Ministry of Margaret Nelson
Uganda, Africa

April 6, 2010

Peanuts and Peace

I sat outside, shelling peanuts with a lady about my age. I had stored the nuts in rat-proof plastic containers for seed for this springís crop. She was much faster than I, having had many years of experience shelling not just peanuts, but many other seed crops. We shelled in two different ways, both getting the job done. She would take a handful of peanuts, carefully putting the nuts in one pile, then as her other hand would fill up with husks, she would put them in another pile. I had everything in one basket. In the manner of a Congolese man I watched once, I would crack open the shells, pop the nuts out, and drop everything back into the basket. I didnít separate everything until later.

As the husks would begin to fill my basket, making it more difficult to find unshelled nuts, I would shake the basket, which caused the lightweight husks to rise to the surface. The nuts themselves would sink to the bottom, leaving the unshelled nuts in the middle layer. Then I could easily sort through the top layer, discarding the waste to the growing pile on the ground beside us. After repeating this process numerous times, I would eventually end up with a basket of nuts only.

Shelling the nuts was the biggest part of the process. But after they were all shelled, the nuts would go back into a basket, which would be repeatedly shaken. Smaller pieces of shell, dirt, and root strings would then surface and be separated out, leaving the peanuts much cleaner than before, ready to cook, eat or plant.

Blunting the monotony of the work of shelling garden products such as peanuts is the comfortable companionship of shared womenís work. The boredom that comes with repetitive, mindless work is lost in the entertainment of chatter. Today as we worked, I got lessons in different types of peanuts, size, color, which ones are good to plant, which are not, mixed in with village gossip. There was also a lesson in Luganda, as my friend does not speak English and a lesson in the patience that comes with such slow, tedious work. There was the temptation to go in the house and roast the peanuts and eat some of them, as the home grown variety is much tastier than commercially processed peanuts bought in stores. But there was the greater restraint that every farmer must practice, that of not eating your seed. The gratitude of satisfying the bodyís appetites today can reap a harvest of poverty later when there is no money to buy seed, and no food to eat later in the year.

In our fast paced Western lifestyles, such fellowship has been lost. The closest I can come to a comparison in my home country is the few women who still belong to quilting groups. We donít take time for handwork or for fellowship. Our shoulders ache from hours at the computer; our minds are overwhelmed with information of all kinds and lists of things to do. I see this reflected in visiting teams that come from the USA, people wanting to accomplish 2 weeksí worth of work or ministry in one week. To an African, relationship is paramount. In some African languages, sin is defined as the breaking of relationship. People are more important than appointments or tasks. Africans donít know how to multitask. I learned early on living in Uganda that if Iím in a bank or some other business and I need 3 things done, if I say I need A, B and C done today, Iíll always have to repeat B and C. Then if I repeat B and C, when B is finished, Iíll have to repeat C. And thatís how it goes.

There are positives and negatives in every culture, in every nation. I am blessed to have been able to live in 2 different countries and to have experienced many more cultures during my life. But one of the things I appreciate most about the African culture is this emphasis on relationship. I am never lonely in Africa. I have grown much in patience. And as I look back at my own country and see one of the richest nations on earth groaning in dissatisfaction, under mountains of debt, full of lonely, depressed people, I wonder what weíve traded our history for, a history that was so similar in many ways to that of Uganda.

As we celebrate Easter, I think about biblical concepts we overlook in our harried lives:

Let us not be caught up in entertainment, thinking itís worship. Letís save our hearing, turn down the sound decibels in our churches, concerts, and be still before the Lord, and discover His anointing once again.

Margaret Nelson