Current Economic Development Projects
The very first project we did an official Incorporated Ministry was in Santa Maria, Nicaragua. Hurricane Mitch had come through two years prior. Two villages that once stood on either side of where the new little Santa Maria settlement is now, were completely washed out into the Pacific Ocean when a volcano filled up with rain water and broke loose pouring down literally a mountain of flood waters, rocks and mud. Hundred of men, women and children lost their lives and/or their families. Dozens were trapped in the mud and rubble for days before anyone found them. As a result, many of the survivors are amputees, orphans, or the single survivors of their family.
Larry Cochran called Glenn at Cattle for Christ and told him that during a survey trip, GO International had found this poor village that desperately needed help. Two years after the devastation, the people were still living in shelters that consisted of four hand cut poles wrapped in plastic with thatched roofs. The orphaned children were going from one of these little huts to another each night to try to find food and a safer place to stay. There was no work, no food, no church, no medical care, no one to help these isolated and desolate people.
When Glenn, Larry and the other team members arrived at the village, the expressions on the faces of the people were of total despair and hopelessness. Many of them were still living in shock. There was not a smile in the village--just anguish and blank stares. Many of them would not even look up to make eye contact.
Our first efforts were to minister to their spiritual and emotional needs. We set up a makeshift shelter to host worship services, we conducted short Bible Schools for the children, and we started up a feeding program three days per week. This gave them hope and sustained them until we could do more. Pastor Carlos, a native Nicaraguan Pastor who had lost his parents, grandparents and all of his siblings during the destruction of the storm had a desire to plant a church in the newly founded Santa Maria and to be their pastor. So, to encourage the people and to help turn things around spiritually, we helped them build a small church building. This gave some of them jobs and gave all of them a glimpse of hope. We then helped build a small one room medical clinic and arranged for the Government to send in a nurse two days a week with medicines for minor illnesses and fevers.
The feeding stations could not be sustained for an extended time nor did we intend for them to be, so Pastor Carlos had the idea that if we could purchase 26,000 plantain plants, an irrigation pump and the pipeline needed for irrigation. The village workers formed a cooperative where every family would have responsibility for a certain amount of acreage and they would reap the food and the income from that acreage. Cattle for Christ was able to raise the funds to purchase the plants and the irrigation system. Within just a few weeks the people had a planted crop on 32 acres which they had planted themselves, and were looking forward to their first harvest! Now the people have hope for a future, they have a faith in the Living God, and they have a community where they all work, share and help one another. If you do not work, you do not share in the harvest! This plantain plantation fed and provided income for the people of Santa Maria for 8 years until they could find additional ways to support themselves.
We soon raised the funds to start a small chicken flock that also worked as a cooperative. Now the people had a source of good protein and additional jobs and income. As you read this, Santa Maria is totally self supporting and they have even established and built a vocational school where they train people from outside their community to learn skills to provide for themselves and their families. The church is thriving and they are even sending out missionaries to plant new churches in other communities. in 2014 we purchased cattle for them to run like a stocker operation and they made money on weight gain.
In many other areas, Cattle for Christ helps to fund other means of helping people feed themselves. We have bought block making machines so that pastors and churches could make their own blocks, build their own churches and homes, and then sell blocks for income. In other places, we have helped start goat projects where families are given three goats, or a few chickens, or guinea pigs to help them have jobs and to be able to feed themselves. Once the projects get off the ground, small business are started where micro-loans are made available for families to borrow money to purchase additional animals and other things needed to provide income. The money generated from the low interest loans all go right back into the program. As the animals have offspring, each family is required to give one away to help another family get started.
In Peru we have had success providing fish for small ponds that the people have hand dug. They do the work, we buy the fish, now they feed the community and provide jobs and food for their own families and communities. Sewing machines and sewing classes help women, especially single mothers, be able to make or mend clothing for their children and to make items to sell on the streets--instead of selling their own bodies to feed their children. A few cooking utensils and a 55 gal drum for a cook-top makes an instant and portable sidewalk cafe where people can sell prepared food right on the street.
Again, what is most important about the Economic Development work that Cattle for Christ funds is that it is always evangelistic, meaning that the people will hear and see the Gospel message, will learn Biblical based work ethics. Our work enables and requires that the people actually work and that they help others so that our work becomes self sustaining and does not create a welfare society.
"Give a man a fish, and he wll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime!" You have probably heard this many times, but I can tell you that it is true. It is true physically and it is true spiritually. That is why at Cattle for Christ we always try to find ways to make our work with the people so that it can be self sustaining: Training Pastors who can evangelize and disciple their own people--training and equipping the people to learn skills that they can sustain and be able to provide support for their own families and communities.
In 2009 and 2011, Cattle for Christ started working with rural cattlemen, University Professors, and Government Officials to help improve their local cattle genetics and management practices. When the average family is totally dependent on the production from 3-10 cows, this can double or triple their income and families nutrition in just 2-3 years. With better genetics and management practices, they have better and healthier cattle that produce more meat, milk, butter and cheese and other by-products. (You can read much more about this by clicking here). We are currently researching to determine if cattle genetic improvement training events can be sustainable in Uganda, India and West Africa.
Most recently, our partnership farm in the Middle East is teaching local farmers how to be more productive while also taking better care of their land by reducing irrigation practices that increase the salinity of the soil. We are also introducing new crops and varieties of existing crops that extract the salt or at least tolerate it better. Not only is this economic development, but it is also evangelistically feeding thoursands of Syrian and Iraqi refugees. In 2014, in addition to field demonstrations where we introduced new technologies and farming practices, we produced enough fresh produce to provide 525,000 meals to refugees. In 2015, we almost doubled our production and produced and distributed enough to feed 937,000. During our 2016-2017 season (which is currently being planted), we are introducing hydroponic technology that will not only conserve precious water, but we expect will increase production another 25-50% from last year. A second farm is being planned in the region that will introduce improved wheat farming and no-till technology. We expect to double wheat production the first year and we hope to construct six new greenhouses on the new farm which will allow us to train farmers in a different region of the Middle East and will allow us to provide fresh produce year round.
What is most important about the Economic Development work that Cattle for Christ funds is that it is always evangelistic, meaning that the people will hear and see the Gospel message, will learn Biblical based work ethics. Our work enables and requires that the people actually work and that they help others so that our work becomes self sustaining and does not create a welfare society.