Farming God’s Way

Did you know Africa’s land mass is larger than Europe, China, and the U.S.A combined? And did you know that Africa has some of the world’s most precious resources and richest soil?  And did you know that despite this vast wealth hidden throughout the heart of Africa, the people here are known internationally as some of the most impoverished on the whole earth.  Despite the abundant natural resources, Africa, in many places, cannot feed its own people. Although 85% of the people in Africa grow their own food, there are still places where families cannot grow enough to fill their bellies; they go to bed hungry; they are more susceptible to disease; their stomachs protrude; their babies cry.  

The reasons for this travesty may vary, but one truth remains: God is Sovereign and is working to reconcile all His creation.  He is the Hope for Africa, just as He is the Hope for you and me.

So we are here at Farm Quest 2020 to learn, along with some students from several African nations, what are the best farming practices to produce the most food on the smallest amount of ground.  How can a farmer create cost-free fertilizer or minimize soil erosion and nutrient loss?  The ideas are somewhat familiar but somewhat radical too.  The fundamental truth that drives all these farming techniques is found in Scripture: “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it,” Psalm 24:1. 

Understanding that the land  belongs to God and that farmers are simply stewards (lenders) is fundamental to conservation farming. We have spent two days in class laying a Biblical foundation for the farming techniques we are soon to be learning.  As we’ve read Scripture and discussed man’s role in God’s great universe, I have been reminded that God really owns it all.  As Creator and Sustainer of all, He is the Giver of all good gifts. If I have anything whatsoever to my name, it is actually God’s.  

How freeing!  I don’t have to worry about finances or future disaster. I need not concern myself with how much I have or how much I can give.  I can give whatever I have… God is certainly able to give it right back to me. And if He doesn’t I will live daily by His mercy and grace. In the meantime I must ask, “What in the world am I doing with what He has given me?”

Tomorrow we leave on a field trip to go visit a Besotho farmer who is using the Farm Quest techniques.  We will work on his farm a few days and return here on Friday.  Continue to pray for us on this six hour road trip (Remember: I get car sick and these roads are mountainous.) We can’t wait to report back to you what God is doing in this beautiful land.

Landing in Lesotho

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Photo by Kenex Media sa on Pexels.com

The African sky is immense.  It seems to stretch out forever, with beautiful white pillows of clouds hanging softly above the rocky mountain range that surrounds us.  Our homestead is built on a hillside so our view is of a winding brown river below cutting across a grassy plain.  I see a herder with his cows. He carries a long stick as he leads them down to the river’s edge.  I also see a cluster of school children, all in red and navy uniforms, rambling their way down the winding dusty road after a day of lessons in the village school.  Noises are everywhere- birds that coo and squawk and sing a shrill song, with an undercurrent of the insects’ chirps and the mosquito’s buzz. This is life in Africa; it is raw and untamed and very, very beautiful.

Today, Layla and I were trying to mark a course for a good run, and as we trotted down a slight path, an African wild cat sped right in front of us.  It was marked almost like a cheetah, but smaller in size.  Yet the power in the legs of that cat were undeniable.  It reminded me that we are just a part of God’s creation, the ones destined to sustain and protect all others.  Although the cat filled me with immediate fear, I also felt somewhat blessed to behold it up close.

So, as you can see, we made it to Lesotho and to our little corner in Bethesda Mission.  We have met some of the nationals who work here and soon we will meet the other students who will participate in the agricultural conference with us.  There are two missionary couples here as well who have been gracious to feed us and give us space to orient our bodies to the new night and day. We have been resting in this picture perfect setting and now we are fully ready to start our training on Sunday.

Thank you for the prayers thus far. Our travels were absolutely as smooth as they could possibly be, and I know God was making our path straight as you lifted prayers on our behalf.  The girls are happy and healthy, and like us, ready to get started with training.  

Continue to pray for us… we need it! Thank you tremendously for the time you take to read our journals, lift us up, 

Now Jeff would like to share his “first impressions…”

An afternoon shower waters the earth. A warm humidity fills the air. Africa welcomes us back with it’s majestic beauty. The sights and sounds and smells are all so familiar and yet so distant. 

Foggy heads, churning stomachs, sleepless nights, are accompanied by and in opposition to a great sense of peace. Thank you all for your prayers through our travels. We arrived safely and all survived the flights. It was a journey that is not easy but one that already feels worth it. 

