International Ministries

Multiplying and sharing God's blessings

June 9, 2012 Journal
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Late Tuesday afternoon a low engine rumble somewhere beyond the garden and oil palm plantation announced the arrival of a small truck as I packed up things to go home. A few minutes later missionary colleague Wayne Niles appeared on the steps leading down to the office. Not far behind were Miriam and four women, the expected team from Foods Resource Bank (FRB), one of the key partners in ACDI Lusekele's agricultural extension programme. Wayne had driven the team up from Kinshasa) to spend a couple of days with the ACDI Lusekele staff and the farmers that they serve.

Foods Resource Bank is a remarkable Christian movement that helps materially poor farmers to end hunger, improve opportunities and contribute to the health of their local communities. It brings together Christian farmers, fruit growers, ranchers, and other production specialists with other Christians with a desire to end hunger and the poverty that so often causes it. In special "growing projects", North American producers dedicate a portion of their production (500 peach trees or 1000 chickens or 10 acres of soybeans) to the Lord. Other Christian partners contribute the funds necessary to pay the costs of producing the peaches or chickens or soybeans. And very often the growing partners raise even more through donations of inputs from local or corporate suppliers. When the crop or animals are sold the money goes to support 50 to 60 FRB projects working with local churches around the world.

For the last seven years the ACDI Lusekele extension program has been part of one of the largest FRB projects. The support makes it possible for extension agents to make regular visits to over 100 farmer's groups every month. They promote disease-resistant cassava varieties, high-yielding peanuts, protein-rich and drought-resistant black-eyed peas, productive hybrid oil palms, and techniques for soil conservation and improvement. They also encourage sharing of the best agricultural practices in this part of Congo. Through God's gracious alchemy, just a few acres of soybeans at the edge of a golden field in North America becomes a force for change in the lives of Congolese semi-subsistence farmers.

Angela Boss, the FRB growing project coordinator for Western North America, brought Amy Beth, Lisa and Nadesh to meet these farmers and the Christian extension specialists who serve them. Amy Beth works with a California peach grower. Lisa is member of a Tennessee church that wants to partner with FRB. Nadesh is an African agricultural specialist herself, serving farming women through another FRB project in the Central African Republic.

Early Wednesday afternoon, we left the main road, jolted across grassland, slithered through sandy pits and finally wound our way down into the disappearing forest valleys of the Gobari River. Moliambo is the Baptist church center for the area, not more than a few kilometers from the Gobari itself. Farmers from the local association were waiting, eager to show us the changes that have taken place in their villages.

In nearby Nzombi, we found the village surrounded by astonishing fields of healthy manioc. Disease tolerant varieties and careful culling of diseased plants have virtually eliminated cassava mosaic disease as a problem in the village. At the Baptist high school in Moliambo we saw 8-month old manioc plants nearly 3 meters tall with stems 3 inches across. Ten years ago mosaic disease was contributing to widespread hunger in the area. Today hunger is little more than an unpleasant memory. The only complaint: sometimes people have trouble selling the surplus manioc for lack of buyers.

Thursday we took the team out to meet the associated farmers of Milundu in the Luniungu River basin. Mr Munimi showed us around his oil palm plantation while his sister looked on. The plantation perches on a hillside above chocolate colored fish ponds. Production this past year had been down due to lack of rain. It is only now beginning to pick back up. Still, he said, the income from those palm trees has helped him to buy a bicycle. The bicycle saves time and helps to carry both produce and water for the family. Palm oil income also helped to put his kids through school. His faced beamed when he told us that three of them were in university right now.

The obvious pride and joy on Mr. Munimi's face is the real reward of this work we do in Jesus's name. His life would seem poor to most of you. But he values his children. He works hard. His family and people in the village respect him. He has remarkable hope, optimism and satisfaction in what he produces. And he will probably live to see his children enter into opportunities that he never dreamed about.

I am grateful to all the Christians of Foods Resource Bank growing projects who have made a conscious decision to store up riches heaven. Their sacrifice, their investments make it possible for the people here at ACDI to share God's blessing with farmers in this region. Each time God's blessing is passed on (North American farmer to Lusekele extension agent to Congolese peasant farmer to their offspring) the blessing is multiplied. What are things of true value that you and I will leave behind us in this world?