Have you ever eaten scrambled eggs that grew on a tree? Have you ever eaten a Jamaican apple that tastes like a pear infused with strawberry and bursting with juice? Those who went to Jamaica to participate in the Agriculture Summit did, along with many other delightful experiences.
“Restoring the Waste Places” was the theme of the 2015 Agriculture conference held in Glen Rose, Texas. We focused on the counsel in the book The Ministry of Healing, Chapter 12. John Quade spoke each night and brought to our attention the missionary work that farmers can do. He shared statements like: “Christian farmers can do real missionary work in helping the poor to find homes on the land and in teaching them how to till the soil and make it productive. Teach them how to use the implements of agriculture, how to cultivate various crops, how to plant and care for orchards.” MH 193
God gave us an opportunity to do this very work when a request came from the North East Jamaica Conference of SDA (NEJC) for AdAgrA to come and speak for their SOSTIC Summit (SOSTIC is an acronym for “Save our Schools Through Industry and Commitment”). The timing of this Summit was terrible for North American farmers, since the end of March/early April has farmers in full swing getting their crops ready for the summer season. So only four went: Lynn Hoag, David and Hope Obermiller, and myself, Darren Greenfield.
The SOSTIC initiative of NEJC started two years ago as the conference leaders read through the book Education and other counsels on education in the Spirit of Prophecy. Their schools were struggling to stay open because of financial difficulties. They realized that Agriculture was the very focus that had been neglected and saw promises like: “Had all our schools encouraged work in agricultural lines, they would now have an altogether different showing. There would not be so great discouragements. Opposing influences would have been overcome; financial conditions would have changed.” 6T 177
So, with faith and courage, they devised an inspired plan to save their schools through agriculture. In a nut shell, the plan included bringing agriculture into their schools and having trained workers to manage “greenhouses” (structures with shade cloth around the sides and plastic on the roof), to grow crops like sweet bell peppers that they have an established market for. (The “greenhouses” enable them to grow through the rainy season that normally would destroy their crops).
Several of these structures are already in operation and have proven successful. Another part of the SOSTIC initiative is to provide employment for church members who are unemployed. Finding work is difficult for church members since most jobs require working on Sabbath. Those who are interested in having their own “greenhouse” enter into an agreement where they are helped to start a greenhouse and then become a supplier to the established market. The arrangement works very well as it not only provides them an income but they give 10% of it towards the paying off of school debt on top of paying a faithful tithe. Students are also able to work and pay for tuition through this plan.
NEJC’s burden is to become truly self supporting, generating income through their agricultural industries, realizing that if they were to ask for donations to relieve them of the debt, that they would be having to do this on an ongoing basis.
The Lord poured out His Spirit on this SOSTIC conference. Those who attended were visibly affected and left with radiant faces as they saw the spiritual implications and opportunities for them as they farmed and reached out to help others discover this call to an agrarian lifestyle - preparing for Jesus’ return. Many of them requested copies of our presentations so that they could go back to their churches and teach the things they had learned.
Several non Adventists attended and the Lord worked a miracle in the life of one of these young men, Joseph. He had a tragic accident 4 years earlier when he was mistaken for a burglar. Since he looked similar, the home owner attacked him, cutting off his arm with a machete just below his elbow.
As you can imagine, this was devastating to Joseph and he became bitter towards this cruel man who had done such a terrible thing to him. Having only one arm, no one wanted to hire him and so his life seemed worthless. Then one of the SOSTIC business owners took pity on him and gave him some work. As he mingled with these Adventist workers, they encouraged him to give his life to Jesus and that one day when He comes, he would get a new arm. This gave Joseph some hope and he believed and desired to get baptized. There was only one problem: He was addicted to cigarettes and he could not get the victory.
Joseph prayed many times asking Jesus to come into his life and he even confessed his sins, but to no avail. As he shared this with me on the last day of the weekend, I realized the deep desire in his heart and saw that he had been trying to overcome in his own strength. So I took him to Romans 5:8 where it says that “God commends His love towards us that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” and other passages like this that showed him that God loved him even as a smoker and that he did not need to clean up his life first and then be accepted. I assured him that he could come to Jesus as he was and that Jesus would accept him and then, with the joy of the Lord as his strength, and with the Holy Spirit’s presence and power in his life, God would give him the victory. Then He was taken to Rev 3:20 where it says that Jesus stands at the door and knocks and if anyone hears His voice and opens the door, He will come in… He was then invited to go around the other side of a bush where it was more private and to pray and ask Jesus into his heart again. This time, knowing that he was loved, He eagerly accepted the invitation. We went and knelt together and prayed. But as we prayed it was apparent that there was a barrier that Joseph could not get over.
