They say change is a good thing, right? Maybe. For us, much has changed since we began the work of preparing to bring the Gospel message to the Ga’dang people here. Let me begin with how it used to be…
In 2009, the area we chose to move into amongst the Ga’dang people was not far removed from the ‘outside’ world, but it was definitely off the beaten trail, so to speak. The only way coming into the area was a trail that was usually muddy and very water buffalo trodden. Because of the seasonal rains, the trail was only accessible by truck or 4×4 for about 2 months of the year. We had no air service in those days, so we would hike in and/or out of the village along this trail for about 2-3 hours out to the main road where we could be picked up by a vehicle. We would hire the local men with water buffalo and sleds to haul our cargo. Often there was a string of 10-15 guys and their water buffalo following us and taking our stuff, along with allowing our kids to ride with them.
Many of the people here are farmers, as they were then. Because of the difficult access though, they limited how much corn they grew as it was hard to get it out to the main road to be taken to town on trucks and be sold. During the first couple of years, it was easy to participate in the planting and harvesting of the fields as everything was done as a community. The concept was that you work in my field and then in return, I will work in yours. This kept the need for money for wages down and appeared to work well.
After returning to the village from our last home assignment in 2013, I quickly noticed several changes in the area and within our own communities here. The road was in much better shape, and now there were not just one, but several trucks that were able to make the trip on it, provided there were 2 or 3 days without heavy rain. This meant that the farmers could grow more corn and easily get it out to town to sell.
This combined with a few other factors caused the corn production here to double, if not more. A new tool that made planting easier and quicker provided a way so that they weren’t spending as much time in one field. Because of the increased corn production and faster method of planting, more money was being made. Then we noticed not just one threshing machine, but several were bought and being used. This made the process of preparing the corn for shipment faster, so it could be sold sooner once harvested.
Then the electricity came in. As of January of this year, this whole area now has ‘town power’, provided at low cost. Of course, because everyone has more money to spend, they are not just buying machines to assist in farming or vehicles, such as motorcycles. At least 8 or 10 houses in our village alone have refrigerators and satellite television. Several cement houses have been built as well.
In the midst of all the change, some things get lost. The sense of community spirit here has diminished, particularly when it comes to working together. More often than not, a farmer will now hire a crew to come and plant or harvest his fields for him, because he has the money to do so. There’s no ‘work debt’ to pay either. For example, in the past there might be 10 farmers with fields, and if the other 9 farmers come and work for the one, then he now has to go work for those 9 other farmers to repay them all. That’s a lot of work, especially when the time frame for planting or harvesting is limited. Today, he doesn’t have to worry about that. He is free to go and work for pay if he wants, or hire more workers to work in more fields that he plants.
One thing we have noticed, is the sense that people have realized the value of money. You’ve heard it said that money talks. Indeed it does, and the people here are no exception. With the improved road and greater access, increased crop production, and electricity, it’s a whole different ball game for us, as we prepare to present the Gospel. In the past, there were definitely busy times, but there were obvious slow times as well. The village guys enjoyed periods of relaxing at home, hunting or doing things like playing basketball together. Today, because of the ‘need’ to earn money, it is not uncommon for the people to get up at 2 or 3 in the morning and go out with head lamps that they charged at their houses to work in the fields and beat the heat. They never used to do that! There was a time not long ago when they would say it was not good to work in the dark, for fear of bad luck or other ‘things’. Now they come back home when it gets too hot to sleep by an electric fan and/or watch tv until it cools down again in the late afternoon.
Pray for us as we work through these changes, and seek the Lord to find appropriate ways to reach into the Ga’dang people’s lives and impact them for Christ. Pray that they don’t get too caught up in the world of materialism and ignore their need to hear God calling them to Himself.