Recently, one of IDES' faithful mission partners in the Philippines who specializes in medical care for families who are underserved decided to pursue a new venture in community development. They knew well that one of our Five Focus areas is Development & Sustainability, and they could see the massive potential that projects with this focus have for lifting families out of poverty and on to their own two feet.
So, they prayed, considered, then took the risk for the sake of showing the love of Christ to their neighbors. As you will soon find out, the risk was worth it and their execution was well-organized and effective.
Instead of paraphrasing and condensing our partner's report, we want to share their own words with you. (Click "Read More"...)
"The Philippines is largely an agricultural-based country, with farmers (especially in the rural areas/provinces) dependent on work animals to manually plow their fields. Tractors and plowing machines are simply too expensive; even carabaos and oxen are expensive and out of reach for the average farmer. Most of them resort to 'leasing' work animals, and pay out of their field-produced sales, leaving minimal money left for their families' daily needs.
"The purpose of the project was to provide work animals (carabaos/oxen) to previously identified needy and deserving farmers in rural communities. This will allow them now to more efficiently plow/plant/harvest their fields, and provide more sufficiently for their families' daily financial needs. Since this is a pilot project, it required protocols/guidelines, coordination with local churches who will supervise/monitor the use of the work animals, and a lot of travel to identify the most needy recipients within a province /community. The goal was to focus on a specific needy rural community which has our local church in its immediate vicinity, and to donate 6 or more work animals to previously identified farmers. The work animal is distributed within a 'co-owner' relationship with the local church pastor functioning as the community coordinator to ensure proper and optimal use/care of the work animal, and sharing of the gospel message. Thus, the local church is allowed to have a much deeper and more meaningful personal relationship/s with the recipient/s and their families. Evangelism becomes personal, deeper and more meaningful.
"A total of 8 work animals were distributed: 6 carabaos and 2 oxen with the IDES funds. The 8 beneficiaries were spread among 8 local churches, with 2 beneficiaries who are unbelievers and the rest being believers/actively involved within their local congregations. Thus, 8 local congregations are actively involved with the project, and have been greatly encouraged because of the project. The 'co-owner' relationship established a continuing partnership between the beneficiaries and their families and the local coordinating church/pastor, thus providing personal time for discipleship and evangelism...
"The project instantly connects the local church to its recipients: from the start (which involves interviews, home visits, assessment-which opens the homes of the recipients and their families to the message of God's love and mercy) to the 'co-owner' relationship status moving forward (which involves constant contact and communication/follow-up), the gospel is front and center. The gospel is not being peddled or sold via the work animals; rather, the project is a manifestation of God's care and love for the families -- a way by which God's presence and grace is made manifest by God's people coming to where they are, where the need is, instead of compelling them to come ('Can we come to visit you?' instead of 'Can you come and visit/join us?').
"This mission not only brought great encouragement and joy to the immediate beneficiaries and their families, but also to the pastors/field workers who were involved in it. [The assistant field coordinator] was so overjoyed the first time he learned that IDES provided this grant to us. He is a young pastor, who only a few years ago was so discouraged and disillusioned that he was about to quit the ministry totally. Because he is now very actively involved in all the IDES projects (Rebuilding and Emergency Assistance missions), his joy, enthusiasm and courage has been overflowing after being directly in the midst of all of God's magnificent display of love and mercy. His travels have taken him to places he had not imagined he woulf be visiting, and doing almost unbelievable missions of mercy and love, and to brethren/churches he had not even heard of.
"His amazement of God's provisions through IDES' faithful partnership at times of crisis and deep need has brought him from the brink of walking away from what he knows is his calling to a deep abiding faith and courage in his labor of love for His Master and Savior. He pastors around 100 members in his local church, and his enthusiasm and faith is now so contagious. Perhaps, instead of [only] relating how God has moved in the life/lives of those who the project was intended for, God now wanted His workers/shepherds in the field to be greatly encouraged and to see Him at work so powerfully. Perhaps the spirit in this pastor's heart now says, 'never again, oh my soul, will you ever doubt this powerful and glorious God that you serve and preach about.' For like Job, he will perhaps say, 'I have heard about you.. now I see you...'
"The Carabaos are a BIG blessing to the recipients/farmers! Praise God for IDES which chose to award this blessing to us, so we in turn can be be a blessing to these needy farmers and their families.
"All the recipients/beneficiaries of this Livelihood/Development Project were so surprised and so thankful that there are still people/organizations that do this just to help them and their families. This brought so much joy and encouragement to their families... Now that they own the animals themselves (co-owned with the local churches), they can just use all the proceeds from their farm produce to provide for their families’ needs. The congregation likewise rejoiced with them, and thank God, for IDES [and our churches], for reaching out to these needy farmers, and sharing God’s magnificent love and mercy in this manner.
"These water buffalos’ cost, at an average of P30,000 (around $ 600), is simply too much for these poor farmers to afford to buy on a one-time cash basis. These work animals may outlive the farmers (due to hard physical daily toll on the farmers), and are usually passed on to their children—a lifetime gift indeed for most of them! Each day they go out to till the field and use the work animal, they are reminded of God’s loving hands on their seemingly small and insignificant lives.. These blessings remain with them for a long time… Who knows if God reached out through this blessing to a farmer or his family who have given up, and are hopeless, not knowing what to do next?
"Praise God for IDES for giving us the resources so we can be partners, and not just recipients, in this life-changing blessing for these needy and poor families. Maybe not even one of them prayed for this miracle to be given them, and yet it was given them… 'Now unto Him who is able to do abundantly exceedingly above all we can possibly ask, think, or even imagine…' "
-IDES' local mission partner in the Philippines