My Encouraging and Confirming Trip

22 Nov

My Encouraging and Confirming Trip

Left to right: Betty, Phillipe, me, and Gideo

My Encouraging and Confirming Trip

Jerry’s Trip Blog From East Africa

Dear Family,

I always enjoy visiting my brothers in East Africa. But I get to hear about these incredible stories every month, so it was a treat to have fresh eyes with me on this trip. Heaven’s Family staff members David, Stephen, and Jonas came along and helped to photograph and interview some of the farmers and disciple-makers we work with. It was a joy to see their reactions. I hope this brief trip report stirs your heart in the same way it did theirs.

First, here are a few key terms in case you are new to the Farming God’s Way (FGW) ministry of Heaven’s Family. God’s Love Groups (GLGs) are groups of farmers who meet regularly for discipleship and work together on each other’s farms. A Disciple Making Movement (DMM) is a rapid and exponential increase in disciples making disciples.

Our first stop was Rwanda. We heard many great testimonies of how families have been transformed because of your work with Farming God’s Way. Due to the 1994 genocide, it is difficult for neighbors to trust each other. There is also the lingering challenge of people feeling disconnected because many of their family members were murdered. Doing FGW together in GLGs has brought healing and a sense of belonging to many. The GLG members become their new family. These families have gone from eating one meal to three meals daily.

Take Anaclet, for example. He used to plant maize in his “bad land” and harvested nothing. In his first year doing FGW, he harvested 440 pounds. The second year, he harvested 1,540 pounds! These farmers have moved from hopelessness to excitement about their future. They are expressing their love for God and people more now that their basic food insecurities are gone.

Pastor Anaclet in his field. He currently has 96 farmers in 10 GLGs doing FGW and DMM.

Providing FGW training for these men, women, and children has been so impactful that it caught the attention of the Rwandan government. One family growing tree tomatoes, a high-value cash crop introduced by our trainer Venuste, was approached by government agronomists. They asked Phillipe and his wife Betty to grow 7,000 tree tomato seedlings in their nursery to distribute to 1,000 farmers around the country. They have also asked the couple to teach FGW to people in areas of the nation that are suffering most severely from hunger.

Phillipe and Betty see this as a great way to bring the Gospel to those who are suffering. Betty said, “In the church, they teach us to give, but we don’t know where to find what to give.” Now Phillipe and Betty teach other believers how to prosper so they can be a blessing to others. Moreover, this is truly a family affair, as their 14-year-old son, Gideo, is also involved. He has found great success in FGW and is using it as an evangelistic tool as well. Gideo is now leading 24 youths in two God’s Love Groups (GLGs) that are practicing FGW.

Our next stop was Kenya. We flew to meet our trainer Griffin in Saboti, Kenya. We got to hear more great testimonies of the impact you are making through FGW. One was about a man named Christopher Ojuma. In February 2022, his wife left him to find work in the city. They had been living with constant hunger and she couldn’t take it anymore. Christopher was trained in FGW in August 2022. Now he is paying his son’s college fees, his family is eating well, and his wife returned home in July after they were separated for more than a year. In fact, she is doing FGW with him.

Christopher (right) standing happily next to his wife and a few of their children

We also heard from Ignatius, an associate pastor at Griffin’s church and a teacher at a school of 1,700 students located near Griffin’s model farm. They have identified and trained 52 students in different grades to care for the school’s demonstration farm. This school represents 1,000 homesteads. Our theory is that as the students and their parents see the production of the demo farm, FGW should spread like wildfire. There are 9 more schools within walking distance of Griffin’s model farm and training center. We have found that children learn and practice FGW with much less resistance than adults. What excites me most is that 10 years from now, these students will be the next generation of farmers and trainers in their communities.

Ignatius (pink collar) standing with our young farmers behind their demo garden. Look at that God’s blanket!

The last testimony I will share from Kenya is Brother Moffat’s. During his first year practicing FGW, he built his own house and moved out of his parents’ home. His mother was so excited by what she saw that she told Griffin he had to introduce FGW at the school where she taught. That is the school mentioned in the previous paragraph.

