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She said it would be a close walk. Forty minutes later we were getting close. Unfortunately for my tribal friend she was stuck with me for the afternoon. She could have made the walk in half the time, and she was probably thinking, “Will I ever get any work done today?” This sweet lady and her two daughters offered to let me come along on their garden weeding expedition. When we broke out of the jungle to the garden plot, I couldn’t believe the enormity of work that had been done. The jungle that surrounds us is thick. The steps in gardening are the same everywhere, I suspect . . . a lot of hard work and then more hard work!
This was about seven years ago now, and I was just beginning to learn the ins and outs of gardening. For the most part I grew up in town, and my vegetables came from the produce section of the local supermarket. I grew up spending a couple of weeks of my summer break on the farm where my mom grew up. I have to admit I was not much of an outdoors girl, but I do remember my mom, grandma, and aunts all working hard to help out any way they could. They would spend afternoons picking mountains of beans, then we would all sit on the porch in the evening, stringing and breaking the beans. Those have to have been some of the best beans on the planet.
My grandfather turned 100 last year and still lives on that same farm that he has lived on most of his life. He is one of the hardest-working men I know. My mom said in a recent visit that she tried to stop him from mowing the hay. It is that hard work ethic along with his servant’s heart that has caused him to gain the respect of everyone that knows him.
So that day in the jungle with my friend I tried to think of how many acres their garden was and the fact that it had been cleared by hand. I was amazed! They don’t have plows; they don’t have hoes; they don’t have tractors. Men had cut down the trees with axes, chopped all the undergrowth with machetes. Men and women came through with wood digging sticks uprooting and turning over the ground. When the ground has been completely prepared the seeds are collected. Some seeds are from all their crops that have been dried and stored, waiting to be planted. Other shoots from tubers are gathered from previous gardens to be replanted. Then the dark soil is full of seeds and shoots, and they wait. Before you know it, things begin to grow and what used to be dark soil starts looking green. However, a lot of what is green isn’t going to produce anything edible . . . oh, the dreaded weeds. They pull them out by hand and the dirt gets pushed up under their nails and the thorns slice their palms.
Then the day comes when the corn plants are standing overhead and the corn cobs are ready to be picked. It is a rewarding day, and yet harvesting it out in the mid-day sun isn’t easy work. Then the big piles of food are loaded up into the net bags and the bags are firmly hung on their heads, and they make their way back down the trail home.
To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘you must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground.” (Genesis 3:17–19)
It wasn’t until later when I walked side by side with tribal people, planted my own plot of food, weeded my own weeds, and harvested my own food that I saw for myself the effects of this verse firsthand. It is hard, seemingly never-ending work to bring forth food from the ground. I also saw the mercy of God in the beautiful ground we have been given to work, and seeds that bring forth far more food than what was planted. How thankful I became for the rain that was watering my plants. How grateful I was for the plants that weren’t eaten by beetles. How thankful I was for the good earth.
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