Saturday, March 20, 2010

"You Gave Me Something"

“I was hungry and you gave me something to eat” said Jesus (Matt 25:35). "You gave something" is why we have been able to feed. Literally hundreds of families will be fed due to your generosity through the army of pastor servants in each area who will volunteer their time and efforts to ensure the food gets to those who need it.

Pastor Ricardo, Rick Nuefeld and I departed Chimoio Friday morning March the 13th 2010 in the SAM Ministries' Cessna 182 again and headed for Caia where we were to meet the helicopter on the Zambezi. This time Ron Wayner of Mercy Air was the pilot who we anticipated would drop us off and then transport a film crew who were doing a special on the borders of God’s Kingdom...focusing on remote areas that are being reached by the gospel. It turned out that they already had caught another ride out, so Ron was able to return to Chimoio after leaving us in the capable hands of Matthias and Michael, the two Mercy Air helicopter pilots.

Since our evaluation visit a little over two weeks previous (see my previous blog), things had become more difficult due to rains in the Zambezi river catchment areas in Zambia and Zimbabwe and further west. This resulted in the Zambezi flooding it’s banks leaving homes and people stranded and fields under water. Due to the extreme drought the people were forced to attempt crops in the low areas near the river, but inevitably this is futile due to the danger of flooding. As a result of this flooding any food they were growing is further delayed making our assistance in these areas even more important.

The real need is to help these communities find a longer term solution to growing food on higher ground with the abundant water supply the Zambezi brings and to help them store food in the community to protect against these regular food crisis. And this is what we are hoping can be achieved as we work with the pastors associations being formed in each area.

We visited 7 areas in two days again: Mutarara, Chemba, Sinjal, Tambara, Chueza, Chiriza, and Mandie. In each place we met with a representatives of 16 of our extension schools in the worst affected areas. (There remain two areas we still would like to assist, but are trying to determine how this can be done). Each group of pastors have formed themselves into an association of pastors who will manage the work-for-food programs in each area. This is to ensure those who most need the food receive it, but that they assist to work on projects that have the hope to bring at least some change for the future.

We took the time to encourage each group that Jesus took what was made available...the few fish and loaves...and fed many thousands. We also took time to challenge them that change in our communities is like moving a very heavy rock. The rock has settled, so moving it takes many people on the same side working extremely hard. And when it starts to move it requires faithful effort to keep it moving and slowly change comes. As we work, God works and transformation begins to be seen.

Our strategy is being implemented with pastors associations formed, food located and plans made to purchase it, store it and get it to those in need. Projects in each area have been identified, challenges discussed, money counted and contracts signed.

In the meantime, Andy Kuret, a short term pilot/farmer who is evaluating a longer term commitment to SAM Ministries and Mozambique, after seeing the needs, has identified an opportunity to help. He is working on developing a pilot project using a solar pump for a small scale irrigation project to produce food that could be multiplied many times over. It is exciting to see what God does when we expose ourselves to needs. (And I just got an email a few minutes ago to say he and Ron Wayner found a supplier of solar pumps who will get them one at cost price!)

The only area completely cut off with no food anywhere near was Chiriza. Within the two weeks since our evaluation, we were able to identify where we could purchase food and had made a tentative plan for a few emergency loads by helicopter into this community.

After our visit to the community again to ensure the pastors were ready and able to help unloading and to take responsibility for the food, we left Pastor Ricardo and Rick Nuefeld on location and flew back to Tambara across the river where food was available. What would have taken the better part of two days by canoe and huge effort over 10km of bush trail, the helicopter was able to do in just under an hour including turn around and loading! The actual flight to the community was only 7 minutes!

The helicopter landed in Chiriza loaded with about 600 kg of maize (corn). It is quite amazing to appreciate the ingenuity and creativity God has given to people. A 120 kg jet engine can lift the entire airframe and rotors with pilot, fuel and a further 550 kg straight up into the air and provide the kind of rapid transport that is quite frankly amazing. As Mercy Air says, “Providing help from above to meet the needs down below.”
The tools God has given us are truly incredible and this includes the potential for each of us to "give something" in so many different and unique ways. And when we give together God makes his amazing grace visible which results in life-changing transformation in others.

As we returned directly from our last spot via helicopter to the mission farm (an hour and a half flight instead of a 6 to 8 hour drive), our approach path took us directly over the airstrip we are constructing on the mission property (the cleared spot just over the helicopters right shoulder). (If you are interested to participate in this see click here to go to our projects page). Once this is in place our ongoing work along the Zambezi training pastors and working with their associations to bring improved conditions and food security will be greatly enhanced. Follow up will continue with these groups and you will hear reports in the year to come.
For those of you who partner with us...Thank you yet again for your compassion, concern and prompt action to help us meet such critical needs!