Posted by: jacobgillard | March 1, 2010

Meyer on Uganda: Almost a Garden of Eden

Linda & Delano Meyer are our missionary colleagues.  They serve in West Africa but were with us here in Uganda for much of January.  Their February newsletter offers a fine summary of and commentary on their time among us.  I’m please to reproduce it below with their permission.

— Jake

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MEYER MISSION NEWS February 2010

Almost a Garden of Eden

Dear Friends:

Our first trip to Uganda was truly an interesting and rewarding learning experience for us.  I wrote our family early in our travels that Uganda was like the “Garden of Eden”.  Our message about the pleasant climate and lush environment in Uganda arrived in Minnesota in January at the same time a raging blizzard swooped down on West-Central Minnesota.  I detected a bit of envy in e-mail replies.

Two growing seasons every year in 5 of the 6 areas of Uganda we visited is unique compared to most of West Africa.  Farmers actually harvest two crops a year, but at times there is drought that destroys or reduces a harvest.  West African villages always have a “hungry season”; but in Uganda when asked about times when they ran out of food, the reply was something like this, “We had drought in 1982 and 2009”.  They would often reply, “We ran out of maize (corn), but we had cassava and millet to eat.”  Except in drought, some parts of Uganda are able to harvest bananas every month.

Psalm 145:15 certainly fits Uganda:  “The eyes of all look to you and you give them their food at the proper time.  You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.”

Another blessing for Uganda is that they eat a variety of foods and rice is not the main dish of choice.  Bananas are much more environmentally friendly because once established, the plants reproduce themselves.  The banana plantation is protected from fire and often thick mulch is applied under the plants to prevent erosion, maintain moisture and fertility.

Compare banana production to rice production in West Africa, where forests are cut, left to dry, and then burned to provide one crop of rice and possibly a follow-up crop of cassava and peanuts (groundnuts).  The resulting erosion, loss of plant nutrients, loss of tree species and waste of wood is horrendous!  In parts of Uganda people reported that deforestation, bush fires and soil depletion are problems that they need to address especially as the population growth demands more wood and food .

Another joy for this old farmer was seeing herds of cattle grazing on lush green pastures.  The Holstein – Friesen has been crossed successfully with the local longhorn cattle called “Ankkore”.  The cool climate and nutritious Kikuyu grass varieties have been a great blessing for western areas.  A pleasant shock was to see men bringing their containers of fresh milk to the milk buying stations by 7:30 AM.  This implies that the dairyman was up by 5:00 AM doing chores and milking the cows!

As we teach about agriculture, we remind those who attend that even before man fell into sin, God knew that for man to be happy, he must have meaningful “WORK”.  Genesis 2:15 “The Lord took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care for it.”  Sorry guys, this work was given to men; and then in verse 18, He says “I will make a helper suitable for him.”  I am compelled by what we see here to remind men that they are responsible to God for their families and need to work hard and manage money in a way that cares for family, and this is God pleasing.

Would the same type of training we have been doing in West Africa be helpful in East Africa?  This was our concern as we began our teaching in Uganda.  We were thankful missionaries Rev. Gillard and Vicar Trump organized the sessions so that the first one was with their Theological Education by Extension (TEE) students and villagers in Lukonda Village near Kayunga.  This gave us a chance to field the same questions asked in West Africa and hear responses from those who were in attendance.  We learned a lot from the people.  Answers were open and honest; and yes, sessions helped everyone to see more clearly what they could do to manage their crops and money, better care for family, and improve their soils and natural environment.

Even though the natural environment of Uganda in East Africa is generally more conducive to higher food production, social issues are similar to West Africa.  For example, in one location a woman said, “When our men are drinking, they think they are millionaires.”  Several of the men in attendance agreed!!  In another location a woman said, “I will just let my husband go and drink and I will take care of myself and the children.”  I responded that the church and the woman should try to help the husband see the need for change. In Bubogo, LCMU President Noah Isanga’s 92-year-old mother listened to the training session and said she appreciated the teaching.  In her own life, her husband died young of drunkenness and she was able to raise the family.  She went on to support our teaching on the battle between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Satan, saying to all present that this was important for everyone to learn and follow.

