Teach a Man to Fish… or FarmPosted: June 16, 2010
One of the many blessings of being here is seeing how missions plays out holistically in people’s lives. Mapepe Bible College, where I’m teaching, is just one ministry under the umbrella of Zambia Missions. In addition to the ministry training component in the school, there is also medical missions (particularly eye care – needed badly in Zambia), widow and orphan care through Silent Angels and Kerin’s Kids, and – what this post is about – agricultural training.
The rainy season here is November to April; for the rest of the year it is completely dry. As a result, agriculture methods that are able to produce crops year round, including when it is dry, are extremely important. Additionally, many people rely solely on what they grow for their own diet and for producing crops for income. Sustainable methods of agriculture are the difference between eating well, and getting by; between having some limited cash on hand for medical and other emergencies, and not.
There are two components to the agriculture training program at Mapepe. The ministry students, who are often villagers who themselves rely on agriculture, are trained in the basics of this agricultural method. This can help them to sustain themselves after they return home, and gives them a tool to teach others and help them to minister to the entire man. The other component is that the staff and graduates regularly conduct workshops for surrounding villages. B and I got to go and participate in one of the workshops the first week here.
I won’t go into all the details, (mainly because I don’t know them) but the basic process of the agricultural workshop is learning year-round fertilization methods (prevents paying for costly mass-produced fertilizer); learning how to make raised beds for seed planting (the process allows for more fertile soil and greater space for the root system, all of which translates into healthier and more viable crop yields); setting up a drip irrigation system (provides water even in the dry season); and learning the business aspect of how the crops can be produced year round, at greater yields, and perhaps sold to increase revenues.
Of course all of this is done to minister to the whole man. Ultimately, Jesus came to restore all our relationships. Preaching to people that are starving is incredibly ineffective, and giving people business skills and a source of income without telling them about the Savior does nothing for their souls. So the staff at Mapepe begin by telling them who they are and why they have come; biblical principles are weaved into the instruction (without preaching at people, because that’s not why they are there); there are spontaneous devotions.
The way it plays out is that by helping villagers to learn these agriculture skills, a relationship is begun that continues as villagers have questions about how to maintain and advance the things that they have learned, and yes, as they have spiritual questions as well. During the time we were there, several villagers did express interest in knowing more about Jesus.
I’ve probably butchered this; it would be much better to ask somebody at Mapepe if you have questions. But it has certainly been a blessing for me to see this aspect of ministry and missions in action.