While living in East Asia a couple of years ago, we worked with several villagers that allowed us to grow coffee test-plots on their land. When trying to find village partners, we looked for farmers that were believers (if possible), trustworthy, and willing to take the risk on trying a new crop in their area. Because we were trying something new, we would provide the coffee seedlings and training on how to grow the coffee, but the farmers would be responsible for the land and taking care of the coffee. Once the coffee produced beans, we would be able to collect data but the farmer was able to keep the crop. This was our strategy on most test-plots. Once we discovered if the crop would work in that area, we could then go on to sell seedlings to farmers at a discounted rate, but we didn't want to charge for something that could potentially fail (after all, it hadn't been tried before). The strategy typically worked out well in a culture where people had some unusable land and lots of free time. One of the people that we partnered with was Uncle SG. Uncle SG lives down by a large river, which has a lot of fertile land and is an economically better-off area than most villages. Uncle SG is a believer, but his family is not, and his village is one that we hadn't been able to do much sharing in. Uncle SG is one of the most outgoing local guys I know. Every time we would visit his house he would be joking about something. He's also had a hard life. His teenage son had an accident to his head which has changed his behavior and ability to speak. His wife is also a different minority group and has a speech issue, which has caused her to be an outsider to most of the village. Uncle SG is a great village partner to have, however we could never leave his house without having to stay and talk with him for HOURS.
When we first went to plant our test plot at his house, he showed us this beautiful field surrounded by mountains and with a clear view of the river. He said we could use as much of the field as we needed. Every time we planted coffee, we needed to dig a 1 1/2 foot deep by 1 1/2 foot wide hole before filling it with fertilizer, dirt and the coffee seedling. We planted 100 plants for each test-plot; which, using just shovels and pickaxes, makes for a very long day. Our plan was to dig the holes one day and then return the next with the seedlings.
When we returned the next day, several people from the village showed up to watch what we were doing. We had several people ask us if they could have coffee seedlings to plant in their own fields. When we told them that we were doing a test and they could have seedlings later if it worked. I could hear them telling each other in the local language that they'd pull the seedlings out of the field at night and plant them in their own. Apparently, the other villagers had told uncle SG this as well, because he was worried about the field. So we decided not to plant seedlings in his nice field, and instead Luv-Luv and I came back later that week and dug another 100 holes on a hill in his back yard. I don't think I've ever been so sore in my life.
We came back to visit uncle SG this past summer. Most of the people who would partner with us are generally forward thinking and early adapters compared to most villagers (which is why they would let us try something new), and Uncle SG was no exception. When we came back to visit him, he had added two new rooms to his house, including one with nice furniture and a TV. We started talking to him about where he came into all of his money, and he said that he'd started a new business of selling rocks to rich people in the capital. Because his village is close to the river, there are lots of smooth stones. Uncle SG goes down to the river and finds areas with lots of the rocks, hires a truck to take it to the city and makes a few dollars off each ton that he ships. He started having so much business that he ships rocks a few times a week. It may not seem like a lot of money to us, but in a village where the cost of living is almost nothing, it is a lot of money.
Like every time we visit Uncle SG, we spent HOURS with him this summer. When he heard we were coming, he killed a chicken (which is the not so subtle way of saying you have to stay for dinner, because well... there's no refrigerator and the chicken ain't coming back to life again). He also rode with us and showed us another village a few hours away that had a different people group we had been trying to find. Please pray for Uncle SG and his family. Pray that his family would come to know Christ and that doors would open in his village so that others may hear.