No one seems to know who really said it first. Lots of people have taken credit. The majority of people seem to think it was Albert Einstein who said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Whoever said it, there seems to be a lot of truth in the words.
None of us are immune to falling into the trap of comfortable practice and thinking. We just get accustomed to doing things the same way. Perhaps we learned how to do something as a child and that method just sticks with us, change is hard. Other times certain practices can even be cultural. Ever hear someone say, “Well that’s just how we do it around here?”
In Malawi, people have been gardening and farming a certain way for generations. A lot of the common practices grew out of the days of colonization. The British brought familiar farming practices from Europe. Unfortunately, many of these practices were not well suited to Africa. Others evolved from longstanding cultural practices powered by the lack of modern tools, knowledge, and products. No matter the origin these practices have hindered the very people who live in a rich and fertile environment from sustaining themselves by growing their own food. The words of the prophet Hosea ring true when he said, “My people perish because of a lack of knowledge.” (Hosea 4:6)
Enter Farming God’s Way. This new thinking begins by examining how God farms, learning how plants grow in the wild, how natural mulch works. It extends to understanding the growth components of sun, soil, water, and natural fertilizer. The strong value add component in the mix is the interweaving of Biblical knowledge and discipleship. Results have been impressive. Those utilizing the practices experiencing yields of 2 to 3 times the norm.
Recently Y-Malawi gathered about 30 sponsored women and girls specifically to provide them with Farming God’s Way training. In Malawi, many of the gardens and fields are the responsibility of women. Participants gathered at the Y-Malawi Vocational Training Center for this full day event. They experienced both theory in a classroom setting and practical learning outside nearby.
From some of those who participated:
” My participation Farming God’s Way training is so beneficial to me. I have learned how water is wasted when we use traditional way of farming and how we can preserve water.” Bigrida Maili
“I am very thankful for calling me to participate the training, when I was using the traditional way of farming, I was not harvesting enough food. Now I am eager that I will harvest enough because we have learned how to use garden trashes, the earth blanket as manure.” Veronica Kayira
“I was not aware on the proper way of planting seeds in planting stations, but now I have learnt the proper way of planting seeds and distance measuring.” Robina Chimpesa
“I have learned the importance of early planting. When you plant early you don’t worry, even when the rain stops earlier.” Mary Halidi
The goal is to increase food security and sustainability. But it extends to drawing people closer to an understanding of the love of God for all people. Understanding that God loves us is the beginning of understanding how to farm God’s way, and how to live God’s way.
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She was born into a poor family of 6. Her parents worked the fields for day wages. They did the best they could, but life was very hard. Despite the challenges, Veronica was able to attend school. Then in grade 8 everything changed. She became pregnant. It wasn’t her fault, but she accepted the responsibility. While the baby was still young Veronica tried to return to school, but she could not afford the fees.
When a man told her that he would marry her and take care of she and the baby, Veronica believed him. Less than a year later, while Veronica was expecting her second child, the man left her and ran away. Now with herself and two young mouths to feed, Veronica worked the fields for day wages just as her parents had done before her.
She worked hard but could barely afford enough food to sustain herself and the children. Then she heard about the Y-Malawi sponsorship program for women and girls. She registered, not looking for a handout, but a hand up. By the grace of God, out of so many waiting, she was selected by a sponsor. The provision of food and some other basic needs gave Veronica the boost and hope for a better future she needed.
A few months ago, Veronica began growing her own rice on about ½ acre of land. She did all the work herself, Y-Malawi provided fertilizer, guidance, and encouragement. She planted during the dry season in Malawi, not something most people attempt because of the challenge of watering. Veronica was determined and did it anyway.
Her efforts paid off. She harvested 22 bags of rice from her field. Each bag represents about $25, so Veronica will earn $550! This is 50% more than the average Malawian earns in an entire year and Veronica can still plant a second crop yet! It gets even better because Y-Malawi is buying most of her rice to feed those suffering from hunger in her own community.
Veronica has worked hard for this success, but she also gives credit to the blessings provided her. She shared, “I am overwhelmed with the support which you have provided for my farming project. God has amazed me. I did not know where to get fertilizer. I had tried and all my efforts were in vain. I have seen God intervening in the last hour.”
Veronica’s experience is a wonderful illustration of how economic empowerment can and is changing lives in Malawi.
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With the winter months approaching in Malawi, blankets and warmer clothes become greater necessity. Like some of us, Malawian’s don’t much care for colder weather. When the thermometer drops to 60 degrees, that’s cold in Malawi. Folks start to shiver.
Recently, a Bible Study Group of mature women decided that when they meet, they could do more than study the Word of God. They decided to take up the skill of knitting. Hearing their idea, a Y-Malawi Field Officer encouraged them to take on the challenge. Together they got some books and began learning. They scraped together some knitting supplies. Y-Malawi helped with a portion of the tools they needed.
At first there was a steep learning curve, but as continued to meet, they improved. They are now making shawls, poncho’s for girls, and scarfs. They plan to give some of these items to people that need them and cannot afford them on their own. They also plan to sell some of the items to make some money for the Bible Study Group.
