In 2009, I made a poignant return trip to Southern Africa after a twenty-two-year absence. The last time I had been there was in 1987 when I had flown over to bury sixteen friends, who only days earlier had been killed on a Peace & Reconciliation project in Zimbabwe. As I sat there on the plane reminiscing about my last trip, a Robert Cray song, “The Forecast Calls for Pain” started playing in my mind. The path in front of me led to reuniting with families who had suffered profound and painful loss back in 1987. The song seemed appropriate. I was returning to Africa to interview three publishing companies, whom had inquired about releasing a 2nd edition of my book “Saving Zimbabwe; Life, Death & Hope in Africa”. I felt with the book potentially coming out in South Africa, I needed to reestablish relationships with extended family members of those who had died. While I was filled with a great deal of apprehension about those meetings, they turned out to be rather astounding and a great deal of healing took place. In hindsight, I’d have to say it was one of the more amazing seasons of my life; one I will always treasure and be grateful to God for having experienced.
LAUNCHING SAVING ZIMBABWE
I would return to South Africa a year later, in 2010, for the book launch in Johannesburg. It was an emotionally charged evening as so many people who had not seen each other in decades gathered to pay tribute to fallen heroes. After a couple weeks of media interviews, my dear friend Thabani Dube and I decided to risk traveling to Zimbabwe with some cases of the book. Given the government disinformation and media bias at the time of the massacre, most Zimbabweans didn’t actually have any idea as to what was happening within their own nation back then. Even to this day, when I tell the story of the Community of Reconciliation to Zimbabweans there is a look of disbelief on their faces. Black & White people living together as equals in the 1980’s was unheard of. I keep photos on my phone just in case I get the tilted head look of disbelief from those uncertain of the truthfulness of my story.
As Thabani and I made our way there, we figured no one would actually know what was written in the book. We calculated that by time those in government who might be opposed to the message the book contained, realized what had happened, we would already be out of the country. We strategically picked our entry point in and made it through customs without much incident as they had no operating computer system! The books were hidden in the back of a pickup truck under bushels of fresh produce which the customs officials seemed uninterested in unloading to check what was underneath. We made our way to the city of Bulawayo and then later up to the capital city Harare.
DEATH STALKED US AGAIN
While in Bulawayo, we made a 40 km pilgrimage out to the ruins of the old Community of Reconciliation property. It was the first time I had been there in over two decades. I was saddened to see something with so much potential lie in ruins. It looked like a western ghost town with weeds blowing through. We were joined that day by a missionary couple from the US who had been working in the country for eighteen years. They were overwhelmed by what they saw. I remember so vividly, Steve on his knees looking up at me with tears running down his cheeks crying “This could have changed everything! This was the difference maker!” He was right. We then had a long conversation about how Hell itself seemed intent on keeping the people of Zimbabwe oppressed. I remember the soberness of our conversation and how we discussed the reality that peacemakers seem to die in Zimbabwe. Within two hours, Steve & his wife would be fighting for their lives as in the darkness of returning to their mission base, they would run into a huge steer crossing the road which crushed the front of their van in on them. I was once again reminded of the daily life and death struggle which is Zimbabwean life.
In Harare at the book launch, while signing copies, I noticed two gentlemen who were standing on the periphery while waiting patiently to talk to me. Once people cleared out, they approached me with very sober looks on their faces. They introduced themselves as Brian Oldreive and Craig Deall of an organization called Foundations for Farming. I had not heard of it but they were insistent we needed to meet. Much to my surprise they then pulled out a 1st Edition of Saving Zimbabwe which had only been released in the US. I was, as you might imagine, curious as to where they had found such a copy. They went on to explain that it had been given to them while in the UK. This was equally befuddling, as I had no idea the book had made its way there either! After a bit more dialogue, they asked if I could make time the next day for a more in-depth discussion. After conferring with Thabani and my friend Tatenda Gunguwo, we decided to move some things around and go visit their facility.
WALKING BACKWARDS UP THE STAIRS
I have always been passionate about what I believe and at times tend to be a bit intense about it. Well I met my match that day! Brian’s passion and focus was impressive, rivaling my own. After hearing his story, I better understood why. Brian had early on in his life been a star athlete playing test level cricket. From there he began the rugged life of tobacco farming. It was a lucrative business in Zimbabwe and a great many white farmers, who owned the premium farmland, grew the cash crop. In 1978, Brain had an encounter with God which would result in his change of mind about farming tobacco. The idea of growing something which in essence was poisoning people, didn’t seem right. The switch to other crops with significantly lower profit margins led to a season of extended financial woes. In the end he lost everything. Brian had tried to use the tobacco farming methodology he learned on crops such as maize, soy and wheat but it didn’t work. His faith would be tested as he knew returning to tobacco farming would change everything. Being a man of intense conviction though, he would decide to stay the course.
