Adventists starting from the soil up
PORT MARIA, St Mary:
Dozens of children and adults from St Mary and Portland have been forced to re-evaluate their perceptions of agriculture as a career path, thanks to a series of workshops hosted by an American Seventh-day Adventist couple earlier this month.
As part of the North East Jamaica Conference of Seventh-day Adventists' three-day farming conference, David and Hope Obermiller, who run the Harvest Fields Organic Farm in Fresno, California, delivered training sessions in agriculture, education, and spirituality.
Speaking to Family and Religion during the conference, Hope explained that while David's objective in Jamaica was to share his knowledge of farm management and sweet potato production, her role was to engage local children and encourage them to reconsider how they view agriculture.
THE SOWER AND THE SEED
She said: "With the kids, I'm helping them to see how fun it is to be in the dirt. Primarily, I'm teaching them the Parable of the Sower and the Seed (Matthew 13:18), and how there are different types of soil. We're working under the theme 'I want to be Good Ground', and also have a song that goes with that.
"I gave them all little hand spades and we walked around the campus here and tried to find the different places where there is good soil, rocky soil, soil by the wayside, and thorns.
"That way, they get to understand for themselves just how hard it is with a shovel to penetrate the soil, and how we really need to have good hearts. The children had fun, and there were lots of different tasks and treasure hunts that went along with it."
Obermiller stressed that it was imperative for agricultural values to be taught to young people from as early as possible. She explained: "What we're trying to do is help people to see that farming is actually an honourable occupation that is very rewarding, both spiritually and physically.
"It's important because when you're young, you have to have a vision about what you're going to do with you future and the values you're going to uphold. So if you can teach children that hard and arable work, like farming, is not only essential for your life and health, but also a blessing to humanity and a God-given calling, they can start considering that as potential career path."
Similarly, Obermiller's husband, David, insists that establishing a relationship with plants and the soil simultaneously helps people to mature and develop spiritually.
He explained: "One of the things about our modern system is that it tends to increase poverty and exploit and supress people.
"But when you read the Bible, God designed the system of agriculture to benefit and enhance the community and build relationships. It was a means of caring for the poor and providing for those that are need.
"In addition to the spiritual reasons, when you're on a farm and see the interactions and complexity of nature, it indicates that there is a God of compassion. If you look
at nature and ask 'Why is it so beautiful?'
"The answer is because there is God who loves you and He has given you a beautiful world to live in, but humans tend to want to exploit that."