Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Youth Ministry Swazi Style

Tommy and I recently returned from a youth retreat (where do they get off calling an event like this a retreat, anyway?) with 14 New Life Homes teens. We enjoyed spending time with the kids in a more social setting, and in an environment where we could watch them interact with other teens. Many of the other kids attending the retreat are “city” kids that go to some of the most prestigious schools in the country. We were so proud of how our kids immediately got involved, participated in spiritual discussions, led prayers, exceled on the soccer field, and even indulged in unrecognizable dishes during an eating contest unlike any we have ever seen! 

The theme of the camp was “unstoppable” based on the Philippians 4:13 verse, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Tommy and I both served as team leaders, which meant shepherding a group of approximately 15 young people in everything from an intense water balloon fight to small group discussions. We also taught two devotional sessions. In one session, highlighting the providence of God, we shared our dating experiences that led up to finding “the one.” The kids REALLY seemed to get a kick out of this. Isn’t it funny how kids think it is totally weird/funny/gross when older folks talk about loving each other? Kids in Africa are no exception to this rule. The second devotion focused on God’s strength in the face of temptation, and how “when you are tempted He will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it” (I Corinthians 10:13). We enjoyed sharing some of our life experiences with teens going through the complicated years of adolescence. 

Highlights from the weekend include: 

· A swimming competition where one of our boys forgot he couldn’t swim until he reached the deep end (as further evidence of their impressive confidence despite being orphans!). 
· A talent show that included some of our “farm” boys showing off their dancing skills. 
· Observing how respectful, kind, and helpful the New Life Homes teens are. 
· A “Swazi-style” Fear Factor activity which caused about half the participating kids to vomit. This would not fly in the US! 
· Watching approximately 40 students recommit themselves to living for Jesus. 

Thank you for praying for our time at camp. We still have some follow-up conversations to pursue, and we are still considering strategies for a more structured teen ministry.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Something to Squeal About

The drive out to “the farm” is not for the weak or the weary. After turning off the tar (paved) road, there is a 45-minute jaunt up and down hills and around blind corners that shakes your innards and tests your fortitude. Once you pass through the farm gate, you will be met by a smell that brings you to attention and also provides extraordinary comfort for all those who call the farm their home. It is the smell of pigs. Why are the pigs located at the entrance? According to Peter Kopp, “so people know they have stepped onto a farm.” As if they did not know already. That beautiful stench from the pigs has increased a bit lately and I wanted to give you a sneak peek as to why. 

When we arrived, the farm needed to increase their revenue stream. A natural for me to focus on what I am comfortable with—vegetables. But as you may know, agriculture is about finding and seizing opportunities to fill or create markets. There is a huge market for pork in this country. The supply (quantity and quality) is generally poor and we can easily sell any high quality pork we produce. So we have expanded. A lot. When we arrived there were about 40 pigs on the farm. Today, there are about 120. Though we rear and raise our own, most of these new pigs were purchased from nearby pig farmers at weaner stage (approximately 5 weeks old) and will be grown out until about 20 weeks. We’ve been busy converting some existing chicken houses into pig growing rooms, and have made progress in maintaining pig health and resolving feed issues. For the farm this is a big investment. As you can imagine, as we have been expanding we have also been waiting for the cash flow to begin. It has been a balance of patience and aggressiveness as we work to ensure a more consistent cash flow for the months ahead. While we are not totally in the clear, we are beginning to see the light. The first group of pigs that we purchased after we undertook the expansion will be ready for market next week. Praise God! This has been a team effort—from the local homesteads supplying the weaners, to Mpush, who leads our pig operation, to the kids who work and clean the pig unit—everyone has chipped in. 

We are confident in the direction we are heading but can still use an immense amount of prayer as we continue to move slowly through the development stage. Everyone on the farm is excited at the potential to produce our own value-added meat such as bacon and sausage. Please pray for wisdom in making decisions for this project and for everyone involved—even the pigs! If you were to ask the kids and the moms about the smell on the farm, few would turn away in disgust. A more popular response would be “THAT is the smell of money!”

Making feeders using plastic drums (barrels).