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The other day my brothers and I were working on the yard. We were edging, raking, and putting leaves in trash bags. We worked for an hour, but it wasn’t really work. It was more like tidying the yard. Living among tribal people has given us the chance to see what real physical, exerting work is like. Gardening in the jungle is a tremendous amount of work.
The men in our area first have to clear the area selected for gardening, which involves felling several trees and cutting down all the bushes and underbrush. This can take weeks to do, depending on how many people are working. The men leave the trees and underbrush until it all dries. Without the forest canopy to shield the intense sun, it doesn’t take too long for all undergrowth to shrivel up and dry.
Then the men and women build huge fires and burn most of the debris. This burning process kills two birds with one stone because it gets rid of all the debris and the large amount of ash fertilizes the ground. After the burnings, the larger trees are placed vertically which create boundaries for each row.
Building a garden is a group affair. Each person who helps with the garden gets a section to plant and grow food in. Whoever owns the garden gets the most sections and whoever worked the hardest gets the second most and so on.
The women are the ones who do the upkeeping. They plant, weed, and harvest the crops. Planting takes skill and strategy. Crops like squash, cucumber, and green beans are planted around large tree stumps were the ground has been saturated by ash. Sweet potatoes are planted everywhere, and their edible leaves and vines quickly cover every exposed inch of ground, making the garden very luscious looking. Weeding is a once-a-week task. The kids will sometimes help with this and sometimes not, depending on how fast they can get out of the house in the morning. The kids’ biggest involvement is definitely eating the food!
The people in our area have a variety of fruits and vegetables such as sweet potatoes, corn, pumpkin, squash, green beans, oranges, tree tomatoes, cucumbers, peanuts, taro, and many others—some of which I don’t know the English term for. This variety of food gives them a healthy diet. Sweet potatoes and sweet potato greens are the staple though, and are eaten at almost every meal.
The Bible, especially the Old Testament, has introduced a lot of new culture to our tribal friends. Some of the things they learn from the Bible are hard for them to identify with because the culture and animals are so different from their own; but Genesis 3:17–19 is not hard for them to relate with.
Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:
“Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.
“Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
And you shall eat the herb of the field.
“In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:17–19)
The tribal people daily struggle under the hot sun to make a living from the ground and while doing so suffer from the scratches of thorns and thistles which quickly get infected and lead to large sores that can last for weeks.
Many of our tribal friends now anticipate the day when all these sufferings and hardships will be gone and we can live on a new earth without the curses, which are a punishment for man’s sin.
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