48 year-old Opolot John Peter is married with 6 children. Before the armed rebellion especially by Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Peter says that life was good. “We were rich. We had cattle, goats and sheep. Educating children was very easy; one cow would pay for two terms. Food was abundant and I was able to provide and meet all the needs in my family and at the same time work as a pastor. My family was in a good state. In just a short while, all that we held dearly was gone, and suddenly, we were made very poor
and run for safety in the internally displaced people (IDP) camps.” Peter recalls.
On returning home, resettling was hard. They had to start from scratch. They hardly had enough to feed on. “All my hopes were in the Lord. I would pray, hoping that God would perform a miracle and send someone to help me get on my feet again. I left work to my wife and children,” he says. “Our children were not old enough to support their mother grow enough crops that would serve as food and for sale to meet other needs. As a result, we had famine all year through. We could not take children to school.
Instead of supporting my wife to increase food production, I would waste time in the trading center, and would come back home expecting to find food ready.
The church I was rebuilding was not growing because people were as needy as I was and I could not help them. I instead wanted them to help me,” He says.
“Because of my failure to provide for my family, problems with my wife started coming up. Instead of responding positively and helping her with garden work, I increased my stay out of home to avoid quarrels with her. This made it worse that she even demanded that I stop my work as apastor. My marriage was at the verge of breaking up. I decided to leave pastoral work to support my family. But even then, nothing changed. I used to waste time.”
When PAG introduced PEP (a model for community empowerment) to their community, they (Pr Opolot and wife) both participated. “In one of the first trainings we had, it was about God’s purpose for mankind. We realized that GOD first provided for man before he created him, however, we the co-creators were not doing the same. We were producing children and hoping for an outsider to come and educate them or feed them for us. We also learnt that everything that God created and entrusted us with was of great value and was meant to help us in times of our need. The trainer challenged us to begin appreciating the little resources we have and to utilize them well to meet our needs. We realized that unless we appreciated and used the resources that God has already blessed us with like the Disciples who thought they could not feed the congregation, God was not going to entrust us with more resources.
“I had land, but the biggest part of it is a swamp. I had never perceived anything good coming out of it. After that training, I sat with my wife and we started listing the resources we had and how we had utilized them. When we mentioned the swamp, we all said it was useless. But later, something told me, ‘it is useful!’ I started thinking how useful a swamp could be. Then I remembered that sugarcane and rice can grow well in a swamp.
I told my wife about it and we agreed to plough the swamp for sugarcane. We were the first to grow sugarcane in a swamp in our village. In order to increase production of food crops, Peter planted one acre of sugarcane in the swamp and the remaining three acres they planted rice. “I started valuing my time. Instead of going to the centers to chat, I spend time in the garden with my family. We started having more than enough food in the family, and we would be able to give to the neighbors. Food security is very key to us now. Sugarcane and rice are the ones we sell to get money to cater for other needs in the household. My children have gone back to school and I don’t have worries over their school fees”. He says.
Working as a pastor was my calling, but the problem was that I was blind. I did not know how to match the physical and spiritual leadership at home and at church. I thank PAG and Tearfund UK for PEP because I have been renewed holistically. I resumed my work as a pastor and the church now is very strong and growing too. My family supports me in this. Preaching in church is very easy because PEP taught us how to interpret the bible and apply it to our daily life. It is very easy for me to counsel people using the bible now.
Peter says that PEP has kept increasing their knowledge. Recently, he says he again learnt from PEP that he needs to practice crop rotation in order to maintain soil fertility on his piece of land which is packed with both food and cash crops like improved oranges, ginger and sugar cane.