Wonder, Worms, and Positive Hearth Deviance

One of the great gifts I received for Christmas is the little book: The Raggamuffin Gospel, by Brennan Manning. The main point is that we’re all ragamuffins in need of God’s grace. But, he has lots of wonderful points along the way: wonder is one.

He tells the story of an old rabbi, Abraham Joshua Heschel. Heschel was lying in bed having suffered a near fatal heart attack. Very weak, he could barely whisper these words to his friend: “Never once in my life did I ask God for success or wisdom or power or fame. I asked for wonder, and He gave it to me.” I like that a lot and I feel a lot of wonder about the way God has made people and all the creatures and plants in his creation. There is also wonder in the ways that human beings have figured out about how to use the varied gifts of God. Here’s a recent example I encountered in India: This past November I had the opportunity to visit the CRWRC and EFICOR (with USAID support) mother-child health work in Jharkand State, Sahibganj area. It’s actually an amazing thing to consider how expansive and effective this work has been—-beyond our expectations!

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We asked this question of a group of about 25 women community health workers:
“Do you find some moms who are equally poor as everyone else but who have healthy children? And, if yes, what do these moms do that is different from the other moms?” (This is known as positive hearth deviance—something a mother or father does at the kitchen hearth that makes for better family health and nutrition than most of their equally poor neighbors experience.) It was a bit of a struggle to get the question translated into the Santal and Hindi languages–but when we got it right–a woman suddenly got up and went out. After about five minutes she came back having gathered the plants that the moms with the healthier families use in their cooking.

Guess what she brought back? Leaves of amaranth, leaves of moringa, peppers, mustard greens, some cowpeas (“black-eye peas”)and a green papaya. Wow—most of these are plants that I’ve been keen about for a long time! Our yard in Belize has moringa leaves going to waste! I’ve been working to promote grain and leaf amaranth for about the last 10 years, and I like papaya a lot, too! So, it’s so great to find moms using them effectively here, and in a place with such acute need! And, I guess that part of my sense of wonder is about how the Lord has allowed me to be in that place in India to actually see those mothers using moringa and amaranth leaves.

(One of you asked for more information on worm growing and suggested I put a picture story on my own worm experiment on this blog. I will try. For those who might be interested to read more on vermiculture, here is a good link (PDF).

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