Dream Presentations (continued)
Joelma from Brazil lives in a community of landless farmers. Her dream is that land will be redistributed. Like many countries, a small percentage of Brazilians own a large percentage of the nation's land, creating a class of landholding elites. Much land goes to waste. Joelma and her community live on this land and support their lives by farming it. Her idea is that if more people have land, more people will have food. When she returns she plans to increase the community's self-sufficiency by applying the agricultural knowledge she gained here. She will also continue to help publish a national magazine for landless farmers.
Kengo wants to form an organic farm/community center. His dream is that everyone in his community may live a humanely satisfactory life. He plans to offer English or Japanese lessons at the center, to involve youth in agriculture and growing their own food, and to organize Bible studies. It is uncertain right now exactly where Kengo will find his community. He married Veny (today!), from Indonesia, and they are just beginning to dream of their life together.
Wilson has dreams for his rural community in the Philippines. He wants to practice sustainable agriculture and bring about community happiness. He wants to begin by demonstrating organic farming on his own land. Wilson is also a pastor and plans to teach about organic farming in his church's Sunday schools. He is also excited to work with a project for his sending body on a 10 hectare piece of land.
Joseph, a pastor from Papua New Guinea, dreams for his community to become self-sufficient. He hopes to reduce poverty by teaching some of the organic agriculture practices to other pastors in his community. His hope is that by teaching the pastors, they will in turn teach their congregations.
Catherine's dream for her community in Malawi is to reduce HIV/AIDS. She also hopes to mitigate the impact of such diseases by giving care and support to those who are infected and affected by the disease. Catherine believes organic farming that relies upon local resources can help her reach this goal. The transmission of HIV/AIDS is closely linked to prostitution. Prostitution is closely linked to the poverty in her community. Catherine is thinking that if more people can produce their own food, less people will need seek money through prostitution.
Hanifa from Liberia is also planning to share her learnings about sustainable organic agriculture. She wants to start a program at a nearby school in her community in which the students will learn about agriculture. This is important to her community because she knows there is a high level of high school drop-outs and people who cannot make it to college. She wants to give them some skills that will help them support themselves in their future. She is also planning to begin a garbage sorting program in her community. This would enable the community to produce their own compost. To do the sorting she would set up a program that would allow former criminals to do the sorting and receive pay. Hanifa and her husband are already farmers, but when she returns, she is going to begin to practice what she preaches. She will discontinue their use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
Lwin Lwin from Myanmar was feeling the pressure during his presentation. Two members of the organization that paid for his scholarship came to ARI to meet him and observe his plan for his dream. In his area, 70% of people are farmers. Their main crop is opium. He hopes to teach organic agriculture and start a micro-credit union so that farmers will not have to rely on selling the opium poppies.
Tito from Malawi dreams of turning his community into an exporting community where they can be proud of their products. He hopes to use the agricultural techniques he learned here at ARI, like making fertilizer and compost, to lessen the items imported so they can increase the items exported.
Niro is coming to us from the war-torn nation of Sri Lanka. One thing Niro is very concerned about is responsible use of water resources. Water in his region of Sri Lanka is very scarce. Lakes and ponds are valuable resources but recently there has been much deforestation around such reservoirs. This has caused erosion and depletion of water. He plans to continue reforestation efforts around these ponds. He also dreams of creating a demonstration farm in which youth from the opposing north and south regions come together to learn organic agriculture and also to learn about each other. In this way, he hopes to bring about some peace.
Marta from Indonesia dreams of changing her own farming methods and becoming a living example of what is taught here at ARI. She is a pastor/farmer that has also been using very expensive chemicals on her farm where she grows lots of chilies. By the time her chilies are bought by the middle man, there is little or no profit. The story is the same for many people in her community. To be a farmer is to be in debt from buying these expensive imported chemicals. Marta will begin teaching methods that do not rely on such expensive and destructive substances.
Ester's dream is to teach the younger generations how to manage land sustainably. She is from Malaysia. She will start practicing organic agriculture on her own first and then use her projects as a demonstration to her community.
