‘Filling in the Gap’ with hope

“Filling in the Gap” was the phrase used by our program manager during our visits to distribute aid to the IDP camp over the last few weeks; it is also part of my vision for aiding the local community here in Nyankunde through Agricultural and Animal Husbandry Community Development. With all of the ‘refugee’ or Internally Displaced People problems happening lately, one sad and possibly devastating event occurred here in Nyankunde that I didn’t have the chance to blog about- the Out-patient part of the Malnutrition Program here at the hospital was shut down. People lost their jobs and others lost the free education on how to help feed their families.

The Malnutrition Program here at the hospital was run by Samaritan’s Purse for a long time. It included both an in-patient program and an out-patient program for those who had finished the in-patient one. Families with children suffering from malnutrition are enrolled into the in-patient program where the children are then treated and given nutrient-rich foods. After completing the program the families would then be enrolled into the out-patient program which did follow-up aid and education in how to prevent the families from continuing to suffer from malnutrition; it taught the families how to garden, provided seeds and I was looking at starting an animal-husbandry program to aid the families. The teaching ‘how to fish’ part of the program so to speak.

Unfortunately the program was taken over by another organization and though the in-patient program is still running, the out-patient side was closed down, leaving a huge gap in local community development and education. I know at least two of the guys personally who worked for SP in that program that lost their jobs because of it. One left and the other decided to stay and keep trying to help, to help fill in the gap that was left from the program closing down.

I have had a vision to help with community development here since before arriving. We have struggled with so many different things along the way that taught us some valuable lessons and even gave us a taste of the struggle that the local people have to deal with for their livelihood. During that time I was able to take a break from trying to do ministry beyond our homestead and my involvement with MAF operations. Our family and homestead had to come first, my abilities needed to be utilized by the team and I needed to stop trying to reach beyond what I was capable of – going out to the community gardens and traveling all over just wasn’t and isn’t feasible for me.

It seemed that God wanted me to take a step back and wait on Him, so I did. I focused my efforts at home more and on enriching our team. Some beautiful things came out of that and I look forward to continuing that. Our homestead has been maxed out as it currently stands. We literally cannot fit anything else within our boundaries. No more plants, animals, nothing. And I was content with what God had given us.

The Women's Retreat I put on

We had sought out expanding our homestead years ago but the man who owned the property right behind ours was unwilling to sell, so we had let that go. Dave’s closest Congolese friend just happens to be the relative local steward for that same land because the owner lives in Uganda since he fled the last war. About a month ago we checked in with him received word from Dave’s friend that the man was at last willing to sell the land but were we still interested? The land was made up of 6 parcels instead of 4 like we had thought AND the price per parcel was more than double the price we had been told years ago by another missionary. It was going to be around $5,000 just to buy the land and another $4,000 to fence it and get started. The land itself was almost triple what we had expected in price. I was shocked.

We discussed it, prayed and went and looked at the land (surveyed it) while considering whether we would buy any of it or only a small piece of the land. The land had plenty of mango trees, a few palms, an avocado tree, a couple non fruiting and even a guava tree on it along with a cement foundation that was once a house. We considered the possibilities of what the land would enable us to develop – there would be room for milking goats (which dont exist here and would have to shipped in from Uganda) and a very nice start to a barn for housing them with the cement foundation. There would be room for pasture for the goats and free-ranging for more chickens without upping our food bill. There would be room for expanding the garden for food production including dedicating some land to another missionary family that lives in the jungle where vegetables can’t grow. There would be room to grow more large space crops like sweet potatoes and grains. There would be even more room to continue to study and try new varieties of plants that could improve the nutrition of the local population.

I had already been in contact with the seed company I buy all my seeds from, Baker Creek http://www.rareseeds.com, about a donation of seeds for the community here and the malnutrition program. They graciously approved a donation of 200 seed packets which led to discussions of varieties which would do well here, etc. I had finally gotten the order put together and submitted it while waiting. That is where the land came into play. We felt that God was giving us a ‘yes’ now with the timing and we decided to pursue buying the land. Several meetings and staking out the plot were necessary after we decided to go ahead and move forward. Right in the middle of that I got word back from the company that the order had been filled and was on its way! So many pieces were and are coming together for this ministry now – even the timing of a shipping container coming that will allow for a rototiller to be shipped here, etc.

God has swung the doors wide open for us in this future ministry and it has totally been His timing. Waiting on His perfect timing has allowed us to move forward with ‘filling the gap’ that is present with hope. The owner may not have been willing to sell without the current unrest, the need is more prevalent than ever with all of the unrest in the area and the educational out-patient part of the malnutrition program being shut down, we now have some of the experience and possibly the connections to make it happen that we didn’t have before. His timing to bring hope to the local community. Hope for help starting a garden, hope for raising animals, hope for getting out of the cycle of poverty, hope for being able to feed their families and hope for a better future.

This land will not have all the answers for the community. It will not be everything to everyone. It can however produce crops and animals that will begin to benefit the community one family at a time. It can get families out of the cycle of poverty little by little, one family at a time. It can produce free seed starts to those needing them. It can ‘fill in the gap’ with hope in Jesus’ name.

This process is only just beginning and we have some things that have to happen between now and when the first seed is planted – including a furlough and building a fence. But it is on the way, little by little. There is much to be done and many roles to play in this endeavor. We created a gofundme page for those that would like to financially back this endeavor as their role they play in ‘filling in the gap’ with hope for this community. It will help pay for the land and the fencing to get us started. Are you willing to help ‘fill the gap’ with hope for the local Congolese? If so, you can find the link to our gofundme page here.

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