The drip of water into a plastic pan in the middle of the bedroom is a steady reminder of our new surroundings.  Our home for the next month is without doubt utilitarian but that is what we need. The people here are friendly and accommodating. The roads are- well- the roads are there and the traffic must be universally bad across this continent. The scenery is breathtakingly beautiful. Only our creator could carve such a masterpiece. 

We are excited about the coming weeks as we learn along side others how to be better stewards of the natural resources of this land. We look forward to relationships that will have lasting kingdom impact. We are excited to take with us another tool for the spread of the gospel. 

Thanks again for your prayers and support in this endeavor. Continue to lift us up and the Farming Quest Conference that begins Monday. Growing Nations is doing a great work here equipping people to transform cultures through agriculture and true Gospel. 

Godspeed,

Jeff

 

It Is Time

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“Let him who would move the world first move himself.”  Socrates

Passports? Check.

Vaccinations? Check.

Plane tickets? Check.

Water filters? Check.

Work boots? Check.

Flashlights? Check.

And the list goes on…

For weeks now our days have been consumed with question and answers and crossing off items on those pesky to-do lists!  

“Did you manage to rent us a car in Johannesburg with four wheel drive? Those dirt roads can become impassable.”

“Do you think the girls need steel-toed boots? Surely they won’t be using a machete.”

“Has our South African money come in?  How much is 5000 rands anyway?”

“Wonder if our phones will work on that 2G network?”

It’s funny that our family will only be gone for one month, but travel into a third world country is no easy task. If any detail is overlooked chances are we could get stuck with no way of getting the items we may need.  However, at the end of each Q & A session, Jeff and I seem to agree- an adventurous spirit, a willing heart, a desire to serve, and the humility to become learners will probably go a long way toward our success on this venture.

We will be flying out on February 18 to Lesotho (pronounced le-soo-too) located within the borders of South Africa.  Although we have lived in Uganda, this nation is unlike any place we have ever visited. (It’s actually 2700 miles from Uganda, full of its own customs, languages, tribes and peoples.) It will be summer when we arrive, but due to the high altitude (we will be living at over 5000 ft. elevation) the temperatures through the day will be pleasant (70s) and cooler at night (50s).  

We have registered to attend an agricultural conference in which the four of us will be students alongside African nationals and other missionaries, learning best practices for sustainable agriculture in Africa. The lessons will be coupled with Bible studies as well.  Our hope is to drink it all in and then to someday venture out into even more rural villages to teach both the farming practices and the Bible truths simultaneously. Our conference will last three weeks and then we will have a few days to get to know the nationals, visit local villages, spend time with other missionaries, and attend local church services.  We have also carved out the last three days to visit a Safari park in South Africa.  

I am certain this will be an eye-opening, life-changing experience for both me and Jeff and of course, our daughters. We plan to close our schoolbooks for a month (good-bye Greek tragedies and sentence diagramming) and let the wonderful world of Africa be our teacher. While we are so blessed to have this opportunity unfold before us, please consider uniting with us in prayer.  I have a truly adventurous personality, but I wouldn’t dare travel into this spiritually unprepared. If you will partner with us in prayer we would greatly appreciate it!

  • Smooth travel- Okay— so this journey is a doozy! Just getting to Lesotho will be a pretty big undertaking.  We will fly Memphis to Atlanta on February 18 and then board a huge Boeing 777 for a 16 hour non-stop flight to Johannesburg.  Please pray for Jeff who has a touch of claustrophobia and cannot sit for longer than a movie.  Pray for me because I get motion-sickness, even on simple car rides.  Pray for our daughters, that the screen time will work its magic and they will never even notice a full day has passed.
  • Jet lag- With the 8 hour time difference and a day lost on a plane, we will undoubtedly land with our heads in la la land. Pray that we can rest at the appropriate times and quickly adjust to our new night and day.
  • The second plane- After Johannesburg, we will board a tiny plan for the last leg of our trip to Lesotho,  approximately a one hour flight.  Since taking off and landing make me the most motion sick, this is actually the flight I am more worried about! It’s nothing but a long take off and landing!
  • The car ride- After landing in Lesotho we will be picked up by a missionary who will drive us through a 2 1/2 hour, wild, unpaved, mountainous, treacherous trek to our conference.  (Did I mention I get car sick?)

