Finding Jesus in the Bush
We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito.
— C.S. Lewis
My week in Uganda has been full of chapati, warm hugs and new ideas, and I have loved every second of it. Instead of spending the week at Suubi, I traveled to Lira, Uganda, with a team from Field of Hope. Field of Hope is a nongovernmental organization that partners with organizations in northern Uganda to provide agricultural education and extension. Two of their main focus areas include providing trainings for women farmers and installing and maintaining drip irrigation systems on various farms and gardens throughout the region.
Sunrise at Restoration Gateway.
I went into the week not knowing what to expect and was welcomed with open arms into a beautiful family that's passionate about using agriculture to spread the love of Jesus. We began the week at Restoration Gateway. This home and school for children was founded by Dr. Tim and Janice McCall during the conflict with the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in the early 2000s. Their obedience to the Lord and their bold vision literally brought me to tears.
Restoration Gateway is also home to an extensive agriculture project that teaches students the importance of agriculture and empowers them to see the value that agriculture can have on their futures. Visits to Otino Waa and Barlonyo also deeply impacted me. Both agriculture projects are thriving and making an impact on the communities they serve. Otino Waa houses an impressive poultry operation, and the garden at Barlonyo has one of the most beautiful bean crops I've seen during my time in Uganda.
The garden at Barlonyo.
I also spent a large portion of my week assisting with trainings for women farmers in various districts around Lira. Field of Hope utilizes trainers from Sasakawa to provide education in the women's native language. During my time, we conducted trainings in Apac, Amolatar and Alebtong. The women learned about soil health and fertility, compositing techniques, bean planting, and the army worm.
Two smiling girls attend the first women's training in Apac.
Women in Amolatar participate in a composting demonstration.
We also gave away food in two of the districts. Farmers this year were especially affected by the armyworm. In some areas, 80 percent of the maize crop was ruined by armyworms. This coupled with drought and an unpredictable rainy season resulted in many households that had little to no food.
I found this week that life in the bush differs vastly from life in and around Kampala. The people of northern Uganda are still working to recover from the destruction caused by Joseph Kony and the LRA. They are still trying to rebuild their lives and to find purpose after everything has been taken away from them. It was beautiful to see that agriculture can solve both of these problems.
Lianna works with her students in the garden at Restoration Gateway.
For most of these people, agriculture is the way they live. Learning better farming practices isn't just a matter of bigger yields or increased profits. Agriculture is the difference between life and death. And with this weight often comes the stigma that a profession in agriculture is somehow less than other occupations. But Field of Hope, along with Restoration Gateway, Otino Waa, Victory Outreach Ministries and numerous other NGOs, are eager to teach and show people that agriculture is a noble profession. It's the joy of fostering God's creation for the benefit of his people. It's taking a gift and using it to celebrate the ultimate giver. Agriculture, although tough, is remarkably beautiful.
Patrick, the agriculture instructor at Otino Waa, teaches his students about weeds.
I was reminded this week of this beauty and of the fact that God's love reaches past all borders. The stories that I've heard of his faithfulness and the insane ways in which he's cleared obstacles to bring favor in different situations have been too many to count. People here are willing, able, and eager to bring about change, and I'm confident that change is coming.
Sarah Weiss is a 2017 Noble-Watoto Fellow working at Watoto Child Care Ministries in Uganda. Weiss is from Brenham, Texas, and has one semester left in the master of international agriculture program at Oklahoma State University. She focuses on education, extension and outreach.