Farming out the Gospel.
Help! My wife is taking over my website and blog. Ok, maybe not. But she is contributing her third installment today from her resent project in Costa Rica and Honduras this past month. In the post, Deb is actually reporting on a missionary family in Honduras that is engaging in a unique mission strategy. The Family is actually following the lead of a great pioneer missionary from the 19th century named William Carey. It was the strategy of Cary to live off the land in India and work with the people. In doing so, Cary became fluent in the native languages and thus translated the Bible in to these mother tongues. So thanks again to everyone who prayed for Deb’s work and enjoy the report!
I recently interviewed a missionary while traveling in Central America. Her name is Jennifer Vesterburg and she and her husband have taken a unique approach to mission work in Honduras. Most missionaries are Bible College graduates. They are not. Most missionaries plant churches. They do not. However, they are still preaching the Word of God and they are still making disciples. But they are doing it in a radical new way.
Aaron and Jennifer came to Honduras in 2003 with their four children. They started with a missionary organization that was not a good fit. After a year they decided that God was calling them to serve with another team. They ended up calling Jim and Teri Riley who have served in Tegucigalpa, Honduras for almost 18 years. The Riley’s eventually directed them to a village in the country. Earlier they had stumbled across this village and discovered children who did not even know simple Bible stories. Once the Vesterburgs visited the village of Las Botijas, they felt that they were exactly where God wanted them to be. Before they had gone to the village, they had done 3 years of itinerate pastor training around Tegucigalpa. They wanted to continue this kind of work in the village. But they discovered that the men were very basic in their knowledge and Aaron did not have the villager’s respect because they did not see him “working”. So the Vesterburg’s made a decision to change their approach. They decided to buy land, build a house, and farm alongside the people. While both having farming backgrounds, this seemed a logical step to be “all things to all people”. Along with their house, they built two dorms. These dorms will host men who come from the surrounding villages to study the Bible. The men will walk from 4 to 8 hours and then stay for a week learning about the Bible. But they will also be learning about something else: farming. All of the native pastors must be bi-vocational. Many of them do not have an agricultural education. So along with the Bible, these men will study crop rotation, fertilizers, pesticide prevention, and best practices to running a successful farm.
At this time, the Vesterburgs are just in the beginning stages of their vision. They have already completed their house, dorm, and have begun farming the land. They have been in contact with a gentleman who has 8 men who would like to study with them. The vision is coming to fruition. Jennifer said that none of these steps have been easy. But once they were committed to this new approach, God has opened doors for them. The villager’s who did not have any respect for Aaron; now call him “Don”. This is the highest level of respect in their culture.
But how do you live in a village with no water or electricity? How do you build buildings that will withstand the jungle humidity and insects? How in the world do you run a Bible training center and educational farm in a third world country? It starts with a lot of patience. The Vesterburgs have now lived a year without electricity. Jennifer is very excited about the solar panels that are coming next month. For water, they run over 2 miles of pipe from a mountain stream. Unfortunately their supply can be interrupted by heaving rains bringing mud and the occasional villager who just wants a drink and doesn’t put the pipe back together! They also have a water storage cistern that sits above their home that they may use during the rainy season. They would also like to design a whole house water filter with sand and gravel. They built the walls of their home with Styrofoam, rebar, and cement. Their farm consists of 38 acres. They grow coffee and vegetables. They would like to try wheat, but at this time they have no way of thrashing it. They need to invent or acquire a miniature combine. They plow with oxen. Since much of the farming is done by hand, they have seven full-time employees who work 6 hours a day. Jennifer cooks them a big lunch every day and Aaron leads them in devotions. None of the men are Christians and now they are starting to ask questions about the Lord.
Even though this new approach has been very lonely and difficult, Jennifer says they are right where God wants them. They are making a huge impact in a village that needs Jesus, as well as a region that needs pastors and churches. They are symbolically and literally planting seeds for the Kingdom of God. They are doing it in a way that most traditional missionaries are not able to do. But God is using their hearts and their gifts to reach an unreached area for the gospel. And the harvest will be plentiful.