In 2012, after visiting Mozambique, Sandy Willson and Dan Burns began considering how they could support the efforts of our ministry partner World Relief there. In the midst of planning, they turned to 2PC member Mike Cross to see if he would serve as the country leader for that effort.
Mike agreed and, in 2013, visited the country for the first time. Every time he and other 2PC team members visit, they are amazed by the challenging living conditions. The people in the village, made up mostly of women (many of the men leave around age 15 to work in mines in South Africa), live in huts with mud floors and face a harsh climate.
“A typical day for a woman in this region is to wake up, find water, gather wood for fire, work their small plot of land to grow food, take care of their children, and cook,” says Mike. “The next day, they get up and do the same thing all over again.”
In addition, the people in this region contend with a strange combination of ancestor worship, animal sacrifice, witch doctors, and an often unclear view of Christianity. As a result, the physical problems often seem easiest to address initially.
“When we first got there, we saw some successful farming projects and accommodations that had been built in villages for community meetings and for visitors,” says Mike. “As an American I tend to think, ‘let’s go build some of these things.’ But the leader of World Relief at that time told us that often when Americans come in with money for projects, the wrong people emerge from the local community and solutions often end up not being sustainable in the long run.”
At her suggestion, the team went a different route. Through the Foundation, Second was able to provide funds for the salaries of five local people. The two goals of this team were, and continue to be, to conduct pastor training and to form discipleship groups.
The local-led discipleship groups use curriculum developed by World Relief to teach those in the village about the Gospel. Leaders who emerge from these groups then begin their own discipleship groups. These groups have multiplied over the past four years and there are now about 800 people participating.
On Mike’s third visit to the country, a medical doctor there, Dr. Pieter Ernst, told Mike he thought they were ready to begin a farm in one of the villages.
After raising $75,000, much of which came from the Sojourners Congregational Community, the project began. The site for the farm was chosen 1.5 kilometers away from the Limpopo River to avoid potential flooding.
“Proper irrigation can increase the productivity of the land by about 500%,” says Mike. Forty people, all leaders out of the discipleship groups, were chosen to be part of what they call an “agricultural association.” The first planting took place in April of 2016, and the first harvest was in September of that year.
Each member of the association farms seven rows, five of which are used for commercial crops sales, while the other two rows are for personal use of the association’s members. The commercial crop is usually sent to the capital to be sold at the farmer’s market there. This year, however, because of the severe drought this region is facing, the food was sold locally, providing food for thousands of meals in the village.
Since then, Second has also provided funds for the completion of two buildings: a community center and a dormitory, the rental of which can be used as a source of income for the village. Dr. Pieter has also said that he would like to start a new farm in a neighboring community, as well as expand the current farm.
The progress in not just the physical realm, which is often more tangible, but also in the spiritual realm, has been remarkable
“While our team was clearly excited to see the success of the farm, it was just as exciting to see how the Gospel teaching has changed people’s lives and is changing their communities,” says Mike. “It shouldn’t surprise me, but it really is amazing to see how joyful the people are in spite of their daily challenges to live. With what little they have, they are choosing to minister to the most vulnerable in the communities.”