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JL's Journal

August 16, 2016

FREEDOM THROUGH FARMING

“The Spirit of the Lord is on Me,
because He has anointed Me
to preach Good News to the poor,
He has sent Me to proclaim freedom
for the prisoners...to release the oppressed;

to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

(Luke 4:18-19) 

Dear Ministry Partners,

   In my last email, I reported on the “Physical and Spiritual Winds” that are blowing in northern Kenya. My report focused on some of the “new directions” of our longtime partnership with Stakwell & Francesca Yurenimo in Kenya among the various pastoral tribal groups in that area.

   In this report I am shifting focus to Bishop Trevor Manhanga and his ever-growing ministry in Zimbabwe – especially through “Double Harvest Zimbabwe.” The logo at left reflects the primary areas of practical vocational application of the Gospel through their holistic approach to ministry. The brick foundation represents the unique Hydraform system of brick making that we have introduced, which will be the subject of a future report. The chicken represents the poultry project, while the plants highlight the farm and greenhouses for vegetable production. Together these three areas of emphasis are generating jobs, income, self-sufficiency and dignity in the Name of Christ. And through this historic pioneer partnership between Bishop Trevor’s church and the local prison system, a literal “double harvest” is taking place, as individual lives are being transformed for time and eternity. In previous reports I have shared about this unique partnership in a 3-part series titled Doubling Your Harvest.”  

   After just several months of implementation, these 20 inmates have become our soul-mates in Christ! And all of this was in fulfillment of the promises Jesus made as He began His public ministry to “…preach Good News to the poor” and “…proclaim freedom for the prisoners.” (Please click here to review these earlier reports).

   After my last trip to Zimbabwe with Arie VanWingerden, we helped Bishop Trevor jumpstart this Double Harvest project by helping lay out the drip irrigation fields and build a supporting greenhouse. On this visit, we essentially helped double the size of the farm, as you will see below.

   But most of all, Arie and I got to meet and fellowship personally with our new soul-mates in Christ – both at church and out in the fields. Since we arrived on a Saturday, we had the joy of worshipping with them at Victory Tabernacle on Sunday morning.

 

   As I often share with my American friends, you have not really been to church or worshipped until you have done so with our African brethren! They worship God with total abandon!  

   Bishop Trevor is one of the most anointed, authoritative and animated preachers you can ever hear! It is an honor to sit under his teaching and preaching.

  

   We were especially blessed to have the “Soul-Mate Choir” sing for us – each of whom have become Christians and have been baptized as a result of this work-release program. This is “double harvest” at its best, as the spiritual and physical walk hand-in-hand through the ministry of reconciliation and restoration.

 
After the service, each prisoner was given a Solar Bible  
translated in their mother tongue of Shona.

   A totally unexpected “sovereign serendipity” in the service was to see Baba (“father”) Bwatcha – one of our earliest partners in Zimbabwe. We built our very first church for him back in the early 1980s. Little did either of us realize then that this would be the first of scores of churches God would enable us to fund in Africa and other countries through our American partners. Baba is now 92 and semi-retired. Seeing him in the service, Bishop Trevor called him up to share a few words.

  

   After the service he showed me a prayer calendar he carries in his Bible dating back to 1997 – which he uses as a reminder to pray for Patt and me regularly. Talk about being humbled to tears of joy! This is one of the “double blessings” of partnership!

   It was a special personal joy for me to preach the morning message. Because of the growing racial tensions in America, as well as the political unrest in Zimbabwe, the Lord impressed on me to preach on “The Ministry of Reconciliation” from II Corinthians 5:11 – 6:10. After a break from preaching due to my radiation treatment, it was good to be “back in the saddle again.” Thanks for your prayers that God has used to give me fresh physical and spiritual strength for the ministry of His Word.

  

   After the service when we walked outside, we saw the farm truck loaded with beautiful bags of tomatoes, ready for sell to the local people.

 

   On Monday morning we had the joy of meeting with the "soul-mates" for their devotional time that begins each day – a nourishing combination of tea, bread and the “…milk of the Word” (I Pet. 2:2). Bishop Trevor leads the devotions when he is in town, and one of his staff members leads when he is away. This brief morning devotional lays the spiritual foundation for the rest of the day, so there can truly be a “double harvest” throughout the day of both spiritual and physical fruit. Please click on the picture below titled "Zimbabwe Prison Ministry" to be blessed by the spirited singing of the soul-mates, and the anointed teaching of Bishop Trevor. 

  

 

   After lively singing, worship and Biblical exhortation, they had their morning tea and bread – much more appetizing and nourishing than the usual prison porridge! 

   Bishop Trevor and his staff then distributed new Double Harvest T-Shirts and hats to each of the inmates. The front of the T-shirts had the Double Harvest logo, while the back had this verse in Shona: “If the Son shall set you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

  

   Another part of the “double harvest” of this distribution of T-shirts and hats to the workers is that they were made and embroidered by one of Bishop Trevor’s church members who owns and operates a sewing company. So the order was a “double blessing” for him and for the workers.

  

   While this might not seem like a big deal to us, who have more T-shirts than we can wear, it was a gift of dignity to these men. Now, in addition to the work uniforms we bought earlier, each man got 2 new T-shirts and a hat – such a contrast to their old, used and worn prison garb! We shared with them that this was like what Paul said: “You have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Col. 3:9-10). You could see their sense of pride and self-esteem through their big smiles as they put on their shirts before going to the field to work.

