Recently, I had the opportunity to visit a local farmer on the outskirts of the refugee camp. The small, trail-like roads leading to the farmer’s land eventually tapered to the point that we were driving right into the bush.
When we arrived on David’s land, I saw a small area of his yard where watermelon and okra were growing. It wasn’t until our other staff members asked if I wanted to see the eggplants and tomatoes that I realized how much land David actually had.
Across the red road, his land went as far as the eye could see, dotted with different crops. I was impressed with the amount of land he had, but our staff members on the livelihoods team explained that the amount of land isn’t the issue.
“There is plenty of land,” they told me.
It’s working the land, knowing how to care for the plants as they grow, knowing when to harvest, and worrying about drought or flood that are the challenges.
Distributing seeds to farmers before the planting season ends is one of the obstacles our staff members face. In addition to providing seeds to the families, the team also offers helpful advice on how to plant and care for the crops. When we arrived at David’s farm, they shared with him tips about how to prune his eggplants so that they will grow bigger fruits and explained that he must stake his tomato plants so that the fruits don’t rot on the ground.
Lack of rain is a serious concern for local farmers. The area has received rain three times within the last week and a half, which is a major blessing to the crops. The challenges never subside for the farmers. But the benefits impact more than just the farmer. Learning to farm aids the entire community by producing more food, benefiting the economy, and giving people jobs. It’s something the entire community can take pride in.
Walking back from the field with his mud-covered feet, David held a pile of small, green-orange tomatoes in his wrinkled hands. He offered to give me that day’s yield. My initial reaction was to not take them, for it was his hours of sweat and hard work that had been put into those tomatoes.
But the South Sudanese culture is one of giving and sharing. I thanked him with my warmest smile and a strong handshake as I received the bag full of little orange fruits. It was a beautiful picture of the Body of Christ. God is teaching me more through allowing me to visit with the people of South Sudan than I have learned in many years of reading about how to be Christ-like.
Some people living in the community aren’t Christians, but they have an engrained principle in them that builds, depends on, and fosters community. When I think of my culture, far across the world from me, I wonder about community. We usually keep to ourselves. It makes me think of Philippians 2:4, which says, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others”(NKJV). I pray that when I return home, I can display the selflessness God has taught me through these people.