the making of a conference

the making of a conference

Choshen Farm didn’t start out planning to be a camp and conference center. It’s one of the ministries that we sort of fell into, or better said, one of the ministries that God unfolded for us over time.

 

Back in 2009, we built a few bunk houses to help out some of the orphans in our circle who had no place to go. And as we started doing more theological training outside of our immediate area, we found the bunk houses useful and started dreaming about building more. Soon, as our modest seminars grew into full blown conferences, we intentionally grew our facilities accommodate our programs.

 

As we grew, we drew attention from area churches who were also holding retreats and conferences, but were restricted to using school classrooms during break times, sleeping on the floor and spilling out the door for lack of space.

 

Pastors started asking us if they could use our farm for their leadership meetings and we were glad to serve them in that way. And then the average group size got bigger and bigger. And then area pastors started approaching us more frequently and we realized the huge need in the body of Christ for a PLACE. A place to meet and pray, in peace and harmony, without paying exorbitant prices to meet in crummy classrooms.  

 

And so we started to build. Toilets and showers and more bunk houses and most recently a dormitory. We built a beautiful lecture hall and started adding additional activities and landscaping to demarcate the farm from the conference facility. Overnight we were seeing groups of 100, 250, 400, 650 attending week long retreats and conferences, each group trusting us with their care.

Initially, the learning curve was steep. Do you know how much mealie meal you need to feed 100 people? We do! We quickly figured out just how much of everything we needed to pull of a successful conference for a sizeable group.

 

For 100 people, attending for one week, we go through roughly…

 

10 bags of charcoal

25 kg of salt

100 liters of cooking oil

1,000 cookie packets

100 chickens

25 kg of beef

1000 tilapia fish

200 kg mealie meal

500 eggs

10 tubs of peanut butter

20 loaves of bread…

 … and we have eight people on our event staff making sure that the chairs are dusted and taps aren’t left on and there is toilet paper in the bathrooms and everyone is happy.

If our context were different - if we were in the United States, we’d probably be partnering with a catering company and using a hired facility or even an event management company. Running a program in the Zambian bush requires that we rely on local resources and product availability, and tap into the man (and woman) power of our neighbors. Our events may not be polished or magazine worthy, but somehow, that doesn’t seem to be the point here. The fellowship and community found at Choshen Farm is what stands out to all who join us.

We ask for the churches to contribute something to our costs, but the marjory of each conference’s expenses are absorbed by Choshen as a part of our service and in response to our mission to “Build the local church.” Serving 100 people for one week usually costs us around $2,000. Hosting roughly a dozen such groups each year, camps, conferences and theological training requires a hefty budget. We see it as an investment in God’s people.

 

And as a result, the churches of Luapula are growing deeper in their knowledge and love of the Lord. 

 

So sometimes its a little chaotic. Sometimes we wish we could just order in pizzas for everyone. Sometimes we wish we had a thousand more beds and an industrial kitchen and an air conditioned auditorium. But we ALWAYS know that God is good, and taking good care of us and all of his people. These conferences are just ONE way that He is building HIS church and our hearts are encouraged by the Spirit’s move.

hunger no more

hunger no more

Food, Glorious Food!

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Today on the blog we are talking about Food Security and what that means in Zambia and more specifically for our neighbors here in Fimpulu. 

FOOD SECURITY: TECHNICALLY

Food security, in technical terms means four things:

the availability

and accessibly

of a sufficient quantity

of high quality food.

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In other words, for a family to be food secure, there must be plenty of really good, nutritious food, right there and ready to eat all the time.

If you live in the first world – in a place with grocery stores and refrigerators, in a country trying to eat less food and not more – then the idea that millions of families are actually food insecure might be a hard concept to wrap your mind around.

In Zambia, upwards of 60% of the population is considered “food inadequate.” This means that almost 10 million people do not have enough, good food on a regular basis. The ramifications of food insecurity are drastic. Over 7 million Zambian’s are considered malnourished, and over half of all children are classified as permanently stunted. 

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BRINGING IT CLOSER

So what does this look like in Fimpulu?

It looks like skinny kids with distended bellies and copper colored hair.

It looks like funerals for three year olds who simply wasted away.

It looks like developmental delays due to lack of proper nutrients.

It looks like chronic health issues due to deprived immune systems.

It looks like failing to sit up straight in school because of hunger pangs.

It looks like girls trading sex for an extra bag of food for her family. 

SO WHAT EXACTLY CAUSES FOOD INSECURITY? 

Good question! Here are some answers.

Most experts would say that rural Zambia suffers from food insecurity because of lack of education, resources and infrastructure. But what does that mean? What exactly is needed? Well, in Fimpulu we can break down the macro-level causes of food insecurity by highlighting the four main challenges:

1)    Goats & pigs.