 


After morning devotions, new T-shirts, tea & bread,
with fresh tomatoes from the field, they are ready
to go to work on the farm.

   Our first day at the farm began with a quick survey of what had taken place since our last visit. Arie and I were incredibly impressed by all the progress that had been made in the greenhouse and fields. Everything was well organized and “clean and green”.

  

  

   Because the first half of the farm was full and fruitful, the main priority for us on this visit was to install a new water system that would double the size of the farm. So we bought two new large water tanks to mirror the other side of the farm with an identical water system.

 

  

   After the water tank was completed, it was time to run the new fields with drip irrigation in preparation for planting vegetable seedlings.

 

 

  

   Following a hot morning in the fields, it was time for lunch with the "Soul-Mates."

 

   In Zimbabwe, the foundation of every meal is sudza, just as rice is the foundation of every meal in Asia. It is made from corn meal, and the only way I can describe it is the taste of “heavy grits!” It is eaten by hand with some kind of greens – and some meat if you are lucky. Since they seldom get meat in the prison, our soul mates are served beef, chicken or fish with every noon meal.

   One of the soul mates had a birthday that day, and a cake was brought in to celebrate – which was a total surprise to him. Most of these men have never had a birthday celebration with cake in their lives before now. It is a great witness of God’s agape love for them. For this brief time around the noon meal, each inmate is celebrated as a person whom God loved, created in His image, redeemed through Christ and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. It was an unforgettable experience for this dear brother and for us as Bishop Trevor honored him…prayed for him…lit a candle…cut the cake…and sang ‘Happy Birthday” to him!

 

 
This is what partnership is all about. It just doesn't get any better than this!

   After lunch, it was time to return to the fields for harvesting the vegetables that were ready – cabbage and tomatoes.

 

 

 
The truck we bought for the farm is a great help at harvest time.

  
To expedite harvesting vegetables, such as these tomatoes, we bought several
wheelbarrows that can be pushed up and down the rows.

  
Because of an abundance of ripe tomatoes, I bought a blender to be used to
make tomato paste for cooking. The women loved using the blender, just like
I do when I have too many tomatoes in my garden.

 

   Due to the large amounts of vegetables that are being produced daily, we are helping Bishop Trevor build a cold storage building for storing them before they go to market. He was able to buy a good refrigerator unit from a white farmer who was going out of business. Trevor’s brother, Doug, is building this large unit for the project since he is a master builder, welder and innovator who can adapt to the ever-changing dynamics in Zimbabwe under the current volatile economy. We hope the building will be completed in the next 30 days, but since there is a shortage of steel it make a bit longer. The walls will be built from the Hydraform bricks that are produced on location.

  

CONCLUSIONS

   Thanks so much for taking this spiritual and physical “farming tour” to Zimbabwe with Arie and me. I hope it has given you a fresh insight into why I am so thankful for this growing partnership with Bishop Trevor. We could never have imagined back in the early 1980s - when God first networked our lives together – what he had in store for us in the decades since then. It was obvious when I first met Trevor when he was in Bible College in Harare where I was speaking, that he was a natural leader with a supernatural anointing! The impact of his life and leadership in Africa, Canada, America – and everywhere God has led him, has been a testimony of God’s sovereign grace. Whether he is speaking to President Mugabe…the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe…top political and businessmen…his local congregation…or to prison inmates – he is the same. 

   Wherever he is, Bishop Trevor takes time to acknowledge, honor and encourage everyone he is with – like this prison guard who comes every day and works alongside the inmates. While Trevor is a well-known bishop himself who is over more than 300 churches in Zimbabwe, he is still “humbly bold” in all of his relationships and always “…gives honor where honor is due” (Rom. 13:7).

   In future reports, I will continue to update you about this exciting holistic partnership that is having such an impact in Zimbabwe. His country has gone through unspeakable hardship as a result of poor governance. The people have suffered through an economic holocaust that is unparalleled, with the highest inflation rate in history. And yet, unlike other African countries, Zimbabwe has remained largely safe. The Zimbabwean people are just not a violent people who are prone to rioting, demonstration, revolution and jihad. They are peaceful, graceful and ever hopeful for a better tomorrow. 

   The undauntable spirit of the Zimbabwean people is evident in their popular response in the face of any and every difficulty: “We’ll make a way.” And that way is seldom ever through violence and bloodshed. They go to their knees in prayer rather than go to the streets in protest.

   So Patt and I encourage you to continue to pray for our partners in Zimbabwe. And if your church group is looking for a wonderful mission trip opportunity, we encourage you to prayerfully consider Zimbabwe. We can help you with the contacts and details from start to finish. Since President Mugabe is 92 and in failing health, Zimbabwe is on the cusp of a great new burst of political and economic restoration – which is already being experienced in the churches. Don’t miss being a proactive part of what God is doing there through your prayers and partnership!

In His love for Zimbabwe,

JL

PARTNERSHIP OPPORTUNITY
   As has always been the case, we started this latest pioneer inmate project through Bishop Trevor by faith. In addition to funding the purchase of a van, truck, greenhouse, work uniforms and farming tools, we need $2,500 each month to fund the project. And by faith, we have been giving this from our General Fund each month. This amount pays for the transportation, food, salaries and operational expenses for this life-changing program that is truly “…setting the captives free.”

 
So we encourage churches, businessmen, or foundations to help us through sponsoring one month or several months. It is our belief that the program will be largely self-supporting after one year of operation, and we are now halfway to that mark. Please help us reach this goal between now and the end of the year. 

 

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