“I [Paul] planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” I Corinthians 3:6 (NIV)
I traveled along dusty roads in Haiti two weeks ago, through parched fields thirsty for life-giving rain.
As we journeyed, I saw farmers plowing furrows in their fields in hope that seasonal rains would begin soon. Where I’m from, in Phoenix, drought is annoying. In Haiti, if the rain doesn’t come, people may die from hunger and disease.
Food for the Hungry (FH) is helping farmers obtain better-quality seeds, so they can grow healthier, more diverse crops. With better harvests, the farmers will have a higher income. Their children will eat better and will be more likely to attend school, since the families will be able to pay the fees.
FH has been working in this part of Haiti, which borders the Dominican Republic, since 2008 with child sponsorship. But FH’s influence goes back several years earlier, when we planted a different type of seed from what we hope to distribute in the next few weeks.
Planting the seed
FH started in this area by reaching across the Dominican border, to train and encourage pastors in the area. A Dominican named Luis, one of FH’s influential leaders, built relationships with pastors all along this border. Dominicans and Haitians have a troubled relational history, going back to the colonial days when Spain and France split the island of Hispaniola down the middle. The two cultures do not mix well, by their own admission.
Luis and the pastors looked beyond the ethnic conflict and brought Jesus to many in need. I particularly remember working with this group during terrible floods in 2004, when I served with FH’s relief staff. The pastors led their churches to identify those with heavy losses in the floods, even those outside of their congregations. They fed the hungry, helped them rebuild their homes, and prayed with them in the midst of their grief.
Watering the seed
During my visit two weeks ago, I traveled with our current Haiti Country Director, an Ethiopian gentleman named Bekele. He noted that he’d been in contact with Luis, who has been called to work outside of FH. Bekele acknowledged the debt he owed to Luis, for the spiritual seeds he had planted in the area. He is now watering what Luis sowed in many ways.
When I visited the FH tree nursery, serving a series of communities – I loved hearing how we had already planted thousands of trees that will hold down soil and help the ground absorb rainwater. I loved the story of how the children volunteered to clear the low tangle of brush on the land. The kids then made a game out of putting soil into the small black plastic bags that contained the seedlings. There was so much promise in the air as the agronomists with us went down the list of trees, shrubs and crops we were seeing…..banana, mango, lemon, cacao, coffee, mahogany, peanuts….plants that would feed children, plants that would put more money in household pockets.
But what struck me the most was the testimony of the pastor we met, who walked by as we were visiting the nursery. His name is Francois and he had donated the land for the nursery, free of charge for three years. Hopefully the nursery will be a self-sustaining business by then, and he can be compensated fairly for the use of his land. “Something good is happening here,” Francois said. “I love my community….with this help, my community can advance.”
Luis planted, Bekele and many others on the FH Haiti staff are watering, and via Francois and others, God is making things grow.