If you’re thinking to yourself, “Gee, Christopher sure hasn’t had anything interesting to say, lately,” you’re not alone. I haven’t had anything to say that was even interesting to me and that’s when you know you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel. The reason for this is that nothing is happening at the moment that even masquerades as compelling, and the reason for this is the fact that we’ve been planting.
Now, you may be thinking that planting is so symbolic and romantic in an agricultural way where the whole cycle of life begins from a tiny seed lovingly pressed into the soil and that it’s a wonderful picture of what we’re trying to do here in the spreading of Christianity, all of which thoughts—in my more ruminative moments—I have been guilty of entertaining. The dry, hard fact of the matter is that planting is standing in the sun for eight hours, hucking a handful of seeds into a dent in the dirt, trying to maintain a straight row along a piece of stretched twine. Row after row after row—it’s hot, dusty, and tremendously boring work.
Usually a row is planted by two people, starting at either end and meeting in the middle, and as the rows can easily be over one hundred feet long, the potential for conversation is limited to a few moments in the middle when the person facing you is close enough to be heard (Karimojong tend to speak in a far more subdued manner than that to which I am accustomed). But as we have worked our way down the length of the field, I’ve been able to have some excellent conversation (in parts) with two of the men that work with us, Thomas and George.
George is a believer who attends church in Namalu and knows the Bible backward and forward. We’ve talked about baptizing children, the benefits of hospitality, how delicious and expensive pork is, and his own illustrious football (soccer) career that was cut short when he ‘broke’ himself at an early age. It was this last subject that prompted him to tell me how desperately he wants his son—who wants to be a football star—to do well in school so that he has something to fall back on when he can no longer play.
Thomas is a bit more shrewd and cagey in the Karimojong way but we ended up talking one day about the benefits of living in a village community (he was incredulous that I didn’t know my immediate neighbors in San Diego) and about his family. His father—a warrior and a seemingly wealthy man (eight wives)—had sent Thomas to school at his request, as he did not want to be a warrior. I asked if any of his other siblings had gone to school and he said “My younger brother was in school but did not even finish P-6 because of—financial problems.” There was something in the way he looked and in the wistful way he finished the sentence that told me I was witnessing a removal of the veil, I was party to a reflection very personal and very melancholy traversing his countenance. He had just finished telling me without emotion about how many of his siblings had died as children, but something in the last had affected him deeply.
I am struck, in the end, at just how universal many of our cares and afflictions truly are. Planting is not—in any sense—exciting work, but it does afford us the opportunity to turn off the noise of the drilling rigs and the angle grinders, and stand beneath the heavens as those who share in a common humanity and who need a common redemption.