I can remember their rich laughter as they attempted to teach me simple Shona words for morning and evening greetings. All thirty of the men and women, ages ranging from young teenagers to the elderly, would erupt in good-natured laughter after each of my brave but badly pronounced words. Then I couldn’t help but join in on the humor! I can remember the joy in their eyes as I listened to all they were learning from the Foundations for Farming team. These were people I was privileged to spend two weeks with. What an honor! My lifespan might have increased a week or two merely because of all the hearty laughter.
My name is Benjamin Meeks and I am the Foundations for Farming intern for three months. Just a few days after I arrived the I Was Hungry group also arrived. From the first day I knew it was going to be a joy to meet the group and hear their stories, but I didn’t know the extent that impact would be. Each day I ate with them and would participate in some of their trainings and over time I was able to listen and learn many of their stories. Each story had a common thread, namely struggle yet hope. God was giving them hope in their hearts through the humble God-fearing staff here at FfF and he was giving them tangible hope in the form of practical farming methods. I was also being transformed by their child-like desire to know God more and to steward their land. It became clear to me that they came to learn… but in the end they taught me so much!
Two weeks came and went so fast. Near the end of their stay we had a time of praise with much laughter and joy-filled dancing. The neat thatch roof above us, rich red soil all around and lush-green gardens surrounding us were beautiful indeed, yet their beauty seemed a shadow in comparison to the bright shining people I now called friends. The group had changed. God had softened the soil of their hearts and planted a seed of hope. The natural and sustainable farming practices filled their heads with God-centered knowledge and the times of prayer and Bible study healed their hearts. Just as the voices all sang out in harmony, these men and women from various backgrounds and homes were unified. After the dancing was an emotional time of the group sharing their personal testimonies.
One lady’s story in particular caught my attention. She was nearly unable to come on the trip but someone paid her transportation fee by selling maize. She shared how the FfF team received her with love. And she was touched when she heard the farming method of agroforestry and how whole de-forested lands can be reclaimed and transformed back into rich green land again. The place she is from is severely barren due to the tobacco farms which require firewood to cure the tobacco. In fact, the very mountain the teacher presented in the demonstration slides was the mountain from where she is from. Tears of hope filled her eyes when she recognized this familiar place and yet also witnessed the abundant potential of reclamation. I could see the light in her eyes as she recounted her story! It was as if the barren terrain of her heart had been replanted with a fresh blanket of lush trees…trees of peace, joy and hope. God is good. He reclaims what is barren. I will never forget her story.
One man stood up and loudly exclaimed, “we have been wasting our energy!”. He used to farm 12 hectares of land and end with only enough to survive and barely even enough for that. So he was elated when he learned of the 16×39 meter plot (pfumvudza) which, when properly cared for, can provide all the maize needed for a family of 6 for one year! God truly provides and sometimes that provision comes in the form of knowledge. I believe this man will never farm the same and if he is faithful to implement what he has learned here his family and community will be benefited for generations to come.
There were many amazing testimonies shared that day. Stories of healed sickness, liberation from demonic strongholds, new love for God’s word, and much much more. I will share one last story with you. An old man stood up towards the end and shared a few simple yet powerful words. All his life he had seen the Bible as a tool used to colonize the mind: just like Zimbabwe had been colonized. To him the word of God was merely a disguised weapon used to capture a people and bring them to submission. Sadly, it has been used in that way before but this man joyfully announced to us he no longer believed these lies! He had grown to love the Word of God and it was now a source of freedom instead of bondage. What a wonderful transformation! God is truly working in and through the organization and individuals at Foundations for Farming. These stories are the first fruits of what is to come. Hope is rising in Zimbabwe and hope is rising in this IWH group. Just as the lady was filled with hope for her deforested homeland, so I am filled with hope for these individuals, the nation of Zimbabwe, the continent of Africa and the entire world. The barren will be beautiful…one small seed at a time. Foundations for Farming is faithfully planting those seeds in the name of Jesus. What an adventure to be a part of! Where weeping once was laughter will sing.
Psalm 39:11-12 You have turned my mourning into dancing for me; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, That my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord
And whose trust is the Lord.
“For he will be like a tree planted by the water,
That extends its roots by a stream
And will not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought
Nor cease to yield fruit.”