Kenya, being a climate which I would classify as “perpetual springtime in Ohio,” enjoys a year round growing season. And although July is the peak of summer fun in the Midwest, in Kenya, it is actually the “coldest” month, with highs in the upper 60s and lows in the upper 40s. Thus, this is the time of year for harvesting maize. And, after a busy week of moving into our new “temporary” housing, and a caseload of almost thirty surgeries, what better way to relax and spend a free Saturday than harvesting maize?
Maize is a critical crop for Kenya, because it supplies the brunt of the caloric energy for daily living in rural Africa in the form of a pasty, tasteless starch called “ugali.” Maize (or corn) is planted, harvested, dried, and ground into a fine meal, then boiled in water, without salt, until it becomes a firm, starchy mass of pure carbohydrates, and the perfect accompaniment for every Kenyan meal. After tasting ugali and out of curiosity, I have asked many Kenyans what, in their opinion, is so special about ugali. Answers vary, but the common underlying thread is that “ugali fills the belly.”
So when Peter Ronoh, our outstanding maintenance man, invited us to his “chamba” (farm) to harvest maize, we were honored. Sarah Galat (our new niece-in-law) and her mother Cindy (a nurse anesthetist), who are currently visiting from Ohio, came as well, and we all had a ball, hand picking and shucking corn and tossing the ears into large piles. It was actually therapeutic, and downright fun. Afterwards, we all enjoyed a cup of hot chai with a large scoop of sugar.
Two thoughts went through my head as I was working in the field. First is the scripture from Matthew 9:37-8: "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." In addition to our family, about 20 or so of Peter’s neighbors came to help harvest his maize, out of their own free will, without even being asked, or expecting anything in return. They just showed up. With all the help, in less than three hours, almost an entire acre of corn had been handpicked, the job complete. The spiritual harvest is not so, however. According to Jesus, the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. If more were willing to just “show up,” would the spiritual work be done?
Second, I asked Peter what he was going to do with all this harvested maize (incidentally a “bumper crop”). “Are you going to sell it?” I asked, in my mind, thinking what the income could buy: schooling for his kids, an addition onto his miniscule two room house, maybe a new dress for his wife, or a few other luxury items. “I would,” Peter answered, “but I get afraid of my kids going hungry if I don’t save enough.” How many of us actually worry that we won’t have enough to eat, even with the downturn of the economy? Incredibly humbling words as we drove back to Tenwek, and prepared a supper of BBQ beef sandwiches for a visiting work team. No room for plain old, bland ugali in our house...
Thanks for your recent prayers and email encouragements. We really depend on your support of the work here at Tenwek. Please let us know how we can be praying for you as well. And please keep Alex (our nephew, and Sarah’s husband) in your prayers, as he is on tour with the Air National Guard in Afghanistan for the next six weeks.