Marriage unfaithfulness is also a problem that surfaced several times.  When a husband or wife are unfaithful, the whole family goes into a tragic decline in unity, resource management, family labor and consumption of valuable stored food.  No one is industrious in a family if food or money is wasted on a “boyfriend or girlfriend” who is reaping the benefits of the family’s hard work.  Proverbs 19: 3 “A man’s own folly ruins his life, yet his heart rages against the Lord.”

PHD is also a problem in Uganda just as it is in West Africa.  PHD stands for “Pull him/her Down”. Jealousy in Africa reaches a level where people fear for their very lives and are afraid to really strive to improve their lives for fear that other will become jealous and use satanic powers to do something evil against the person trying to improve.  Some seeing a husband and wife working together well, will try to bring division in their relationship by any devious means possible.

Jesse, one of the Lutheran members who translated for us, showed us his Eucalyptus trees that had been killed by someone.  The bark on the three-inch diameter trees had been stripped away, and some sort of chemical had been poured on the bare roots; sad that some will work harder at pulling down others than they will to improve their own lives.

The key to solving all of these problems is God’s Word as revealed in the Bible.  In the “Great Commission” Matthew 28: 18-20, verse 20 says “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”   Thankfully we have God’s Word and its message of repentance and forgiveness of sins being taught in Uganda.  Dedicated men motivated by our Lord’s words are spreading that Word in a region of the world that environmentally is almost the Garden of Eden—but in faith and life they struggle like the rest of the world.

Staying in seven locations over the 20 days gave us a variety of lodging and people to interact with.  Two times we stayed with Ugandan Lutherans, and this was very enjoyable to interact personally one-on-one for a couple of days. We had opportunities to stay with Gillard’s and at hotels and enjoy those facilities.  Imagine our surprise as we traveled to the Western Region and stayed in a modestly priced 70 room hotel in Ibanda.  The rooms and grounds were world class!  Mr. Fred Magezi, a Lutheran church leader, introduced us to Deus, the Ugandan owner.  Fred had known Deus and his wife for years.

I asked Fred if Deus inherited a lot of money to build this place.  Fred’s reply was that Deus lost his father when he was young and his mother remained unmarried.  Fred asked Deus to give us a tour of his farms, since we taught about agriculture.

Now I had to know, how did this fellow gain his wealth starting out with little in the way of assets?  As we went looking at Deus’ cattle in his Toyota Land Cruiser, I asked him how he managed to get ahead in agriculture when so many cry and complain to us that they are suffering.

Deus, a Roman Catholic, said that he managed to get a degree in botany and biology from the university.  He started out with one cow pastured with a friend’s herd and later was able to buy some land.  He said that he had a “culture of saving” and that was his key to gaining wealth.   He said he never worked for anyone else, and started out small, but always saved and used funds earned to reinvest.  He mentioned that just that week he had sold a truck load of bananas for $1,000.00 USD, and half of the funds he put in the bank and the other half was being invested in building a three story bank building in town as a rental. (Later he showed us the building).

That evening we saw two of Deus’ four cattle herds.  As we drove though the narrow roads we from time to time came upon small villages.  The men at each location were sitting around drinking the local banana wine.

I told Deus I would like to use him as an example of what a person could achieve if motivated and blessed.  He said to go ahead and do that if I wished.  So there you have it.  One man carefully works and plans and saves; the next sits and complains while drinking his banana wine.  One gains financially, and the other slides back plunging his family into despair, prostitution and an endless cycle of poverty.  Why the difference?  We Christians have the foundation for that answer in Jesus Christ our Lord.

PRAYER REQUESTS

Thank God for safety, strength, health and positive training sessions in Uganda.  Pray for safety, health and good training sessions in Liberia in late February and early March.

Linda & Delano Meyer were successful farmers in Minnesota, USA for 22 years.  They have lived in West Africa since 1994.  They train Lutheran leaders to train their own people in effective agricultural and development practices to promote better care of the soil and livestock and to encourage stewardship of resources.  Their work has focused on the countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea.  Thank God with us for their work!

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