Because goats and pigs free range in order to feed themselves, any attempt at a household garden basically becomes an animal buffet, so most people don’t even try. And because Fimpulu is a subsistence agriculture society, if people don't grow it, they don't eat it. And thanks to goats and pigs, little is being grown. 

2)    No water.

Seasonally, Zambia experiences six months straight of rain followed by six months straight of drought. What that means is that for those who are willing to fight the destruction of animals, those farmers still only have water for their gardens six months out of the year. What this translates to is a minimum of six months of no food production.

3)    Maize monotony.

Since fresh food is hard to come by, people focus on growing maize in bulk during the rainy season so that they will at least have maize meal for nshima – the staple food of Zambia. Nshima (white corn/maize meal and water) comprises the largest part of the Zambian diet and, while an important source of calories, is of little nutritional value.

4)    Storage crisis.

What maize is grown is then completely sold to the government because… where are we going to keep it? Eventually, people will end up buying back their maize a bit at a time, but at double the price, leaving little money left over to buy nutritious food. 

 

SO HOW CAN WE SOLVE THESE PROBLEMS?

I’m so glad you asked! Despite the fact that these problems have existed for generations, solutions are within reach! Here are the four solutions corresponding to the four main problems.

1)    Goats and Pigs? PEN THEM UP.

Not rocket science. The reason why pigs and goats free-range is because fencing on a household level is cost prohibitive. However, at Choshen Farm, we have created a livestock owners cooperative whereby all goats and pigs from a given region are penned up to remove the threat. Periodic sales from offspring are used to buy and maintain fencing, creating a sustainable program and freeing everyone up to plant without concern! 

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2)      No water? INSTALL PUMPED AND PIPED WATER SYSTEMS.

The 6 month long drought season can be eliminated with the installation of pumped and piped water systems bringing an abundance of water to every household and allowing for garden irrigation and food production year round. 

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3)    Maize monotony? SEED DISTRIBUTION.

Once household gardens are a real possibility thanks to the absence of goats and the presence of water, families can start thinking about the variety of foods needed to become and stay healthy. Foods like cabbage, soybeans, tomatoes, peanuts and carrots can be grown so long as education and seeds are provided to get the ball rolling. 

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4)    Storage Crisis? STORAGE DRUMS.

Plastic drums with tight sealing clamps can easily store a year’s worth of maize for a family allowing them to have access to their staple food – an important source of calories – year round. 

 

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PROBLEMS IDENTIFIED. PROBLEMS SOLVED.

 

A COMPREHENSIVE and well COORDINATED effort stands an excellent chance of completely ELIMINATING hunger and malnutrition across the region. By fencing in animals, installing water systems, distributing seeds and providing storage drums, we can absolutely change the statistics of Fimpulu to ensure every household is food SECURE!

 

So what is needed to make this happen?

Here’s the truth:

We have the man power.

We have the technical expertise.

We have the community buy-in.

We need funding for implementation.

Thus far in our food security fundraising we’ve raised roughly $20,000 of the necessary $80,000  to bring fencing, water, seeds, and storage to the families of Fimpulu.

How can we help?

Thank you for your willingness to help! Here are some ideas to get you started:

(1)  Give!

Every penny helps and YES – you are making a difference. Visit https://www.choshenfarm.org/donate/  for more info. 

(2)  Get social!

Tap into the compassion of your  social media network by launching a crowdfunding campaign! By setting a goal on a platform such as GoFundMe or You Caring (“I’m trying to raise $500 for food and water in Zambia!”), you can rally social engagement and make it easy for friends to give to a great cause!

(3)  Make the ask on our behalf!

Have a party! Or a get together! Or an info session! Or whatever works in the circles you run in! Invite friends over and make it fun. How about a “Wine for water” party, or an “Eat so they can eat” dinner where your friends can sip wine or chow down and learn what it takes to sink a well or provide food in rural Zambia. Cap off the night with a chance to donate and see just how far your impact can go!

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Ready to get started? Get in touch with us for additional promo materials or to make a donation today!

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sex in the village

sex in the village

Sex in the village? What's there to talk about? A lot, actually!

Jeremy was recently asked to lead a day long retreat for couples to discuss the one topic  Zambian Pastors are squeamish about: SEX. It’s a topic that many of our partner churches are happy to hand off. As one pastor said to us, “We know you can talk about this because we’ve seen the American movies… we know how you people are…”

 

Uh. Thanks Hollywood. All Americans are flirtatious hussies, apparently.