As Joseph invited Jesus into his heart, his prayer went something like this: “Lord help me to be a better person. Help me to one day be able to forgive the man who cut my arm off.” It was clear that the barrier for Joseph to be born again was un-forgiveness. So I encouraged him that even though he did not feel like forgiving, he could choose to forgive. But he could not manage to get out the words. Then I said, “You can allow the forgiveness of Jesus that you are receiving now for your sins to flow through you and offer it to this man so that he might also become a recipient of the salvation Jesus offers him.” It still was a huge struggle and he was not able to say that he forgave, so I said to him, “I am going to say the words for you and if you believe them in your heart, then repeat them after me.” As he did this Joseph just broke down and wept. We wept together as he voiced his thanks to God for the weight that had lifted off him and the peace that flooded his heart. He kept saying over and over again: “Thank you Lord! I am a new person. Thank you!” As we got up from our knees, still weeping and rejoicing, Joseph said: “If I ever see that man again, I am going to look him in the face and tell him that I forgive him.”
Truly God is good and agriculture is a means of reaching people with the everlasting gospel. Truly “Christian farmers can do real missionary work…”
Through the kind donations that have been given to support the work of AdAgrA, this kind of missionary work continues in Jamaica. All the attendees of this SOSTIC conference went home with a copy of the book The Green Print, the newly published compilation on agriculture by Ellen White, published by David Obermiller. Also the conference president Arlington Woodburn was given a case of a similar book Hope in the Soil also by Ellen White on agriculture, to give to the education department to inspire them in in following all of this wonderful inspired counsel.
Your prayers and contributions are a big help to continue this important work. Please consider becoming a monthly contributor, that many more may become equipped, inspired and enabled to go forward with this vital end time message as we truly embrace the reality of the third angels message and its impact on us now and the future.
Please do us a favor and take the time to share this email with others and invite them to subscribe to our periodic newsletter so that this association that God raised up may grow and educate many who are unaware of the light we are privileged to know and benefit from.
May God bless you richly as you grow this season is the prayer your AdAgrA board.
Below are the experiences of those who also went on this mission trip to Jamaica.
Farming has always kind of been my husband's thing. He reads the technical soil science books at night that are way over my head and keeps up on the latest issues related to agriculture. He has spent hours and hours of research in the Spirit of Prophecy and given dozens of sermons related to the topic. My jaw just drops whenever I hear him explain things to people. As for me, I've maintained a garden and have helped plenty at the farm. I love preparing the produce in new and creative ways, and I definitely believe in the value of manual labor, locally grown organic food, and being in nature, but it's not my hobbyhorse or something that stirs me with zeal and deep fulfillment. What really weighs heavy on my heart is discipleship, kids and teenagers in particular. As a Biblical Counselor my heart aches when I see adults with issues because their childhood was so messed up. If only every kid had a simple, natural, healthy childhood where they were loved and protected by their parents and taught to commune with and respect God, what a different world this would be. So when I was told that a children's program was needed, my brain went into gear and I began getting really excited about teaching a group of Jamaican kids to enjoy getting their hands dirty and seeing God's love and truth in the soil.
The first big lesson God taught me through this mission trip is that money should never be a barrier in our minds to prevent us from serving. God abundantly provided for my needs financially to go on that trip. And when I say provide, it's not just the airfare and travel expenses, but at Target I found a bunch of gardening supplies for $1.00 each! I visited several stores, buying all their hand spades, hand forks, gloves, and bug nets. This provided the ideas for some of our activities and games. And, at our church I was given permission to take whatever I could use from a storage closet that contained leftover craft supplies from previous VBS programs. I found a stack of straw hats and other craft materials that were just perfect.
The second thing God taught me is that He will teach you what you should say. Stress was high as I scrambled to put together 15 hours of material in a matter of weeks. At first I was like, "What do I know. My husband is the expert, not me." But then, as I scoured Pinterest for craft ideas and prayed and thought about what these kids should know, ideas kept coming to me. I checked out children's books from the local library about composting, seeds, school gardens, and a few inspiring characters like George Washington Carver (an African-American man in the early 1900's who encouraged crop rotation and found over 100 uses for the peanut) and Will Allen (an African-American professional basketball player who decided he'd rather be a farmer and started a movement for urban farming). I put together 3 treasure hunts that provided salient quotes from the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy to teach them the physical and spiritual benefits of gardening which the kids thoroughly enjoyed. And as you know, a kids program can't be complete without music. Praise be to God, I was able to compile 10 songs that related to the theme "I want to be Good Ground." The kids caught onto the tunes so quickly and enthusiastically that it made it a joy to teach them. Not knowing how many kids to expect, I planned for 50 so I had leftover packets as well as gardening tools to leave with Sister Woodburn and she can use them in future children's programs.
