agriculture and missions

| Sherrill Auker

We walk the lines of cowpeas in Albertina’s field with excitement. Before our eyes is the reclamation of degraded land, the redemption of what was lost. Her joy bubbles over with ours. She recognizes the change not only in the land but in herself.

Albertina’s husband, once a respected community leader, is now an alcoholic. This sickness has placed all responsibility of family care on her shoulders. But she doesn’t walk with her head down and shoulders slumped. She stands tall and strong with a smile.

Christ in her, the hope of glory.

She walks in the freedom He offers and has given the weight of responsibility to Him. She follows Christ in everything, even her farming, and lives in His promises, passing on the message that has become her life.

Sustain, launched in 2013, fills a specific need that has been seen in missions. Our culture is so prone to categorize the facets of life. We divide the parts deemed “spiritual” from the “physical,” declaring them unrelated.  This leaves a missions movement that has not addressed a people’s total need or livelihood.

“And we don’t see how the spiritual world infiltrates our politics and our business and our neighborhoods and our homes and everything we do. And we’ve actually exported this distinction all around the world in the way we’ve done missions. Lesslie Newbigin said that Christian missionaries have been one of the most secularizing forces in the entire world. We’ve gone into third world context, and you know what we’ve told them? We’ve told them that it is not spirits who make the crops grow. It is scientific agriculture. So we got fertilizers and fungicides and pesticides and hybrid seed and we showed them their religion has nothing to do with agriculture. It belongs in the realm of science. What we should’ve said is this is a God-created and God-sustained world, and He has designed ways for this world to operate. And we experience the most, the best of His gifts in this world when we operate according to the way He has designed it. And so we seek Him, and we work in the context of how He as a perfect Designer of this world has made us.” – David Platt

Traditional beliefs speak into agriculture. Witchcraft, a religious system built on fear and superstition, hands out empty promises to farmers. Want to protect your field from theft? Kill a chicken in the field and line the fenceline with its blood. Want an unusually high harvest? Purchase a charm. If you have a difficult season, “Someone was behind you.” Perhaps a disgruntled friend or family member visited the witchdoctor to counter your efforts.

What happens if missions doesn’t address agriculture? It leaves a gapping hole that gets filled with these traditional beliefs- and the church combines her Christianity with witchcraft. Instead of experiencing the freedom and joy of Christ, they remain trapped in fear with no understanding that “He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world.”

We must not limit the influence of the gospel, but instead recognize that it is God’s total solution to man’s total need. When people grasp the fullness of this message, we begin to see productive faith-filled farms and discipleship-minded farmers.

Farming God’s Way and Foundations for Farming are Biblically-based educational resources for conservation agriculture. They are discipleship that walks farmers away from harmful practices and mindsets and into the abundant life of Christ. They replace the idea that “You lack” and “You need this chemical fertilizer, this hybrid seed, this equipment” with “God has placed in your hands what you need already. He is enough for you.” Corn yield averages with current, harmful farming practices like plowing, burning organic matter, or monocropping may be 0 to 20 bags per hectare. But the potential? Over 110 bags. And we’re seeing the shift firsthand.

Our goal is that we do not carry this message to every village, but that farmers do. We want to spark a viral move of God that local leaders carry. Farmers have been told their whole lives through the government, through society, and through their harvests that they are not capable. But we have a new message. And the response is incredible. The Holy Spirit is touching lives like Albertina’s, starting a fire that will continue to spread.