 

This is actually the second time we’ve been asked to speak on this topic and I think word has traveled that the Colvins will not shy away from the word SEX or anything pertaining to it. Our strength here, however, lies not in our American spiciness, but in our understanding of Bemba cultural expectations of marital intimacy.

 

When we were first married, I, Bethany, received very thorough training on how to be a "good" wife. Don’t burn the nshima. Sweep the house before the sun comes up. Make your husband happy. (I'm half way decent, I think.)

 

I was actually sworn to secrecy regarding the details of how to make my husband happy, (its ok American ladies, your hips don’t move like that anyway) but the take-away message of the training summarizes a lot: do it right, or he will find someone who can.

 

One of the features of the tribal culture is that there is a rule for everything. There is a right way to shake hands, a right way to cut vegetables, a right way to carry a baby and yes, a right way to make love. The consequences of wrong action are relationally heavy – dismissal, rejection, even anger.

 

Because a wife is taught how to “do it right,” it is expected that she will perform well, and not only that, at the end, she’s expected to kneel and clap for her husband and tell him that he did a good job.

 

As we’ve spent a lot of time learning and working to understand the motivation behind these techniques, it stands out to us that, from a Christian/Biblical standpoint, there are a few features of village sex that are missing, namely:

 

Grace

 

Tenderness

 

Mutual Respect

 

 

And so when Jeremy organized his sessions, his aim was to bring to light what it means to bring Jesus into the bedroom.

 

Some of the key points included:

 

Dear husbands, sex is not about what you are receiving, but what you are giving. Does your wife feel cherished by you? (And all the women clapped.)

 

Dear husbands, Jesus says to consider your spouse better than yourself, which means her satisfaction is MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOURS. (And all the women clapped.)

 

Dear husbands, did you know that your wives have the ability to orgasm? (And all the people blushed and stared at Jeremy with the widest eyes possible).

 

Dear husbands, children are not the measure of your manhood and you should not aim to produce more children than you can care for. (And all the women clapped.)

 

Dear husbands, you ought to love your wife’s body more than you love your own, and should therefore not rush her to get pregnant until her body has rested and is ready. (And all the women clapped.)

 

Dear husbands, sex is an act of worship. Therefore, when you are finished, it is not for your wife to kneel before you, but for both of you to kneel before God and tell Him that He has done a good job. (And all the women clapped.)

 

The emphasis of every session was that of relationship. God’s relationship with us, and our relationship with each other, helping both men and women to see how our culture ought not define the way we love and make love, but rather God’s great love for us.

 

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how to not be a rockstar (and what to be instead)

how to not be a rockstar (and what to be instead)

Short Term Teams. Depending on where you are in the missions world, that phrase makes some say YAY, some say UGH, and some say HMM… More than a few articles have made their way around the internet regarding the impact of teams, including the good, the bad and the ugly.

One common feature of many short-term teams is that they are given “rockstar” treatment. Characteristics of the rockstar treatment include host country nationals acting SUPER EXCITED and dolling out lots of enthusiasm and awe and praise. A good amount of research suggests  that this phenomenon comes about  largely because of culture, and unfortunately, more than a few Americans let it go to their heads. It is common for short term missionaries to draw conclusions based on their warm welcome: "I must be awesome! This message really connected! In just a few minutes, we've made life-long friends!"

So well documented is this occurrence of rockstar mentality that after the first day with our most recent team – a team giving performances, no less – I steeled myself for what felt like the inevitable. As was predictable, our team was swarmed by kids, followed by a cacophony of something akin to “OH MY GOSH ITS JUSTIN BEIBER!”along with all the hugs, all the selfies, all the stroking of hair and skin, and capped of with the ultimate ego boosters of “please don’t leave! we love you! stay forever!!!”After that first day of back-to-back chaotic receptions – (and seeing our our Zambian partners clearly overwhelmed by the fan-fair) – I wondered, can we even be effective like this? 

However, things got better as time went on, and I want to take this opportunity to spew a little praise for our most recent team as they completely surprised us by not only accurately identifying the rockstar treatment for what it was, but by also strategizing about how to leverage their position for good and not frivolity.  

In fact, this team fabulously demonstrated four attitudes that countered the rock star treatment with four basic convictions. They skillfully re-wrote the script in four ways, declaring, “We are not rockstars. Instead… _________________.”

 

… we are pawns.

                        Many teams that fall into rockstar mentalities accidentally end up putting themselves in the center of it all. It becomes a lot of WE WE WE, at the end of which the team really believes that it manufactured and perpetrated its own awesomeness. This team did an incredible job of letting themselves be used. They gave almost all authority to the locals who had certain goals and expectations, and fell in line accordingly. They offered themselves up moment by moment to flexibly go and do as was needed; an act of humility that did not go unnoticed. 