The third thing that I will treasure from this trip is the sense of being appreciated and the satisfaction of leaving a positive impact. My heart just melted as each day the children showered me with love letters. They were just simple pieces of paper that said "I love you Auntie Hope" and decorated with hearts and flowers, but they were tokens of their affection and it meant so much. On Sabbath one girl, Annie, asked if I'd like to go on a hike. I said of course, I'd love to go. So she told me she had do something first and then she'd come get me. When we started on the trail, I noticed she had strewn red flower petals ALL the way up the trail. I felt like a queen! Another girl, Breanne, put my hair to her cheek like a blanket saying my hair was so soft. Another kid stroked my leg and poked her finger in my toes as I read a story. I know my blond hair and fair skin was a novelty to them, and the gifts I brought certainly made me popular. But one boy, on the last day said something that really left an impression on me and reassured me that it wasn't just because I was an American that they thought I was so special. Sister Woodburn had asked the kids to "say something nice to Auntie Hope" and after most of the girls said very sweet messages of thanks for teaching them about the environment and God's word, one seven year old boy, Steven, who didn't talk much during the week said to me, "You don't shout, and you don't scream. You just listen, and you be kind, and cheery and lovely and you be careful about what you doing." It wasn't as much what I taught them, but HOW I treated them that especially made a difference, at least to that boy. I thanked God for giving me patience and that His love was able to shine through me.
The fourth thing I took with me is just the beautiful culture I had the privilege of experiencing. I loved Sister Carter's delicious food, especially the achee. I loved hearing the loud orchestra of birds in the day and the insects at night. I loved hearing the Jamaican accent and phrases of Patwa. I loved hearing so many talented singers and being blessed by the enthusiasm and energy of my Jamaican brothers and sisters. I was humbled that though we live in very different places, the need of our hearts is the same and our calling as a church is the same.
If the Lord wills, I truly hope to visit there again. (Picture of Hope Obermiller and some of the children)
It's kind of funny how the Lord works sometimes! Eighteen years ago I was smoking marijuana with my Rastafarian friends, never dreaming that one day I would be a Christian, doing mission work on the island where that religion was born. A few months ago Darren Greenfield asked me to accompany him on his trip to Jamaica. At the time I really, really, didn't want to go; too much was going on at our farm. Spring was coming, we were still picking and packing the last of our navel oranges, etc. It just did not seem like the right timing. Fortunately, Darren shared the following quote.
"The home missionary work will be farther advanced in every way when a more liberal, self-denying, self-sacrificing spirit is manifested for the prosperity of foreign missions; for the prosperity of the home work depends largely, under God, upon the reflex influence of the evangelical work in countries afar off. It is in working actively to supply the necessities of the cause of God that we bring our souls in touch with the Source of all power." 6T p. 27
Upon reading that I was greatly encouraged! Our farm is really God's, and its prosperity is truly dependent upon His blessings, not my incessant labor. I couldn't argue with this promise and my wife and I decided to make the trip, and are very (extremely) glad we did. God's promise has already started to be realized. I came back to a good crop of strawberries, and some other blessings that didn't exist before I left. While I'm grateful that God has blessed our farm, the biggest blessing came from being there.
As many of us are, I am far too comfortable with the luxuries of American life. Not having air conditioning, hot water, and constant internet access for a week was a good reminder of what really counts in life. Seeing people that are happy in the absence of what Americans would consider standard fare was a strong message.
By all measures Jamaica would seem to need help. Their roads are poor, poverty is high, houses are simple at best, etc. Their farming practices are decades behind and heavily dependent upon toxic chemicals. But one thing was not lacking! Their willingness to realize their need of help and to accept it when offered. Every presentation we gave seemed cherished and deeply appreciated. But they were not just hungry for technical assistance, the spiritual hunger seemed just as strong and sincere. I have since thought over and over about us in America. We are by comparison, extremely "rich, and increased with goods," (Rev. 3:17) but we also by comparison may feel our need less. Kind of a scary thought for me! Is it possible that people that I perceive to have so little actually have more of what really counts?
My wife and I came back with two commitments we are willing to make. First, we are definitely planning on going back, and are willing to make a long term commitment to assisting farmers in Jamaica. Secondly, we are going to re-evaluate our priorities in life, for truly there is only one thing in life that really counts: realizing our need of Jesus Christ, and accepting His offer of help.
Jamaica: An incredible encouragement to me
Here are dedicated, sincere, SDA’s striving to follow God’s instruction to use agriculture to provide jobs for the poor, health for the people, and the message of God’s love to the world.
The President of Jamaica is an Adventist, 50% of the people claim to be SDA or have a significant connection to the church, this makes for a more open acceptance of our colporteur and Bible workers.
In the Jamaican, north-east conference of SDA, the president and the colporteur leader are leading this initiative in Christian agriculture. They are providing:
- Land for growing
- - Instruction in growing nutrient dense foods
- - Fertility
- - Greenhouses
- - Markets to profitably market the produce
- - A farmer’s store for appropriate tools and supplies
Thus, providing both the means and the incentive for useful, industrious and self-supporting life. This is a project we should support much, and a project from which we should learn much.