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  • Writer's pictureRenata Joseph

Cultivation Nation

Almost 1/5th of Belizeans work in the agriculture sector. The great majority of this workforce is comprised of men who work in 90 degree heat, using machetes and other simple tools to maintain crops like sugar, citrus and other fruits for multinational companies. These workers, some of whom are my friends, don't really benefit from their labor, except to be paid a pittance and maybe grab a few fruit on their way home at night. The great multitude of bananas, oranges, and sugar are sent away, to be enjoyed by people in the global north.

I think of how this same scenario may be taking place in my own spiritual life. Are there ways that I am toiling for something that will benefit others, while neglecting to cultivate my own food?

In this season of supporting youth and young adults at our local church, a lot of the time I spend in the Word is to prepare for Bible studies, youth group and online devotions. Like my friends in the fields, this work is meant to benefit others. I may grab a snack in the field as I work, but it's not enough to sustain me for the day. I'm blessed as I prepare the lessons, but is it nutritious enough? Does it provide the kind of strength I need?

The Bible uses many food metaphors in describing ways to grow and sustain our faith. In Hebrews it talks about how young Christians can only handle spiritual milk, like infants, whereas those who are more mature should seek more substantial spiritual foods.

Hebrews 5:14

But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves

to distinguish good from evil.

I surprises me how few rural Belizeans have so-called kitchen gardens. My female friends in the village, whose fathers and sons work in the fields, grow flowers instead of food. Flowers are beautiful, but you can't eat them. When the main bread-winner earns approximately $400-$800 USD/month and has anywhere from 4-10 children, food is often in short supply. Why then don't they grow their own? The answer I've gotten, when I've asked, is that they don't have the space for a garden, or that the soil isn't good for food crops.

My friends are hard workers. The women cook over fires and wash their laundry daily in the creek. They have no vehicle, walking miles in the heat to get anywhere. I don't judge how they decide what's worth the effort and what isn't. Truly. Instead, I turn the scrutiny inward.

As I work to provide spiritual food for young people, what excuses do I make for not tending my own garden? Am I satisfied with my own spiritual malnutrition? Am I content to focus on easy, pretty things like flowers, rather than putting the work into cultivating something sustaining? By this stage in my spiritual growth, I should be craving solid food and be willing to put the work into getting it for myself.

Will you join me in cultivating a spiritual home garden that will yield food that sustains? If we challenge ourselves to chew solid food, we will reap benefits that are sure to out-weigh the sacrifice.

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