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.  

Friday, March 31, 2017

Welcome to Congo, You Lose

Some foreigners who live in Democratic Republic of Congo will tease that the slogan for the DRC is “Welcome to Congo, you lose.” This saying is based off of the day-to-day frustrations of corruption and injustices that take place.

This week was one of those weeks. Our week started off great. Gavin returned from a week away in West Africa, meeting leaders within the Nazarene Church, hearing their strategies and being encouraged. And on Wednesday, we headed into town for a lunch out as a family. We took a route we don’t usually drive and this is where the trouble started. In the DRC, we have traffic police. Some stand on corners or intersections assisting with traffic, hoping for a small amount of money. The intersections with one or two police usually aren’t trouble. When you have three to five in an intersection, you hope and pray they don’t jump out in front of your car and stop you. They check your license and all the documents of your car. Some will check your lights. One family we know was told you can’t drive in flip-flops, so they tried to fine the driver. Another family where the wife was driving was told she couldn’t be driving because she was pregnant. It all depends. This week, it seems, they are particularly checking licenses. Unfortunately, traffic police riding on a motorcycle stopped us. They insisted Gavin stopped at an intersection past the line you are supposed to stop at. In his defense, another traffic man who was directing traffic in the middle of the intersection signaled for his direction of traffic to stop.  The motor police also insisted that Gavin’s license was fake. Pointing to places on the license trying to verify the inconsistencies. After a long discourse, negotiations and a fine payment we got Gavin’s license back and went on our way. Not 3 minutes later, we were stopped again by another group of traffic police. Their story was the same, “Your license is fake.” Now, we’ve had the licenses, which we obtained from the transportation office in the capitol city, for over a year and never had a problem before when we’ve asked to present it. After some discussion, negotiations and loss of money again, we were able to leave.

To make a long story short, Gavin went by the transportation office in Lubumbashi to find out what the issue seems to be. It appears whomever put our licenses together in Kinshasa assigned us an incorrect number and our fingerprints are not clear enough. We started the process to get the correct license; trying to always do good and have all the documents required of foreigners living in this country. However, we found out about another document we are supposed to have before they will grant us our new licenses, which we do not have. Although we have a religious visa and another visa, which we renew annually, we must also have a separate residence card. This will be another long process and more money.

This is one of those weeks where you feel defeated. You want to throw in the towel and say, “Lord, why? Why so many obstacles? Why so many documents? Why so much money?” This all takes so much time. What is happening?

In the midst of the struggle, no matter the size, we do find our peace and hope in Christ. We come before Him in prayer and lay it all down. He knows. He’s walking beside us. Maybe these things are happening now, because of something else that is going to take place in the future. The DRC is so volatile right now. The currency is diminueing terribly. A year ago, we could get half of what we get right now for $100. This is good for us, but very hard on the Congolese. There are riots that break out in different parts of the country because the President did not leave office last year when he was supposed to and new elections have not been promised.

We know in this life there will be trouble. But, we hold on tight to the promises of God.  

“The Lord is my Rock, my fortress, my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Psalm 18:2

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And, the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

While we can get stuck on focusing on the frustrations, we can miss the good that is happening in the midst of it.

The man who showed up at our house yesterday asking to know more about the Church of the Nazarene. He was truly interested in knowing more about who we are, what we believe and why. It was a time of evangelism that the Lord brought to our doorstep.

Funds came in that allowed us to tile our entire house. It has made such a huge difference from the cement floor we had over the last year.

Our District Superintendent in Goma, DRC is recovering and healing after a serious medical problem.

It’s our hope and prayer that the difficult times will not distract us from the work we’ve been called to do or make us forget the ways God is blessing us at the same time. God is at work! And, we will put our hope and trust in Him through every situation.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


Our family has fit a lot into the last month. On December 12th we departed Lubumbashi and spent the next four weeks in South Africa. Our time began with the first ever Africa Nazarene Youth Conference held for youth all across Africa. Over 300 participants worshipped, learned and served together. The Spirit of God moved in mighty ways and we are excited to see this generation make a difference in their own countries.

We spent time with friends, ate delicious food, saw beautiful countryside, watched a couple movies at the theatre and purchased groceries we don’t often have in DR Congo (strawberries, blueberries, pasteurized milk and hard taco shells to name a few). Then, we ended our time with an amazing retreat for Nazarene missionaries serving all throughout Africa. It was wonderful to meet and spend time with colleagues and friends from South Africa, Zambia, Senegal, Ethiopia, Kenya, Swaziland and more. We worshipped together in English, French and Portuguese. We played games and laughed a lot. Testimonies were shared, good-byes were said to some who are moving and announcements were made for new positions being filled.

Along with these things, maybe the most unexpected thing we did was answer yes to a new role on our Field. Effective this month, Gavin is the Field Strategy Coordinator for our Field, Africa Central. It is bittersweet to say goodbye to St├ęphane and Sandra Tibi, who led our Field well these last 3 ½ years. They will be moving to the Eurasia Region and serving as the Regional Education Coordinator. While we will still live in Lubumbashi, Gavin’s responsibilities will be a bit different.  In much the same way we have been serving in DR Congo, we will serve in the Republic of Congo, Cameroon and Gabon. Some of the first things we are concentrating on is building a team of missionaries and leaders, as well as entering new places where the church has not been yet. We are humbled and excited and ready to be used by God in this way.

Would you join us in prayer as we take on this new responsibility? We pray for wisdom, discernment and God’s guidance.