Nishanta is also from Sri Lanka. His dream is to build an organic institute similar to ARI. He wants to bring youth from the different ethnic groups of Sri Lanka to work together on the farm. They will learn about agriculture and also they will learn to respect each other and live together.
Abik is a Methodist pastor from Myanmar. His dream is to bring peace and happiness to his community through organic agriculture. He knows that the first step in his plan is to discuss everything he has learned with his wife. He knows that if his wife does not support him, he can do nothing. If there is no peace in the home, how can their be peace in his community?
Joe from Cameroon dreams of finding a way to sell his farmers' products at fair prices. His plan is to found a pyramid cooperative system. He will not make the co-op exclusive to organic farmers. Many of the farmers in his area currently rely upon chemicals. His plan is to organize them in the co-op first and then attempt to start a dialogue about the use of chemicals vs. organic techniques.
Dolphe wants to bring organic farming to his community in the Philippines also. He knows it will be difficult because most of the farmers around him are already relying on chemicals. He will return to his farm and begin farming the organic way. Luckily his farm is near a central road so many can see his methods and results.
Thursday was our last community event day. We piled on the busses in our warmest clothes and headed for the mountains. Any day we can see these mountains from our fields. Lately they have been topped with snow. So we drove up until the roads were closed. Then we got out of the bus and hiked up the mountain path which was covered with snow. It seemed like we were climbing up and up forever. Maybe it took so long because we kept stopping to have snow ball skirmishes. Snow is a new experience for many of the participants so excitement was high. Even for us Arkansans, only used to one or two snows a year, the day was better than an outing to Disneyland.
Friday night, after we finished Foodlife work and had showered, we felt an earthquake coming on. The walls and windows of our room started swaying like a bad-dream. We waited for one second expecting it to die down but it only grew stronger. So we jumped out the door and off the porch, not even taking time to grab a jacket. We stood in the cold under the shivering trees, waiting for it all to stop. We could hear everyone else in the campus tumbling outside laughing and yelling to each other.
As many of you may have already read in the news, this was the strongest quake in Japan since the March 11th quake. Luckily, no one was hurt and there was no damage.
40th ARI Commencement Service
Jenny and I baked all afternoon Friday to prepare pumpkin cookies and blonde brownies for the graduation and for Veny and Kengo's wedding. Saturday we removed all of the tables from Koinonia and set up the chairs to receive the seats of two-hundred visitors that would come and witness the graduation of our participants from their ARI training program.
It was a wonderful ceremony, complete with speeches from the director, visitors, and of course the participants themselves. Marta from Indonesia gave the participant's speech.
Afterward, everyone snacked on the cookies we made and took pictures of each other. This went on for about an hour. Congratulations all around!
Veny and Kengo's Wedding
We woke up knowing that today would be an incredible day. Jenny spent all morning directing the preparation of the dinning hall for Veny and Kengo's wedding. We hung bamboo decorations (made using local resources), mopped the floors, arranged the chairs, spray-painted leaves, and prepared for the reception that was to follow the wedding. That mean more cookies!
The service went off with out a hitch. Kengo's family and friends came. All the ARI community was present. Act Ka Hti sang a song from her country and the ARI community sang as a choir, “This is the Day,” and, “God Bless You.”
They were happily married! It was so inspiring to see a couple standing together before God and their community, swearing their life to each other. They are both dedicated to making this world a better place to be alive. God will bless them in the days to come as they face the world together.
We are all going to get up at three o'clock tomorrow morning to see a handful of participants off. It is so hard to believe that they are actually going now. They will all return to their respective communities, carrying all the gifts that this incredible training has given them. Though it may feel like they are parting ways, their journey together is just beginning. The functioning ARI “theme-song” of sorts states, “together we will stand and together we will toil.” In the coming years these graduates will stand together to face the insanity of this churning world. They will stand together for the rights of rural people, for the rights of women, the right of every human to live life fully. They will toil together to empower their people and to sustain life for those coming next.
Your fellow servents in Christ,
Doug and Jenny Knight