As they work they read the Bible, they sings songs of praise, and they encourage one another with prayer. It is a genuine example of faith put into action. The author of the book of James explains how important this is. “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus, also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:14-17)
Faith and works go hand in hand, and for these women, so do knitting and the Bible.
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The famous ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau said, “We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one.” It’s a true saying in that life as we know it cannot exist without water.
In the United States we can tend to take water for granted. We are accustomed to the ease of twisting that little silver lever at the sink or in the shower anytime desire. We don’t give much thought to the sprinklers and hoses that allow us to water plants and gardens. It’s hard for us to imagine, but for the majority of people in the world, these are not norms, they are luxuries.
Malawi’s climate is in some ways, much like that of Southern California. For a majority of the country, the rains come in late December and are done by the end of April. While Malawi has sunshine most of the year, it is these rains, and the water they bring, that define the growing season. Other water is accessible, especially near Lake Malawi where Y-Malawi is working. This lake feeds lagoons and ponds that seldom go dry.
The challenge is getting the water from the lagoons to the fields. In the past, anyone who wanted to grow more than one crop per year needed to water their field by dipping a watering can into the lagoon. Then, carry that one to three gallons of moisture to their thirsty plants. Quite a chore if you are trying to grow an acre of life-giving food during the hot sunny summer months.
But what if that same sun could be harnessed to provide the water? This month Y-Malawi has purchased and is testing several solar water pumps. These units can be moved from field to field, towed at the rear of a bicycle. They use solar power and a floating pump to lift water out of the lagoons and into the fields. The first Chiefs groups have now been trained on their use. For the first time people have been able to plant a second crop. So far, this equipment is proving to be an incredible resource. There is excitement in these communities that more food may be available this year during the hunger season.
Cousteau was right. Water and life are connected. While only God can give life, having access to water can certainly make a substantial difference for those who don’t have it. Thank you to those who gave special gifts to make this new project possible. You are truly making a lifegiving, lifechanging difference.
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When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, they hid themselves from God. When God came to them Adam told God that they hid because they were naked. God’s reply? Who told you that you were naked? In other words, who have you been talking to? We might say in our day, who has been filling your head with this stuff?
Has someone told you that you are too old? Having a little grey hair and taking a little longer to get going in the morning does not mean your days of making a difference in this world are over. We have an important job to do here, even after we have gained a lifetime of experience and wisdom. Moses was 80 years young when God called him to do the most important thing in his life!
Here is proof. During this year a Senior Sunday School class at a church in Southern California decided they could make a difference. When they heard how precious Bibles are in the villages of Malawi, that people pray for, and are desperate to have the Word of God in their own hands, in their own home, in their own language, they decided to do something about it.
It didn’t take all that much. The hardest part was just deciding they could do something. Everyone pitched in a little to make a big impact. As we near the end of 2020 this class has put close to 500 Bibles into the hands of people in Malawi!
God has blessed their efforts in an incredible way. The gospel message has spread into areas where previously the Bible was not even allowed. Important Chiefs have received the message and decided to follow Jesus. Fueled by the Holy Spirit and their new understanding of the scriptures, more and more Bible study groups are being formed. On just one occasion a group was singing and worshiping during the evening and a crowd began to form. The Bible study group began to share the gospel message. More and more people came as they shared, sang, and prayed. This continued late into the night, before it ended the crowd had grown to more than 1,000 and hundreds made decisions to follow Jesus.
This class is making an incredible difference in a place where most of them will never go, for people most of them will never meet. Yet there is a bond. The people who have received these Bibles know about the class. They know they are mostly senior citizens. They have been profoundly impacted and encouraged to know that someone so far away cares about them. As for the class in California, they might say their lives have been impacted too.
Y-Malawi is about opening hearts for change, both in Malawi and in the United States. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how young. It doesn’t matter if you live in California, or New Jersey, or Michigan. It doesn’t matter what you have to give. The important thing is that you don’t listen to anyone who would tell you that you can’t make a difference. The important thing is to listen to the truth. The truth is you can make a difference too.
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When most of us go to the sink or the shower or the tub, there it is. It’s just there, we don’t even think about it. But what if it wasn’t? What if that little green or brown bar of soap wasn’t at the sink any longer? How effective would your hand washing be without soap? How about that dirt under your fingernails? Could you get your clothes clean without soap?
Most of us don’t even think about such things, but for many in Malawi not having soap is a reality of life. The truth is that soap is a wonderful gift that people in other parts of the world prize and that we in America take for granted. This has been especially true during the pandemic of 2020.
This month Y-Malawi began a new initiative to change all that. The Vocational Training Center has just held their first soap making class! Students will now be learning how to make bar soap that people use for washing hands, clothes, basically everything. The process is fairly simple and uses safe ingredients that can be sourced locally. It’s an initiative that will not only help solve the issues of having soap, but it will provide new small businesses for people too.
Graduates will be able begin making soap on their own as a small business. Y-Malawi has already been providing soap for women, girls, and others in need through the sponsorship program. Now Y-Malawi can purchase the soap from these small businesses in the villages rather than at a major store in the city. People will also be able to sell their soaps at the Vocational Training Center store and other small shops in the area.
Making soap is just one more way God is using Y-Malawi to bring sustainable development and the hope of the gospel to the people of Malawi.
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