Mission blog which I found from blog. Excellent! Praying for rain !

  3. Shontell, I love Jessie from Speckledbirdart and I love Hands of Hope! They have been such a blessing to Redeemer House. Thanks for checking us out. There are a lot more God stories not yet told!

  4. I also love Speckledbirdart and not just because those are my children on her front page :)

  5. OK, I realize you are busy. BUT I reeeeeally want to hear the progress happening there. I have been praying for so many things for you. Just wondering how many God is answering. I have read everything on your blog. If you get even a tiny free second, I would love to hear what's going on all the way over there. Here, my kids and I are praying and brainstorming ideas to contribute to the small bit of money we are sending your way via Hands of Hope Missions. Yesterday, we spent our devotional time revisiting the story of the fishes and loaves. We decided to write each of the kids' (your kids) names on a craft stick and pray for them one each day. I am trying to convince Jessie to give me a picture of each of the kids so my little ones can put a face to the name. Is that okay with you?