Honestly, these are our greatest prayer needs at this time.  Once we are in country and at the conference we will be able to share with you about the accommodations, the people, the land around us, and any other needs we see.  Ultimately, this trip is not about us— it’s about spreading God’s kingdom and giving Him glory at every twist and turn.  We want to draw near to Him and let His love and light flow through us.

We do covet your prayers in that as well: may the King of our hearts be made known in and through us.  May we find Him ever faithful in all corners of the earth.  Thank you from our very hearts to yours for taking this journey with us.

Off We Go (Again!)

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“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door.  You step onto the road and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”  J.R.R. Tolkien

I love a cup of coffee, a good book, a warm blanket, and a gentle fire.  I love the smell of spaghetti sauce with an undercurrent of brownies in the oven.  I love piano music playing throughout the speakers in my house. I love to hear my children and their cousins splashing and squealing in the backyard pool.  And I love the scent of the cotton blossom candles I burn in my bedroom. Truth be told, I love being home… where everything is not just familiar, but it’s right.

Home, the place all my little darlings have left muddy footprints, scuffed my baseboards, and knocked holes in the sheetrock.  It’s where we’ve huddled in large gatherings and shared news like college acceptances, new engagements and a baby on the way.  It’s also the place we’ve collected our grieving souls and comforted one another just by sitting together, looking through old photo albums, marveling at how time changes everything yet some things never change. Home is safety; it is security; it is the one sure thing in a world that is as uncertain as ours.

Yet, here I sit, once again, ready to leave.  My soul flutters for far away places.  In my dreams I visit ancient ruins of China and Greece, I swim under waterfalls, gaze at lions on the savanna, and hike precipices to uncharted villages in the jungle.  I have a wandering and also a wondering heart that is not really ever at rest. I am ready to go again and see what the world is like. 

Jeff and I will be taking our daughters (Layla and Charlotte) to Lesotho, Africa in a few weeks. We will live there for a month, and we will be participants in an agricultural training for rural farmers.  Along with farming techniques we will learn how to share the gospel in this setting. We will be students and servants, learners and adventurers, listeners and participants. But most of all, we will be ambassadors of hope.  We are traveling 9,000 miles because we have brothers and sisters overseas who may need to know the American church loves them.  We are leaving our home in hopes to sit in someone else’s home and share a cup of tea, hear their stories, unite in our suffering and glory in our Savior.  We need to be reminded of the simplicity of living without so many outlets and chargers, without having to merge our schedules and share our to-do lists so someone buys coffee and someone else picks up the dog from the vet. 

We are going to work hard but ultimately to find rest. And I invite you to come along, too. 

We ask that anyone who would like to support us in prayer, please do. We need partners who will commit for thirty-one days to place our family on your prayer list and make it a priority to approach the throne of grace on our behalf.  We have lived in Africa before, and we learned early on that the prayers of our people back home were mighty and effective.  Our enemy is not happy when we act in faith and courage, so I am certain he would love to discourage our family and disrupt our plans. But the church of God is fully equipped to fight for us and with us as we charge into the unknown.

Please follow this blog if you wold like to be updated on our travels, hear the stories of our adventures, and know first hand how to pray for us.  Also, we want to hear from you. We would love to uphold you and your family in our prayers as well.  As we leave our home, we take you with us… (we will do our best to keep our feet)…so come along!

 

Sharing a Bed

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If you’ve ever had to share a bed with a little sister, you know how absolutely horrible such a state can be.  Tangled legs, cold feet, heavy breathing, fingers wrapped in your hair, and the most annoying questions, late at night is certainly just cause to wake up mad.

And if you ever had to share a car with a little sister, you know how absolutely mortifying that can be.  Messes of fast-food cups, crumpled homework carcasses, sandwich crumbs, and constant fights over the radio station can certainly crimp your style when you’re trying to impress your high school friends.

If you’ve ever gone off to college and left your little sister, she will suddenly become your best friend. Calling you first when her heart is broken, asking for cash when she feels she tapped out mom and dad, borrowing your clothes, stealing your albums, but asking for your advice at every turn.  And amazingly, she will become her own strong-willed, determined self, even when you’re not around.  Time moves on and she somehow grows up, falls in love, and touches the lives of all those around her with her beauty and strength.

