International Ministries

Shucking Corn

March 3, 2012 Journal
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Dear friends,

What does an encounter look like between two radically different cultures? This story gives us a glimpse:

 A traveler from the world of high technology was passing through and saw a poor farmer working in his field. He was removing the corn husks, one at a time, with his hands, and for the observer, it was despairingly slow. The farmer, time and time again, repeated the same operation. With the first corn cobs husked, he kissed them, raised his arms to the heavens and whispered some words. After that, he worked more quickly in his tedious task. The passerby, as he saw that the farmer was not making any progress, asked him:

“What are you doing? You are wasting so much time husking the corn. The day is passing and that way you will never finish bringing in the crop.”

 “Can’t you see?” responded the farmer. “Underneath all these husks I’m encountering the abundance that the Heart of Heaven, of Earth, and of Life has deposited. If I don’t enjoy shucking, neither will I enjoy the harvest.”

 “What on earth are you thinking?” asked the passerby again. “Don’t you see that you are going to take a very long time to finish?”

The farmer, after thinking for a while, responded, “Why would the corn be in a hurry to come out of its comfortable wrapping to share its life with me?

 This is an excerpt from a book I’m editing to publish for the University, written by one of our adjunct professors, a Guatemalan Mayan Indian, who has extensive interaction with Indigenous groups throughout Latin America: Mayan, Aztec, Quechua, Aymara, etc. In the book he makes a plea for honest dialogue between cultures, without assuming superiority or inferiority, a radical shift from the norm for 500 years since the Conquest. He orients his book around a series of stories told by the tribes he works with, because Indigenous culture tends to teach with stories rather than abstract concepts.

This is an essential part of the identity of the Universidad Bíblica Latinoamericana where I teach. The campus itself is a fascinating blend of cultures in which students learn to respect and listen to one another, to broaden their understanding of the world and to embrace a variety of world views and cultural patterns. 

My world expanded as I translated this story for you. I had to consult with a Mennonite volunteer from Indiana about the process of shucking corn and what the options are. She assured me that she had grown up doing exactly like the farmer in the story, but that now everything is mechanized. It’s faster, but is something lost?

Together in ministry,