Having just settled into our new location at the Inundo Model Farm, and planted our first demo field, we received a request to join other trainers, George and Wendy Roberts, in facilitating a Farming God’s Way training on the outskirts of KwaZulu Natal’s third largest city, about a 3 ½ hour drive away.
Newcastle has been on our radar for some time. A Lutheran pastor there, Thomas Beneke, was at our In-Field Mentoring event 2 ½ years ago, where we began to get to know him. Under his leadership, the Lutheran church also supports a children’s village called St. Martin’s that is located just across the road. A vegetable garden was established there to help feed the kids, and we were looking forward to seeing their progress and being a help wherever we could be. Plus the chance to train with George and Wendy was exciting. They are wise and humble leaders.
The little Evangelical Lutheran Church in Newcastle is breaking ground when it comes to holistic transformation. The congregation is in the middle of a building project to provide more facilities for the children’s home and their generosity in sharing resources is exciting to see. Their care and attention to the underprivileged is a light in the darkness. Nearby are many Anglo-Zulu and Anglo-Boer battlefields; Newcastle itself was taken by the Boers and then reclaimed by the English. One wonders about the ongoing impact of so much bloodshed and violence.
From an agricultural perspective, evidence of past small-scale farming is everywhere: old hillside terraces are visible, and deep gullies of erosion from plowing are endemic. We saw little evidence of current small-scale farming per se. We saw the occasional small garden of struggling maize, or healthy-looking large-scale commercial fields, most certainly propped up with large amounts of chemical fertilizers.
Into this context we strived to bring hope for those connected to this little church who are wanting to succeed in small-scale food production. As always, the backbone of the training was biblical truth – challenging everyone to put God first, look to Him for ultimate provision, and give to the soil (and to all areas of life) in order to receive.
Those in attendance, though not large in number, were incredibly receptive and grateful. Over the course of the three days, we made measuring ropes for layout and planting, made a large compost pile, and planted a small vegetable garden on the church grounds. The management keys of doing things on time, to high standards and without wasting were also well received.
The impact of the training, as usual, depends entirely on the willingness of the students to take what they have learned and apply it in their own context. This active application is always a challenge for people who face much criticism in their communities for changing the traditional ways of thinking. Yet, with a Pastor like Thomas who has such a shepherd’s heart, we anticipate that he will be leading the way in kindness and faithfulness. We look forward to walking alongside this little group of new trainees, and to seeing where Farming God’s Way takes them!