Saturday, April 8, 2017

Getting Our Farm On

As a child growing up in suburban San Antonio, TX, I never found agriculture interesting.   My dad was a good gardener and often won our neighborhoods prestigious “Yard of the Month” award several months in a row.  There was even a time when they changed the rules in the neighborhood so that the same house couldn’t win the award multiple months in a row.  In the spirit of full disclosure, the award was just a sign proclaiming that the yard which contained it was indeed the yard of the month, but nevertheless, from this point on, we could only host the sign every other month. Ok, maybe the “award” wasn’t that prestigious, but even at a young age, I could see that the recognition of my father’s hard work meant something to him.  For me at the time, all this meant was that I often had to pick up hedge trimmings, sweep the sidewalk, and help spread mulch.  As I said, I never found agriculture interesting.
I would have never guessed that growing plants and keeping a nice yard (if you notice, I’m doing everything I can to not call this gardening) would become something that I truly loved doing.  While living in the desert terrain of El Paso, TX, my neighbors would jokingly ask what my water bill was or ask what secrets that I was keeping from them.  The truth was that I never spent a lot of money, but could install and maintain sprinklers, usually had the greenest, fullest yard in our neighborhood, and had a variety of nice plants blooming throughout the year.  Somewhere between weed eating and spreading fertilizer, my dad’s skills must have rubbed off on me.  Soon, I was collecting seeds and taking clippings of plants wherever I went.  This has continued up to today, where at my home in Southern DRC, I have plants from all over the Congo, Zambia, Kenya, Togo, South Africa, Jamaica, and the USA. 
I suppose that it could be said that I do today find agriculture interesting, but to be fair, it snuck up on me.  The great climate and otherwise wonderful conditions here in Congo first led me to be interested in bananas and pineapples.  Did you know that if you plant a banana tree, it will sprout new plants and your harvest will grow exponentially?  Did you know that if you twist off the leafy “crown” of your pineapple and haphazardly plant it in the ground, it will grow into a pineapple plant?  These were things that we discovered upon first arriving in Congo over four years ago.  Today, these interests have expanded into raising chickens, pigs, rabbits, goats, guinea pigs, and others.  Together with the local church leaders all around Congo we are also harvesting honey, milk, eggs, and vegetables.  We are farming multiple acres of corn and raising fish in ponds.  We are supplying cane sugar, bananas, and a variety of fruits.  Indeed, we are very interested in agriculture. 
Leafy vegetables sprout near the village of Kiwanja.

A rabbit heads to market from the village of Samba.

Strawberries growing beside watermelon in Lubumbashi.

Peanuts freshly planted in Brazzaville.

50 young trees planted in rows near Lubumbashi.

Here in the DRC, as we struggle to be the church and reach holistic needs of those around us, we discovered that many of our pastors were unable to feed themselves.  So we have encouraged farming and livestock as a way for our pastors and their families to improve their lives.  But we are also partnering with them all over Congo so that their agricultural efforts will feed their neighbors and raise money for building the Church in Central Africa. Please pray with us that the DRC will be able to sustain its growing population of around 80 million people from local resources.  Pray for our agricultural initiatives taking off all across the country.  And pray for the hearts and lives of those who will be touched through these outreach efforts.  

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