We spend much of our time in our garden. Sometimes we go out just to walk around and see how things are growing. It is an exciting time of the year. The rains are falling, seeds are germinating, and seedlings are shooting up. Since we have over two weeks off between the Second and the Third term of the school year, we have the time to do our soil improvements and our planting and our weeding. Last year we sought help from others, but this year we're trying to do most of the work ourselves. As I did last year, I find myself thinking about Jesus' agricultural metaphors as I work.
Growing plants from seeds, you learn that different types of seed need different things to germinate, and then the resulting plants also need different things in order to thrive. Some plants need more water, some plants need less water, some plants have deep roots and some have shallow roots, etc. Some are delicate and prissy and fussy and wilt and die with no warning, like our cucumbers. Today we went out and a weeks-old plant that appeared perfectly healthy the day before had fallen prey to some strange ant-but-not-an-ant insect and was totally dead. Then, there are the kinds of plants, usually weeds, that are so hardy you almost can never get rid of them no matter how much you try. Mint is like this, fortunately, so we are able to enjoy mojitos no matter how much damage the rabbits or the chickens do to the mint we planted in our courtyard.
In a way, each person is like a different kind of plant. We have our own conditions and needs in order for the seed of the Gospel to germinate inside us, and then we each need different conditions in order to grow and thrive. For plants there are climate concerns, but for people there are cultural concerns. It's all very confusing, and often you have to learn from trial and error. I mean, it's really hard to find gardening advice for equatorial gardening at altitude... And the advice local people give can even be contradictory.
Evangelization through both example and words (see Paul VI's Evangelii Nuntiandi), in a new and strange culture is also a work of trial and error. While we feel more and more at home and part of the community, there are still interactions that leave us frustrated, or where we totally goof-up and insult people, or we don't hear them, or we realize after the fact (days or weeks or months, even) that we didn't communicate at all.
We are growing corn and beans on several largish plots. Before the corn germinates, the black and white “tuxedo” crows, as we call them, swoop down and treat themselves to lunch. You end up with a place where corn should be growing but isn't. So, James and I recently went through our new corn rows and sowed again where it didn't come up. In my ministry in the United States, whenever I have read the parable of the sower, I saw it as my job to help the soil of the hearts of the youth of our parish to become the fertile ground in which the Kingdom of God could grow and thrive. A homily I heard here in Cameroon showed me that, luckily, God is a generous sower. He sows even on the rocky ground, where the birds eat it, etc., and so part of our job in evangelizing the World is to keep sowing the seed, everywhere and abundantly.
[General garden update: Radishes are wonderful because they are ready to harvest in about a month. Arugula is a nice addition to our cuisine. Everyone asks us about our chickpeas, they are an alien crop here. Our pumpkins and squashes and melons seem to be picking up well. We'll have fresh green beans soon. We have a few rows of carrots and cabbages and tomatoes and lettuces, and more. There's always something to plant or pick, or a new bed to prepare. The corn and beans are growing well, and we like to think it is because of our work to amend the soil. I have a farmer's tan, and am proud to say I come by it honestly!]