“That’s it” I remember thinking to myself the first time I heard about it. “This is how it all comes together. These are the words I’ve been trying to say, this is what I’ve been feeling in my heart for sooo long and have been mulling over in my mind, but I just had never yet been able to fully understand the connection, the connection that was so clearly before me, so clearly designed by God.” This special thing between growing food and cultivating faith among the nations.
For the past week we have been attending a training called Farming God’s Way training in Indiana with almost 100 other missionaries. Farming God’s Way is a tool to help help break the chains of poverty by teaching agricultural concepts, biblical truths, and management concepts. I first heard about Farming God’s Way just a couple weeks or so after I had landed in Liberia. I had been reading the book “Kisses by Katie” and was poking around on the author’s blog when I found a tab about Farming God’s Way. I quickly poured over everything and I remember sitting on our bed, sweat dripping from the newness of the Liberian heat, eyes wide in wonder, and grabbing Nathan’s arm and telling him he needed to listen to this, this was sooooo cool. You’re probably thinking “Anna, settle down….this is just a curriculum, how nerdy are you, seriously woman??” But for me, it was life changing, eye opening. Here before me, was a more serious introduction into this world of food and faith that I had so desperately been seeking to understand more about, this thing I knew had been etched on my heart from very early on but my heart never knew how to communicate it to my brain or let alone to others. …but I’m learning now.
I’ve been learning so much this week, not just about technical things as it relates to agriculture but also about what God says through the Bible about Creation and the Garden of Eden and stewardship, the different kinds of poverty and the power/chains it has on people, how spiritual warfare plays into all this, God’s heart for the poor, and lastly God’s design for how we as the Body of Christ are to show His love to our brothers and sisters around the world. This training has helped to bring about a whole new level of meaning to certain scriptures and concepts in the Bible that I thought I knew and it’s brought with it a whole new understanding and now my heart and mind are just bursting with possibilities and with HOPE.
Nathan and I have always had a passion for growing food and feeding people, we love agriculture and we love others. So when we got the opportunity to come alongside youth and teach better ways of growing food, in a country where over 80% of their food is imported and more than half the people in the country are living in poverty, we saw it as such a unique way for us to use our passion and skills as a way to show love toward others for the good of God’s kingdom. And we loved our time last year teaching agriculture and helping to co-advise the FFA program. It was amazing to see the change in our students over the year as they built up their confidence as leaders and saw within themselves the power they had to be able to help change not only their situation but the situation of those around them. It was inspiring to be a part of and I am proud of my students. But throughout the year, God slowing began breaking our hearts even more for these students and showing us through His grace that His heart and vision for our friends in Liberia goes deeper and wider than this and that this work we were doing, though good and helpful and honoring to God, was just not enough (for us in our hearts) if we truly wanted to show others the real depths of His love.
One day I was talking with a friend and he told me about some girls he had run into while he was in the administrator’s office. These girls were in trouble for having snuck into the boy’s dormitory, but it’s not for the reason you might think, actually it’s quite the opposite. These girls went in there to steal (and then urinate on) some necklaces that had been purchased by the boys from the local witch doctor. It was said that these necklaces would make any girl they wanted have sex with them. The boys had gone around taunting the girls in classes and boasting about “the power” that they had over them because of this juju….and you know what? The girls believed them. Like most Liberians, they believe in the powers of witchcraft and believe that there is no power greater than this and what the witch doctor speaks into proclamation will and must come true. They were terrified. They were distraught. They felt trapped, in chains, and controlled by this supposed all-encompassing power and they didn’t know how to escape. They had tried what they could to “break the spell” but still my heart broke for them for everything they did not yet know…
I realized that no matter how much I trained them in good agricultural practices, no matter how good they were in school, no matter how much they grew as leaders, and no matter how much they believed in themselves or wanted to take care of others, it would never be enough. All of this is worth nothing, smarts, money, success, and even confidence and compassionate acts is worth nothing if they don’t know Him. If they don’t know that God already sent his only son to forgive them and redeem them, they don’t need to practice all these other rituals to try and earn His favor and redeem their own sins; if they don’t know how much God loves them, protects them, cherishes them as His children just as they are now and they are not just some pawns in a witch doctor’s hands; if they don’t know that through Jesus they are FREE and now have access to a power greater than all the other powers and forces around them, a power infinitely times greater than the power of the local witch doctor and his/her juju.
This week in training Grant, the Farming God’s Way trainer, said something that caught the attention of both Nathan and I immediately because it spoke right to our souls again and made clear everything that God had been laying on our hearts this past year as we’ve been transitioning to work with Hope in the Harvest. “How can I feed others, without also giving them the Bread of Life?” The Bread of Life, the food our souls need, the one thing I cannot live without. We as people are so much more than just our physical bodies and those needs. Our souls hunger for and need something more, something so much deeper, so much more powerful, and so much more filling than we could ever imagine…..the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ.
John 6:35, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
John 6:27, “Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”
Philippians 3:8, “Indeed, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have discarded everything else, I consider them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”
Staking our claim by praying over the ground where our garden will be and acknowledging God as the provider of all things.