This past week, we’ve been busy harvesting rice. This is my first rice harvest. In fact, before this, I never knew what a scythe was used for! I’ve learned so much about the rice planting, nurturing and harvesting processes. More than just knowledge, however, I have also gained a greater understanding of how our actions can bring about restoration in the people and world around us. Please indulge me as I share my musings with you.
The land we rent at the Charis Teaching Farm is beautiful and full of life, but it wasn’t always that way. When we first started using this land, it was completely dead. Barely anything besides weeds grew effectively in it. In fact, last year’s rice planting was a complete failure. On about four acres of land that was sown with rice, only 75 lbs of rice was harvested. Over the following year, we focused on healing the land, bring a true restoration to it. To do this, we aided the land to heal itself by shepherding natural agricultural methods that nature itself employs. We planted legumes which pull nitrogen from the air into the land. We composted various crops upstream from the water’s flow which carried mass amounts of nutrients downstream to all the fields. We brewed home-made, organic fertilizers full of Effective Microorganisms (EM) and sprayed it all throughout the land. One year later, our largest field, which was the first to die last year, had the strongest production of rice. Every field we sowed in rice this year was a success, with a yield that is competitive with our neighbors. This is something to celebrate because it means increased food yield for the farmers here while also supporting a restored farmland and healthier food source.
Loving the People, Healing Our Hearts
Working alongside the villagers we hired for this harvest has given me a greater appreciation for the lives they live. The work of tending to a farm, let alone harvesting acres of rice by hand is not a glamorous life. This kind of life is hard on your body. By the end of a day where I tied sheaves that the villagers had cut, my hands were sun burnt and covered by nicks and scratches, and new callouses had formed. My ankles were covered with scratches as well. And all my exposed skin was itching intensely because of the sharp straw cuttings that had caused all the scratches. I had to go into town for bandaids for one of the workers who had sliced her thumb with the scythe. The cutting which the villagers did was intense on the back as they were constantly leaning over and standing up. Through it all though, they didn’t complain. They moved forward and got the work done. One of the ladies sang sporadically. They ate together and talked throughout their time in the fields. It was obvious, despite the language barrier, that they enjoy life.
Having the opportunity to work alongside this people was a gift for me. Through it, I gained admiration for them. I understand a little better the difficulties of their lives and have witnessed the beauty of their culture. Instead of being strangers to me, I now consider them my neighbors whom I have a connection with and care for.
Serving the People
When we first decided to lease the farm for the Charis Project, the main goal was to have an outlet for the local people to work and have an income. We’ve had a few great opportunities to do this. Currently, we employ two full-time workers. Over the past three days, we’ve been blessed to pay a full day’s wages to 5 people. We pay the Thai legal wage which amounts to about twice the going rate for farm workers around here. Rather than just give money to people, we give them the opportunity to do valuable work, learn more about our natural farming processes and be paid justly for their efforts. What we strive to do is affirm their humanity and, if lost, restore their dignity.
A Kingdom of Restoration
As we move forward with all our various projects, we want to keep in mind the restorative aspects of the Kingdom of God. While the Bible speaks of what seems to be a far off time where all will be perfect, the fact remains that we have the opportunity and mandate to care for creation and our “neighbors.” At the Charis Teaching Farm, this means healing the land, discovering more effective and natural ways to farm, teaching those around us and supplying and caring for the people we employ. The Teaching Farm, however, is just one way that we promote restoration. Check out our other posts to learn about our other projects. For those wanting to support our work, click this link to donate or you can contact us to learn of other ways to support this work.