Small-scale farmer trains 2,000 villagers to farm
They came for me in the middle of the night, this was some time in 2008 and political violence was at its height. They marched me to the bush and started questioning me about my political affiliation. Unfortunately for me, they were not satisfied with the answers I gave, and in the end they called to the eight men waiting in the shadows with logs, sjamboks and other weapons. The instruction was simple – “finish him” they were told – and then the interrogators walked off into the night, leaving me at the mercy of these hired thugs.
I knew them of course, these men who had been instructed to finish me – ours is not that big a village after all. Everyone knew them, they were all unemployed, and generally hung around the shopping centre drinking beer and picking fights. And for a small fee, they could be encouraged to do what they were about to do to me. They covered my face with a wet sack – apparently this was to stop me from seeing who did what to me. Then they took off my shoes, the intention was firstly to beat me under my feet as I had heard happens to others. At that moment in time I felt lonelier than I had ever felt in my life, I felt so alone, totally without comfort. Maybe this is how those condemned to die feel – when it comes to it, you face these things completely alone, it’s a heavy feeling.
They asked me to lie down on a rock, and at that point this word came to my heart ‘there is only one place left for the Son of man, it’s not a beautiful place, it’s not a comfortable place, remember where your king was born – the King of Kings was born in a manger, lay down your life and see what will happen’. Then I lay down on the rock, and they started beating me. Again a word came into my mind, ‘there is only one saviour, no man can save his life’. At that point I myself was starting to regret what I had done, starting to wonder why I had even begun preaching the gospel in this village – and again in my heart the word said ‘no, you did right to preach, Jesus is your saviour, Jesus is their saviour’. At that point I started crying out to Jesus, repenting of momentarily regretting his call on my life, telling him I love him, and I love these people. I asked Him to forgive me, and to forgive them’ I finished crying out to the Lord and realised that it was completely quiet – no one was beating me, in fact no one was there, they had all run away. I do not know what made them run, but that was not only the last beating I received, but I was the last person to suffer any political violence in that area.
It had all started in 1995 – needing to earn a living I was a gold panner when I met Boet Pretorius who was to later lead me to the Lord. Then in 1999 I was one of the people allocated land in a government funded resettlement scheme, and I moved to this place – Makonde district in the Chinhoyi area. Boet then introduced me to what was then known as Farming God’s Way, now known as Foundations for Farming. It is about more than farming, it’s a way of life, teaching us to obey and do what the word of God tells us. For two years Boet trained and discipled my wife and I, and I also went to Zambia for another two years with Brian Oldrieve who was implementing this method there. It was while I was there that I decided I will come back to help my own people.
I came back to the resettlement in 2006, and started to demonstrate this method. This is a new area, and we are all resettled farmers. The soil is not very good for farming, but I persevered, doing everything to the highest standard I could. And year by year my crop got better – but as my crop improved, so jealousy increased. My hope had been that people would be drawn to this abundance, and perchance some may wish to be trained – I was looking forward to sharing this good news. I grew up in this area, I know the situation in which people Iive – if you want to see poverty you will see it here. There is also a lot of witchcraft here, and political confusion – and I believed God had put a light in my heart to tell people that they must just trust in him. Sadly though, no-one approached me for training, in fact we were ostracised by the community. There are a lot of elephants in this area, and one time some people from the village used dogs and fire to drive a herd of elephants into my maize field. I found out three days later when the same people asked me why the elephants didn’t destroy my crop. I asked them how they knew it was elephants, and they said they were there, they saw them, and the elephants just walked straight through the field without doing anything to it. They asked me what muti I had, I told them my muti was called Jesus, and is freely available to anyone. I told them that my Father in heaven is also the father of the elephants; he must have told them ‘this is my son’s field – you can go and destroy the fields of the other Father’s sons….
In 2008 my crops did so well I won the Mashonaland West small scale farmer of the year. At the field day a well-meaning Government official offered me a 50hectare farm in Mhangura as my winnings. He explained that the soils are better there, and I would achieve even more. I turned this offer down and explained to him that for me this is not about making money or getting land, this is about leading people to Christ. Up to this point I was still the only one farming this way – and I kept praying to the Lord that my people would come and drink of the living waters and be free from the yoke of poverty. I remember thinking then that Jesus said if you will lift me up, I will draw men unto me. So I kept lifting that banner higher, improving the standards and living a life open to all.
