Another God StoryRich Stigall
An update from the field from GO Africa’s Executive Director, Dr. Alison Barfoot
How does a suburban Washington, D.C., music major girl end up talking to local church leaders in eastern Africa about increasing their care and support for the most abandoned and abused children in their communities and doing it sustainably? That’s my life, and only God knows the answer! But, here I am living in Kampala, Uganda, and have been traveling throughout the region of eastern Africa for the last ten years.
Whenever I visit my family, my father always says to me, “Alison, you have the most interesting stories.” I never could have imagined this life. There are days when it is extremely challenging, but there are few things as rewarding as seeing God’s people rise up and walk in the way He has laid before them. There are few things as rewarding as seeing God’s people care for the “least of these” children and then realize they are as blessed as the children are in the process. There are few things as rewarding as seeing God’s people accomplish the “impossible” because they know “nothing is impossible with God.”
If you had told me 20 years ago that I would be doing today what I am doing, I probably would have laughed. My faith has grown and been stretched in directions I didn’t even know were possible.
During one conversation with church leaders about their care for children, the pastor lamented because there’s no electricity in their area. The Father’s House is lit at night with kerosene lanterns or candles, which are dangerous, and they have nowhere to charge their phones. So, he was wondering aloud with me about the possibility of getting some solar panels so that, at least, they could charge their phones and have a light at night.
I was quiet for a while as I thought about what he said and remembered the primary school that’s adjacent to the church and serves more than 500 children. And, then, I shocked myself when I replied, “You know, solar is quite expensive. It seems to me that the greatest asset of this community is the pit latrine at the primary school. It is a big waste because it could be used to create bio-gas for light and phone charging.” (Check out Wikipedia’s entry on biogas)
It was one of those moments when I had a fleeting out-of-body experience and looked at myself and asked myself, “Did you really just say that a pit latrine is an asset?”
Some people here call it “waste to wealth!” It’s a new way of looking at what we have and asking God to show us how it can be used as an asset for developing sustainability.
In southwestern Uganda, during the last planting season last year, we piloted an agricultural approach called “Farming God’s Way,” which was developed in Zimbabwe. They have changed their name to Foundations for Farming, but in eastern Africa we still know it as Farming God’s Way.
Eastern Africa is still largely an agriculturally based society, so in thinking about sustainable orphan care, we work with the local church leaders to build on what they already know and have. We introduced Farming God’s Way in southwestern Uganda. Some of the concepts are counter intuitive to the “way things have always been done.” Some people were skeptical; others were outright resistant. But, there was enough curiosity to try it on a small plot of land. The results were dramatic. The yield was significantly higher and the quality of produce was substantially improved. Now, the local church wants all the land cultivated using the principles of Farming God’s Way and all the neighbors want to know learn how to “farm God’s way.” The children benefit and the whole community benefits.
This year, we want to share the principles of Farming God’s Way with all the partners in GO Africa. Hilary, our Regional Manager in southwestern Uganda and our new Sustainability Manager, will be traveling to all our partner sites to teach Farming God’s Way. Next week he’ll be going to Bunia in northeastern Congo. When we told the Bishop that we wanted to share with him something called “Farming God’s Way,” he wrote back, “We are pleased to have Hilary train in Farming God’s Way. I have been searching to meet that program. Though busy, I will avail some time for that. We are so excited about the children.”
Isn’t God good? The Bishop had already heard of Farming God’s Way, but didn’t know how to find the training, and now the training is coming directly to him for the benefit of the “least of these” children.
God’s blessings are multiplying, and it doesn’t get much better than this!
Top – Alison with Father’s House children
Middle – Coordinator of The Father’s House in Bunia, Congo
End – Alison with Bishop William Bahemuka of the Diocese of Boga, Congo