The Lord of the Harvest
These are exciting days at Kikongo. So exciting, in fact, that both students and teachers are willfully abandoning their classes to hurry out to the grasslands as early as 3:00 am to putter about in the morning dew or gentle rain typical of this time of year. It is the Caterpillar Harvest! Masses of little green and yellow striped caterpillars are picked off of clumps of thigh high grasses where the Congolese say they have “fallen.” At the Women’s School, rather than have half our women gone each day for classes, this year we have delayed school for several hours each day to allow the women time to both collect caterpillars and study. God is so very gracious; at this hungry time each year when the crops are not at harvest stage yet, and frequent rains make drying manioc (our main staple) very difficult, God has provided this special high protein treat of small voracious caterpillars. Like manna, they are collected in the early morning dew before the hot sun comes out. Unlike manna, the caterpillars are energetic and likely to crawl out of your bowl! Women and children hurry home with squirming bowlfuls of bounty to begin the process of squeezing or cleaning out each worm before washing and boiling them in salt. They are boiled dry and then, if there are any left, dried. : ) Preserved in this way, caterpillars can be saved for months, and perhaps even sold, as they are a popular food at any time of the year.
Malnutrition among our Pastoral School families often begins to take a back seat as these “mikusula” caterpillars are collected. One of our young moms, whose 8 month old twins have gradually lost weight and become “puny” during the last few months, was recently told that her own health was not adequate to provide enough milk for her babies. The child of another family, refuses to eat manioc, the staple food here, and as we are between harvests, the family has no other food (corn) to feed the child. Although we have purchased some corn and are providing daily rations of milk for these two families until the December harvests of fresh corn and peanuts come in, this harvest of caterpillars could not come at a better time. A sweet respite from the daily stress of trying to find enough to eat.
God is good. These little buttery tasting caterpillars being collected now, and the gifts from many of you that allow us to be hands and feet of love and support to the families of our Pastoral School students, remind us that God provides for us wherever we are in many gracious ways. Our “harvest” here may be different from your harvest there this Thanksgiving week, but we gratefully join with you in singing, “Come, ye thankful people come, raise the song of harvest home…God, our Maker, doth provide, for our wants to be supplied…Come to God’s own temple, come, Raise the song of harvest home.”