Our destination for the Farming God’s Way seminar, Bongonde-Drapeau, was a village east of Mbandaka just 17 miles from our home over a dusty, bone jarring, laterite dirt road strewn with potholes the size of small ponds. It took an hour to go and twice as long to return since our seminar was cut short with a torrential rain that flooded the road filling all the potholes to overflowing, masking their depth.
People gathered quickly for the first day of the seminar once the pickup truck arrived in the village. 140 men and women and children sat on wooden benches under the wall-less large tin roof that will eventually become a church. True to local custom men and women sat on opposite sides. After introductions by Hosé, our host and the coordinator of the provincial farmer associations, we began with a prayer and an overview of the 3 spheres of FGW- Biblical Keys, Technology and Management.
Jean Baptiste effectively and graphically taught the 1st Biblical Key, ‘Acknowledge God Alone’. Nearby Bikoro being his home, he focused on the realities of traditional farming practices. Ancestors and fetish priests are invoked to assure the blessing of a good harvest and protection from enemies of all sorts. Snake skulls, chicken claws, monkey bones and untold other objects serving as juju or amulets are strategically placed around the fields to ward off unwanted visitors. He called on the people to forsake their man-made gods and their trust in ancestors and to acknowledge the Biblical God of creation as Lord of the land. He shared how his personal rejection of his heritage as fetish priest in his clan because of faith in Jesus Christ brought death threats. This drew approving grunts from some, and silence from others.
Spiritual teaching was followed by technical instruction on the need to abandon age-old destructive habits of soil disturbance and burning and to establish order in planting and crop maintenance. We taught the need to change our thinking about how we farm and use our energy. We recruited volunteers to help make a teren rope with local materials for marking rows and planting stations.
The next day we applied the theoretical teaching in a Well Watered Garden, a 6 meter by 6 meter demonstration plot provided by one of the leaders where we planted corn and soybeans. We will visit the village from time to time to encourage and to demonstrate how to care for the crops as they grow.
Our goal and prayer is that the farmers will believe the gospel and learn faithfulness with their limited resources so that they can experience God’s blessing of maximum yields and thus provide more food for their families.