As 2016 draws to a close, I’ve realized that I’ve been neglecting the blog updates for the past few months. (Ok, maybe six months.) With the busyness of planting season this summer, family travel and then moving into construction projects on the farm I have gotten out of the rhythm of keeping this blog current. Thankfully, New Year’s is great for good intentions, so here’s to keeping the blog updated throughout 2017!
2016 has been a great year for us here at Underground Coffee. Schedules were changed, plans were tweaked and God has moved in much bigger ways than we could have imagined.
We started off the year adding to our team. At the end of last year we hired on the village pastor to be our farm manager. He has been a great addition to the team, adds invaluable insight and relationships to what we’re doing in the village, and because he has a job in his village, he is able to keep pastoring the church that he loves. We also added another local person on salary this past year. He has a passion for seeing the village church grow strong so that it can serve as a place to train others that live in even harder to reach areas. Finally, we added a Filipino family to our group in South East Asia. They come with many years of missions experience working in Malaysia among Muslims. Luv’s time with UCI came to an end this summer as he moved back to the Philippines to get married. One of my personal highlights of 2016 was getting to attend his wedding.
2016 also meant moving closer to our goal of our ministry focusing in the villages. Most of the unreached people live up in the mountains and it is hard to find ways to interact with them on a daily basis. Coffee has helped us achieve those relationships and given us reasons to work together. As a family, we made a decision at the beginning of the year to start attending the village house church twice a month. It has been such a blessing to become even more a part of that community and for us to worship together regularly. This summer, after about eight months of work, the church finally completed a small building to worship in. The church was entirely paid for by the locals, with the exception of UCI buying the chairs so we don’t continue to sit on the floor (for which my back is very thankful ). God is also doing some great things with the locals by inspiring them to be more outreach focused.
It was also a big year on the farm. We set out the year planning to plant 1 hectare (2.5 acres) of coffee. For some reason this spring I got the crazy idea that we could handle twice that. So in May we planted 2 hectares, which took over three weeks and just about exhausted all of us. I’m thankful for our Filipino partners who spent many nights up on the plateau without (much) complaining. They are definitely more gracious than I would have been. At the end of it we have 2/5 of our farm planted and have established relationships with a large portion of the village. All of the work was done by hand, which meant hiring between thirty and forty people to work each day. Paying them a respectable wage helps put food on their table. We figured out the trick to getting people to want to work for you is taking a 15 minute snack break in the afternoon. I’ve had more villagers than I can count tell me they like working for us because we give them cookies. It is also great to drive through the village now and have people wave, say hello and ask if there is work going on that day.
Late summer brought on our processing mill construction project. Once again, God provided a huge blessing by having a friend offer to come and help us. He spent several years working in our town with construction. I can’t tell you how valuable it is to have someone who understands Western quality and planning but also knows the language, culture, has contacts and knows where to buy all the construction supplies. It wouldn’t have been possible without him. Rainy season has gone on for several extra months this year, which delayed some of our construction, but we’re looking forward to finishing up the mill early this spring.
We’re excited to look forward to 2017, and even though we feel like there is a good plan in place, I’m sure there will be some unexpected curves. Our plan for the upcoming year is to finish the mill and start working on a training center in the village. This summer we are also planning to plant 1 hectare (we learned our lesson on trying for two last year) and also plan to harvest coffee this fall. There will be lots of firsts for us, and we are excited about where God has placed our team.