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Land Clearing (and how worse can be better)


In my last post I told the story of our test farm in the village.  The goal of the farm is to provide a place where villagers can come and learn new techniques, share information and hopefully hear about the Gospel.  The farm also gives us a physical presence in the village and, in a lot of ways, gives us some street cred. with the farmers that live there.  Each time we're there we are seen less and less like outsiders and more like people who grow coffee in their village.

So the goal of the farm is to share information and to be relational.  We're not counting on it to be a big moneymaker for growing coffee.  We can try some new things there and if they work, great; and if they don't work, well we haven't bankrupted any farmers in the village.  We also want the farm to be a place that helps pump money into the village economy by providing jobs to some key individuals and allowing us to buy coffee from the farmers.

Now that rainy season is ending we have tons of little farm projects that we are trying to get going.  The first (and biggest) is clearing the land and planting shade trees so that we can get coffee planted next spring.  There are lots of bushes and tall grass on the land that need to be cleared out.  And because we're on an extinct volcano there are some big volcanic rocks that we would like to get out of the way.  The plan has been that we'd go to town, rent a bulldozer and spend a couple days getting everything nice, clean and level.  We decided to change that plan after talking to one of our local partners.

One day a few weeks ago I asked our partner about the status of the pastor of the house church in the village.  He said that the pastor's family doesn't have enough money sometimes to eat and the pastor almost took a manual labor job in a far away village so they could have money.  He decided to stay in the village because he felt called to pastor the church, even if he doesn't make enough money doing it.  Later that week I was talking to the pastor and told him about our plan to clear the land with a bulldozer.  He said that if we wanted to do it a cheaper way he could organize a group of 10-villagers to clear the land for us for about half the cost.  In the end we agreed to a slightly higher price so long as they did a good job (which they did).

I went out to spend some time with the workers on a couple of the days when they were clearing the land.  The pastor was there along with several other people from the church (and a few who weren't from the church).  They worked for a while and then took breaks sitting under some trees, talking and eating snacks.  It provided the pastor the opportunity to talk to others in the village and hopefully share some about the Good News.

In the end, we're probably not going to have the most level farm in the world.  And there are still going to be some old volcanic rocks under the coffee trees.  The perfectionist in me is kind of bothered by this (although honestly neither being level or having rocks will affect the coffee).  I'm glad that we decided on the older, slow, and sometimes considered worse, way of clearing the land.  Taking the "worse" option allowed us to provide financially for several families in the village and made an opportunity for the pastor to share about Christ.