Then, if you’ve ever had the privilege to share your children with your sister, well that’s fun… Aunts are amazing and way cooler than moms.  They buy the neat gadgets, organize the fun outings, and suggest things like ice cream for dinner or a movie after midnight. They plan the best vacations with detailed agendas, and they pretty much won’t take no for an answer.

And if you’ve ever had the privilege of sharing your life dreams with a little sister, you know how invaluable that can be. She encourages you and she says, “Of course you can!”  She will keep your kids (all five of them) so you can branch out into new ventures. She will encourage you to carve a new path in the world, to never limit yourself. 

And if you’ve ever faced cancer in your little sister you will see how unbelievably strong she really is.  She will become your hero; you will want to emulate her faith and her confidence. You will hope you can face similar situations with such grace and courage. You will learn from her to cherish every day, and to find laughter all around, despite the pain.  You will readily pray over her sick bed, sing her favorite songs and hold her hand through the night.  You will watch her breathe her very last breath when her heart and lungs give out and you will breathe for the first time as you watch her soul enter glory.  You will ache a new ache you’ve never known; your heart will fall to pieces, knowing however, they will one day be put back into place… You will hold your loved ones tighter, you will thank God for His mercy and victory, and you will move forward in this life without your precious shadow.

And then you will wish like everything you could share a bed with your little sister one more time.

The Battlefield

Over the past few weeks, my daughters and I have been studying the Civil War. Immersed in stories of honor, bravery, tragedy, horror, and suffering, we have been moved by the characters and impressed by the leadership that brought our nation through the most tumultuous time in our history.

To further our understanding, we have also begun a quest to visit battlefield sites— to stand where soldiers, young and old, venerable and vulnerable, stood and prayed and fought and died.  We have beheld the vast grave markers in crooked rows, standing bleakly in the fading sun, one after another, each a testimony to someone’s dad, brother, husband, friend…

As I cringe at the devastation that war brought upon our kinsman, I am thankful for the victory that saved our Union and freed our enslaved brothers and sisters.  And I can’t help but consider my present family and friends who are standing firm in their personal battlegrounds each day.  My sister, who is bravely fighting cancer, determined to win back her health and her wholeness to return to her life of ministry.  A friend whose seven-year-old faces a nine hour brain surgery to remove a twisted temporal tumor.  A relative who daily struggles with darkness of the mind and demons of the past that try to keep her from seeing the beauty of today. And on and on the list goes… friends and family and co-workers and acquaintances, all facing the effects of our fallen world in very real and personal wars.

History shows me that humanity will rise up— that even though we may be faced with dark days, we will live to see the sun rise again.  There is courage and great resolve wired in our DNA.  Our ancestors didn’t give up, and neither shall we. I believe those heroes of old could look past the present day and see a greater tomorrow.  They knew that as short as this life might be, the courage and integrity they lived out would live on and inspire a whole nation to make a much better world.  That is our heritage; that is what we should strive to do: live strongly and live well, think seriously about the legacy we each shall leave, and always remember, this earth is not our home: a battlefield, yes, but the spoils and riches lie just beyond.

To Fe, the girl who could do anything

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Is there a ball court in heaven?  If so, you are most certainly dominating!

 

A Poem-

I pause by the grave but know you’re not there

And I wonder, “Is there a ball court in the heavenly sphere?”

And every time the thunder rolls its mighty, terrible sound

I will know it is you crashing the boards for another rebound.

And I hope that there’s a sprawling stadium waiting us in glory

So you can stretch your powerful legs and let your speed tell your story.

And every time the winter wind blows swiftly across my face

I will know you’ve just sprinted another victory in a race.

And when the golden leaves in fall flutter down like rain

I will know you are dancing in heaven- wildly and without pain

And when in heat of summer I hear robins tweet in harmony

I will imagine you’re the drum major keeping them in time and on key

But I now stand at your grave and weep with all my friends

But you’re not there— you’re busy!

Your journey’s at the start and not the end.

You are bounding and singing and laughing with glee

You’re jumping hurdles and throwing the shot and whacking a softball happily—

You are full of life and full of joy, full of praise…

You are finally free.

See you soon, Dear Friend                                                                                                            —Kelley Griffin (Lammers)