One day while out walking in the woods having a conversation with God, he heard him say get on your knees and start digging. He thought it a curious statement, but then again he might find buried treasure which would solve all his financial problems! What he did discover was something more valuable than gold- he found God ways. In the same manner, men like Galileo, Da Vinci, Kepler and Newton had before, he discovered God ways in nature. As he was on his knees digging during a drought, he first began to notice there was a blanket of leaves covering the earth. As he began to remove the top layer, not more than an inch down, he noticed the earth was moist! As he dug deeper he noticed how the organic matter was increasingly broken down as it decayed. In fact, new plant seeds were thriving under this natural “blanket” of organic matter from the nutrients released as older matter decayed. Death was nourishing new life.
A PARADIGM SHIFT
It was in this moment he began to see the significant contrast between modern farming methodology and God’s natural system. Modern farmers have been taught to tear open the earth and plow deep. As a result, they expose the soil to the bleaching of the sun and have to deal with constant erosion as a result of rain. Ripping open the earth as they do every year, prevents nature from taking its natural course. The result of all this is a massive agricultural industry which is predicated on genetically altered seeds which need specially designed nutrients to give them what the earth can no longer provide. The farmers are now at the mercy of big business which controls every aspect of their crop production. In the US, 2% of the population now grows the food the other 98% consume.
As you might imagine, in Africa farming still dominates the various economic sectors given 70% of all Africans farm. Many of these farmers would be considered subsistence level farmers meaning they farm an acre or two surrounding their home and live off what they produce. These farmers don’t have the financial capacity to purchase both seed and fertilizer from some company. It is one of the reasons why GMO seeds are not allowed in most African countries. They see it as another form of western financial oppression. Many of these farmers have no real knowledge of how to farm and will simply scatter their maize seed indiscriminately across the earth resulting in low yields. Once Brian began to fully grasp the benefits of no tillage farming, he developed a simple methodology which he began to teach to local Zimbabwean farmers. The results were outstanding with huge yields!
ECONOMIC SELF DESTRUCTION
You would have thought this would have been an exciting discovery which the Zimbabwean government would have enthusiastically embraced. That wasn’t to be the case as it didn’t fit into the narrative the government was then peddling. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe had always had a cordial relationship with the 4,000 white farmers which were the primary basis for the country’s economy. For the first twenty years after independence from white rule, the white farmers and “Uncle Bob” as they called him got on great. I’m sure the monies under the table Uncle Bob received helped maintain the status quo. Brian would warn his friends in the 1990’s that change was coming and if they wanted to survive, they needed to incorporate their black farm workers into profit sharing. They laughed at him until everything changed around 2000. Robert Mugabe was in trouble politically and needed a wedge issue to rally voters to his side. He decided to turn on his white farming friends and violently implemented the “Fast Track Land Reform Program”. Soon members of his administration began seizing farms and white families were thrown off their land often with nothing other than the clothes on their backs.
At this point, white farmers began to flee the country in droves and Brian and his wife Kath thought about leaving as well. Once again the hand of God would intervene and it became clear they were supposed to stay. On the surface, it was an illogical decision and even the years afterward seemed to challenge the wisdom of their staying. Despite the clear success of their farming methods, the government continued to resist them due to the racial component. Through the setbacks, they persevered in their efforts alongside partners Craig & Bridget Deall. While at the national level they found nothing but resistance, over time, more and more substance level farmers began to embrace their ideas with great success. I remember in 2010, while out for a walk, I came across two farmsteads next to each other. Once had scrawny knee-high brown maize plants scattered all over the place and the other neat rows of lush green maize that had to have been 8’ tall. One property looked cursed and the other like the Garden of Eden. The contrast was stark. I inquired when I got back about the highly productive farm and sure enough, the guy was using what he had learned at a Foundations for Farming training seminar.
I WAS HUNGRY FOR FORGIVENESS
The recent change of government in Zimbabwe has unlocked a great many possibilities. One very interesting development is that a number of cabinet level ministers in the government have been using the Foundations for Farming methodology on their personal farms for a few years now with great success. One of them happens to be the new Minister of Agriculture! Brian and his team believe they can have the nation’s once highly productive agricultural sector exporting again in under 5 years if given the chance. Keep them all in your prayers. With the excessive violence which has been so prominent in Zimbabwe’s history, there is a great need to heal the nation in order for it to move forward. The FfF team has felt this year they need to expand not only their message but their focus on being a part if the national healing process. It was their invitation to join them in healing the country which has precipitated my returning to the country on February 26th. I will be speaking at their conference “I Was Hungry for Forgiveness” March 6-8. Please keep us all in your prayers. It is my view that Brian Oldreive & Craig Deall are men in the mode of Joseph and an Unsung Heroes.
I have been able to raise just over $1,000 for my trip so far. My expenses are going to run substantially more than that so I could still use help.
If you would like to send a check please mail them to
c/o Bob Scott
153 Scottsdale Circle
Reed’s Spring, MO 65737
To use PayPal: [email protected]
If you would like to Wire Transfer funds, contact me personally and will give you the bank details
For those who are able… I greatly appreciate your help! -Bob