But Moffat’s success hasn’t stopped. He is now making more money through FGW than his friends who graduated with him from a tech school. They keep telling him to come to the city and he can work with them. But by the time he pays rent, utilities, transportation, and food, he would be effectively taking a pay cut to work as a software engineer. He prefers to work as a farmer and remain in his village, which is a major win, because it is helping to change the narrative that controls the lives of young Kenyans. If rural youth can see young, successful farmers around them, they are less likely to run to the cities in search of work and end up getting caught up in street life.

Our final stop took us to Uganda. Unfortunately, our lead FGW trainer, Joshua, was hospitalized during our entire visit, but this allowed us to go deeper with Jude, who filled in as our host. He came to our FGW summit meeting last year and helped with our DMM training. He is a practitioner, not just a theoretician. Though Jude was leading a network of house churches, he didn’t have an income. That left the financial responsibility to provide for their six kids on his wife. This situation caused great turmoil in his marriage, and his family and ministry suffered.

Last year, however, Joshua trained Jude in FGW. He said, “When I harvested 220 pounds of maize, I was released from stress. My wife increased her love.” That was evidenced by their new baby girl and seventh addition to their tribe. Now Jude, his family, and some of his disciples are reaping the benefits of FGW.

Jude was our driver as we traveled to visit Joshua’s farmers. We continued to hear wonderful testimonies of hunger and poverty being chased away from families, homes, and villages. However, I also noticed a new common language emerging from these farmers. They weren’t just talking about FGW, they were also talking about making disciples. Jude has been traveling with Joshua for the last year training these farmers in DMM and it showed. These farmers felt the weight of spiritual responsibility to make disciples, but they also said they felt equipped for the work.

Talking about DMM and practicing it are two different things. Has it made any difference? Just ask Prose Namugosa. She said that because of the DMM classes, her GLG came to her aid, and now the group members are supporting her two daughters by paying their school fees so they can receive an education. After her, Pastor Patrick testified. He said, “As a pastor, I never considered disciple making very important. It was difficult for me to preach the gospel, but this training has helped me reach many communities.” He has now started three groups, and those groups are discipling others.

Prose (red) and her two daughters, who are now back in school thanks to her God’s Love Group

This trip was both encouraging and confirming. To hear the testimonies of people breaking free from poverty and helping others do the same is always encouraging. These farmers who were starving now have enough food to eat, economic opportunities, and resources to educate their children. We also saw that our plan to cross-pollinate FGW trainers with DMM trainers has caused both activities to spread faster. This kingdom-advancing confirmation brings us one step closer to our goal of eliminating the hunger season in the rural areas of five East African nations in the next 10 years.

Without the consistent investment of our Heaven’s Family donors, we would not be seeing this rapid growth. The reason why we have model farms where people can come to learn and the reason why we can send our trainers to remote areas to train starving farmers is that people like you sow. These stories of changed lives are just a fraction of the harvest those seeds are producing. Thank you for your obedience to God, your faithfulness even in challenging times, and your generosity.

There is, however, still so much more work to do. For every encouraging story of a farmer like Anaclet, who went from harvesting nothing to 440 pounds of maize in his first season, thousands more are still waiting for the good news of Farming God’s Way to reach them. With a recurring gift of $34 a month you can help lift 12 farmers and their families out of poverty by starting them on their FGW journey. You will help not only those families, but also the surrounding neighbors who have the courage to turn from their traditional ways and start Farming God’s Way.

Thank you so much for your time and attention. And thank you for your commitment to caring for the “least of these”.

Grace and peace,

Image of the director of the Farming God's Way Ministry

Jerry Jefferson
Director, Farming God’s Way Ministry

P.S. We did get to see Joshua outside the hospital as we were heading to the airport.

Left to right: Asia (Joshua’s wife), Isaac, Joshua, me, Stephen, Jonas, David, and Jude

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