‘When I heard that God wants animals to rest (Deuteronomy 5:12–15) I was convicted because I had been letting my neighbours use my cows for ploughing when I went to church on Sunday. I now realise that my cows need to rest too and I will amend this.’
This is what one participant reported in January, after a Faith and Farming workshop in Nigeria.
Colleagues Yunana Malgwi and Katharine Norton were invited by the Tugbiri translation team to hold a Faith and Farming workshop in their area, which is three hours from Jos. Twenty farmers attended, and three men did sentence-by-sentence interpretation of the teaching into the Tugbiri language. Topics included ‘Farmers in the Bible’, ‘Farming in God’s Strength without using Drugs’, ‘Jesus’s Agricultural Parables’, ‘Conserving Trees’ and ‘Traditional Farming Methods’.
Solving problems that affect farmers
One participant particularly appreciated the sessions on Resolving Conflict, an important topic for farmers and herders in Nigeria today: ‘Faith and Farming is doing a great job addressing the herder/farmer conflict. Faith and Farming is not just about healthy and good farms, but it is solving the problems that affect farmers in their lives.’
One of the highlights of the workshop, says Katharine, was doing Bible studies using the new Tugbiri Gospels and Acts (printed in November 2020). For many participants, this was the first time they had used Scripture in their own language. Facilitators helped them find the right page, and then a translator read the passage aloud twice while the participants followed along. Together they studied three agricultural parables Jesus told, using Bible study questions which had been translated by the Tugbiri translators.
Farming is a blessing!
The response from the farmers was truly encouraging. This is what they said about the workshop: ‘On the first day we discussed whether farming was a blessing or a curse and I now realise it is a blessing! I now know that it is not my own strength or power that makes my farm to produce, but I should trust God and have faith in him because he is the one who makes my crops to grow. If a farmer trusts the Lord, he can leave his problems in God’s hands, like Abraham and Lot did in Genesis 13.’
As well as gaining a new biblical perspective for their work, several participants learnt ways to improve their farming practices, with benefits both for their farms’ productivity and for the environment: ‘Now I realise that the cutting of trees has a negative effect on farmland. When we cut them, there is more erosion. We should leave them, as trees help to make the soil more fertile.’
‘I am appreciating the effect of the teaching on my work as a woman,’ said another participant. ‘I sweep the rubbish around my house and usually I burn it. Now I understand that I can use some of it to make compost to fertilise my crops.’
We thank God that there is an ongoing example of locally sustainable farming methods demonstrated at the house of some Wycliffe workers. The Bible Translation Committee Chairman visited Rachelle Wenger and Jennifer Harper’s house recently and said, ‘I never understood what you people are doing here on your farm until the Faith and Farming workshop.’
‘God speaks into every situation’
Many people in Nigeria do have the Bible translated into their languages (though well over half of the 500-or-so languages in Nigeria have no translated Scripture at all) but getting people to engage fully with their Scriptures can be a challenge. Katharine says: ‘Often people don’t apply the Bible to large areas of their lives. One of the things we teach is that the word of God speaks into every situation and if people are farming then that’s where we need to reach them and show them how the Scriptures can speak to them about their practices.’
1 in 5 people worldwide don’t have the whole Bible in their own language, because it hasn’t been translated yet. But as Scripture becomes available in more and more languages, Christians around the world can be equipped to follow Jesus in every area of their lives.
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