It never ceases to amaze me. Just when I think there can’t be a more difficult set of circumstances that poor believers live through year after year, God pulls back the curtain that surroun ds the Disneyland-like world in which I live. And then He introduces me to a few more among the “least of these” whose hardships I could not have imagined.
It happened again last May, when I traveled to Mexico to spend a week with American missionaries Jason and Nicole Fitzpatrick. Nicole told me about the hardships faced by many Christian widows—whom I would soon be privileged to meet—who live in remote villages where she and Jason have planted churches. The only income they can earn is less than a dollar a day when work in the coffee fields is available. And like everyone else who lives in Mexico’s remote higher elevations, they must every day collect and carry the firewood they need to cook and keep warm. Their churches and family members help them when they can, but they are very poor themselves.
As director of Heaven’s Family’s Food Fund, I wanted to do more than give them food that would quickly be consumed and leave them in need of another handout. As Nicole and I talked further, we hatched a plan that would involve some hatching of its own: We would help them start chicken businesses. The widows would feed themselves and earn a profit! I couldn’t wait to meet Nicole’s widows and see their faces when we proposed our idea.
We set off early the next day, bouncing along barely-passable roads for several slow hours, winding upwards into the beautiful Sierra Norte until we reached the primitive homes of a village named Ozomatlan.
At one of the tiny shacks I met sister Raymunda Ojeda Escamilla, age 87. She lives with her daughter, Marcella, who is also a widow. I listened intently as Nicole translated their testimony for me. Nicole told me the stories of several other widows as well. They all shared in common a hard life, scratched out on a forlorn Mexican mountainside.
Nicole then gathered them together and we shared our plan to help them grow a steady supply of eggs and chickens, some to eat for themselves, others to sell, and some to share with those in need. Our plan was to provide each widow with $275 to purchase materials for a coop and buy their first chickens; $150 would be a grant, and $125 would be a loan.
Much to my surprise, they hesitated at our offer! It was not the work they feared, but the risk they’d be taking by borrowing such a large sum of money. After some assurances from us that we’d do all we could to make sure they would succeed, our “chicken chicks” finally uttered the brave words we were waiting for: “We’ll do it!”
After I was gone, the coops were built and populated with healthy chickens. Soon those chickens were laying eggs and the widows began to watch a minor miracle in the making: they were making a profit…enough to make their first loan payment. Our prayers are being answered.
We are also praying that this is only the beginning. We hope to help many more impoverished believers lift themselves from food insecurity, just like the “Chicken Chicks” (who are no longer chicken!). Thanks for making their dreams a reality.