… we are students.

A lot of teams never really THINK about why their time and interactions have mattered. And honestly, many do not really care! The rockstar treatment makes them feel awesome, (300 people shook my hand and smiled at me!) but also tends to over-inflate their sense of usefulness. This team debriefed like it was their job. They asked questions of culture and effectiveness. They talked about how to communicate and connect better EVERY SINGLE DAY. They learned intentionally and were steadily changed by those lessons.

…we are planters.

A major pitfall of many teams is that they perceive the rockstar treatment as a just reward for their awesome work. Despite having been in the country for only a few hours, many short termers falsely associate praise as a sign of an easy harvest. This team recognized that their message was just one seed planted among many, and moreover, that it will all likely be harvested by the long-term locals who remain after them.   

… we are a dot.

For many teams, the rockstars are the MAIN event. Their program is the be all and end all and deprives due praise from all those who have come before and those will come long after the team is gone. This team did encouraged and empowered the local pastors who have labored so hard to get this far. Furthermore, they recognized that God has planned all these things since the foundations of the earth and that this one trip is a mere dot on the grand timeline. They perceived it as grace that God would let them participate, and in doing so, redirected all glory and praise to Him. 

Truly, short term missions has a role to play and despite all of the challenges and flaws of crossing cultures and interjecting for a short time – it is refreshing to remember that God somehow uses all these things for our good and His glory. I pray that every team that goes out this summer trades in the title of rockstar for pawn, student, planter and dot.

celebration of growth

celebration of growth

Ten years ago when we started out on this adventure called Choshen Farm, we had no idea what was ahead of us… or how much we would be changed by the journey. There is something about reaching the milestone of a DECADE overseas that has turned us reflective. I’ve been nostalgically scrolling through pictures, remembering when… and being so very thankful for all that has happened in our time here.

As I scroll, these pictures make me just swoon with happiness. Look at those faces! They were so little! Gosh they’ve grown so much! … And my immediate thought response is, and so have we.

We came as babies and now we have babies of our own. Once ambitious kids, we’ve since grown our confidence and skill, having toned down our arrogance and grown our dependence on God. The act of reflection is the seed of wisdom, as we consider what God has done around, in and through us, we are shaped for the future – and for the better.

As I share with you all these precious shots of our favorite people growing up, I want to also share some of the favorite lessons that have grown up in us in the last ten years.

1. Without relationship, there is no change.

            Early on, we would set up programs designed to lead people towards change, only to be disappointed when our products were consumed and people walked away no different than they were before. We started to observe a correlation between the depth of our friendships and our influence in people’s lives. That old saying, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” is spot on. The closer the relationship, the more fruitful the discipleship. Every. Single. Time.          

 

2. Relationships don’t happen over night.

            A wise person once told us, the hardest part of relationships is simply showing up… again, and again and again. However, cross-cultural relationships are hard, and often feel so inefficient. But barriers of language and trust and understanding don’t disappear in an afternoon. Sometimes, it takes years to build up the bonds of friendship. Side-by-side working, all the nshima meals, messing up and asking for forgiveness – year, after year, after year. It’s good, and hard, and necessary.

 

 

3. All people are fallen. Including me.

It has been said, “the greatest challenge to moving overseas is that you take your sin with you.” Despite all of our best intentions, we are still fallen creatures – selfish, greedy, self-centered. Sometimes – too often – I am easily frustrated and unwilling to give any more of myself. I’ve withheld grace from people who have sinned against me because I feel somehow justified in my own self-righteousness. Without fail, the Lord has found ways to humble me, reminding me that I am no less sinful than anyone else. A right view of self is necessary for loving others well.

 

 

4. Growing pains and grace must be embraced.

            Along the road of learning language and culture and figuring out “best-practice,” it is pretty easy to feel like a constant failure, even if everyone back home says you are doing great. Even when we feel like nothing is going as planned, its important to remember that God is always doing more in and through us than what we can perceive. We are loved and accepted apart from our performance. Only when we embrace that truth do we truly proclaim the gospel.

 

 

5. Lasting change doesn’t happen overnight.

            The proof of love is TIME. Over the years, the comment has switched from “we’re so glad you came!” to, “we’re so glad you stayed!” Back in 2007, visiting NGO’s were constantly telling the community “don’t depend on Choshen… they won’t always be here…” But now that we’ve outlived multiple USAID grant cycles, it’s the community that speaks up, “don’t depend on the NGOs – they won’t always be here, BUT JEREMY AND BETHANY WILL!”

 

 

6. It is so very worth it.