Thursday, January 20, 2011
JOSEPHINE KIZZA: A WOMAN EMPOWERING A NATION
(a long story but worth the read!)
This week I have been at the Great Lakes Leadership Institute. This is a conference in Kampala at the Ggaba Seminary which unites catalytic peace leaders from the surrounding countries who are instrumental in bringing peace and reconciliation to their areas. I have met and spoken with men and women from Kenya, DRC, Rwanda, Burundi, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, and others. We have gathered with one mission: To unite minds and efforts in developing a new creation of reconciliation and hope in a region that has been suffocated by lament and war for years. We have spent many sessions reflecting on God’s word and direction for the region. We have engaged in discussions telling of our personal convictions and listened to speakers from the different countries explaining through examples the problems and hopes of their country. Yesterday, we had the honor of taking a 4 hour pilgrimage to the St. Jude’s Family Farm Project in Musaka, Uganda. This was a great experience for me because it was my first time to head south, since Gulu is in the north. I am always amazed by the lush, green forests decorating the land and the basic way of life of most of the country. I would still say that Winston Churchill’s description of Uganda as “The Pearl of Africa” holds.
St. Jude’s Family Project and Rural Training Center was started by a couple, John and Josephine Kizza, after they were trapped in Musaka at the beginning of the war in 1986. They were forced to leave behind their successful life in Kampala without warning or preparation. They had visited John’s family in Musaka one weekend, which happened to be the weekend that the war began and being in the south, Musaka was one of the first areas hit by the war. The town’s people tore down the only bridge leading into or out of Musaka to protect themselves from the terrorizing “soldiers.” John and Josephine had no way out.
Rather than despairing and pitying themselves, they stood firm on their faith and trust in God and knew that his plan was better than their own. They had two options: build a simple shelter and gather whatever resources they could from John’s family, or live with John’s family. In their culture, the daughter-in-law is not allowed in the same room as the father-in-law is home, nor is she allowed to speak with him. Josephine refused to live under that rule and told John to go to his family’s house to get any bedding he could manage while she stayed to set up a shelter. At first he didn’t believe she would rather live such a primitive life coming from the comfortable one they’d had in Kampala instead of submitting to the rules of his culture, but he soon realized she was serious. He returned later in the evening with a mattress and a blanket to find a small but sturdy enough shelter for the night.
The next day they surveyed their surroundings to find that the land was not fertile and agriculture was not the immediate option. Instead, John received two pigs from his father’s lot. After a few months she gave piglets, which they sold and after a few more cycles they had earned enough money to purchase a heifer. Months later she calved and they were able to sell enough milk to buy poultry. Now they began to see their bare beginnings multiply and they had a living.
About five years later, a woman from the UK came to Uganda to teach organic farming to the people. Josephine attended the 3 hour workshop on making compost and immediately began implementing what she had learned at home. A few days later the woman was making house calls to her students to see how they were coming and found Josephine teaching 3 local women how to make compost. She was so impressed by Josephine’s lesson that she offered to sponsor her for 2 years of training in organic farming in the UK... if John agreed to stay home with their 1 year old daughter. Going completely against social propriety, John agreed. Josephine spent 2 years in the UK and returned with a wealth of knowledge and skills that has now created a 3 ½ acre plot of flourishing vegetables and produce as well as full farm of livestock. Josephine was not satisfied with just her family benefiting from her training amidst the poverty and starvation that surrounded her. She opened a small plot where she trained anyone who would come to learn organic farming. She was enriching the lives of everyone who came to her farm by helping them become self-sustaining. In 2005, John died of a stroke. However, Josephine kept their mission alive and since his death their farm has grown 3 times it size. Today, over 6,000 families around Musaka have their own organic produce gardens and farms and at least 30,000 people circulate through St. Jude’s Farm annually to learn, see, and admire this transformation from 2 pigs to a self-sustaining life.
There are a few lessons that really laid on my heart yesterday. First, this was a life that was created out of respect and partnership of a couple. They lived united and with each other not simply along side one another. Second, they never faltered in their hope and trust in God, even after losing everything... and after losing her partner. And God was faithful. Third, St. Jude’s farm is standing because of hard work, perseverance, and a vision. And fourth, Josephine has never and will never become complacent with her level of success. She continues striving forward, searching for innovations for the farm, and continues reaching out to the community to empower as much of the nation as she can in this life. God bless, Josephine Kizza.