In August 2010 I again invited the community to a compost making demonstration. At first only about 8 people trickled in, then the floodgates opened. Four days later I had trained 160 people. And from then on they just kept coming. First 10 village headmen came asking me to show them how to farm, they were soon followed by another 10 from different villages. Between the two of us, my wife and I now train an average of 50 people a day. We tell them all the same thing, we tell them man is body soul and spirit – these three things were created to be in relationship with God. But sin destroyed that relationship, and everyone needs renewal, regeneration, so that they can work in harmony with their creator again. We need to ask for Christ’s forgiveness of our sin, so we can live an abundant life. I tell them my story – they all know me, they know what my life has been these past few years. I ask them how long have your children been cursing me right here in this village, how long have I and my family been ostracised. I ask them whether they have ever seen me refuse to help any of the people who have done me wrong, whether my welcome of them as the approached me for help is in any way wanting. They all agree that my life speaks, tells a story that is different to any they know.
Everyone is listening to me now, they are listening because I have been living in their midst, they have all seen my persecution and my reaction to it. I tell them it is very easy to change anyone, just let God change you first. You cannot change anyone if you do not want to be changed yourself. Now the question I get asked most often is ‘how do I change myself?’ In Ezekiel 36, God says ask me and I will take away your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. The change starts with the heart, then the head then the hands. If you have a hard heart your head only thinks of you, then your hands say give me, give me. But if your heart changes then your hand gives instead of taking, that is the nature of our heavenly father and we become more like him. What we are doing here is giving our lives, we are farming in very hard rocky shallow soil, but everyone can see us feed our children, feed ourselves, feed even themselves when they come for training. And they can see that it’s not coming from America, it starts right here with us, and anyone can do it if they have a changed heart.
I did not keep records of the training sessions in the beginning, but I do now. In the past month alone I have trained 550 people, I have probably trained close to 2,000 people now. No one pays for the training, these are our neighbours, I know their situation and they are all poor so I do not charge them anything. In fact I work very hard to provide food for them during the training sessions. Sometimes Boet or Brian’s team send me some assistance, last year some of them helped me to put up this shed where I do the training from. I made it clear at the time that I do not want it to be closed; it must be open so anyone can hear what we are saying. I also want people to see there are no seed or fertiliser packs, so those who come know all they will get is the training. The dependency syndrome is one on the biggest causes of poverty and I do not want to add to that.
I get a steady stream of visitors now. Some government officers came and asked me how I do it, they said they have built even better sheds than mine in different areas to provide training for people, and no one ever uses them. I said it depends on you, why are you doing it, why did you build all those structures, I asked them what is their motive – because this is the most important thing. I do what I do in obedience to what God tells me. They asked me who is funding me, and I told them no-one. We depend on God and he tells us where to train and he provides for the training. I have been offered all sorts of things by NGO’s and other people. A couple of weeks back I had a gentleman from Australia and another one from Germany – they offered me money. I have been offered cars, a good home – all sorts. I thanked them, and told them that if they want to support small-scale farmers then they are welcome, but they need to first seek the Lord and ask him to show them how they can participate with us. I find that sometimes when people feel lonely and they do not know what to do with their lives, they seek to involve themselves in things that look appealing. But we each need to find ourselves in God first, no person is able to help another only God knows what each of us needs and we find it in him first before we offer to help others.
This is not to say we do not need anything, there is a lot of work and the needs are plenty. But this is God’s work and we cannot just mix it with those who have a different heart. So many of our people are farmers, and so many are beginning to receive this message of farming ‘God’s way’. People are sleeping in the shed waiting for us to train them, we need people to visit us and see what’s happening here, and maybe some can participate with us. I believe we can change the nation, we have confidence that God is working in us. My name is Makesure Muchenje, this is my life story, and I still love my people.
Is this not the kind of fasting I want
That you remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
10 Spend yourself for the hungry,
and help those in trouble.
Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
11 The Lord will guide you continually,
giving you water when you are dry
and restoring your strength.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like an ever-flowing spring.
12 When the poor hear the good news
They become oaks of righteousness
They will rebuild the ancient ruins,
and restore places long devastated