International Ministries

When a roof means there’s enough to eat

November 16, 2009 Journal
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Lubidi is a Baptist church center on the other side of the Kwilu River from Lusekele.  In the 1960s, evangelists planted churches among the Yanzi and Mbala people there and the gospel gained a foothold. Villagers and church members alike depend on farming for their livelihood.  The vitality of the farming system depends on healthy cassava. 

In 2003 the cassava was sick.  Cassava mosaic virus has spread all across central Africa.  Where there should have been robust plants with luxuriant, dark green leaves, the Lubidi farmers saw only weakened cassava with yellow blotched leaves and small tubers.  Hunger started to gnaw at the village.

Unsure what to do, a couple of church members came to the ag center at Lusekele to find out about new cassava varieties.  They returned to Lubidi with several bundles of seed cuttings to plant a test field.  

In the next three months it was evident that a change was taking place.  The new varieties grew fast and healthy, tall islands of green in seas of yellowed traditional varieties.  When the harvest time came around, people were astonished to see 6 or 7 large tubers on a single plant.  

From that first church multiplication field, members took cuttings and planted larger church field as well as trial plots in their own fields.  The 2005 and 2006 harvests confirmed that the new cassava produced 2 or 3 times as much and the rush was on to replace the traditional varieties.

In 2006, Pasteur Kikumbula and his wife joined the congregation, bringing the next generation of disease-resistant cassava from the ag center.  It took no coaxing for church members and their neighbors to plant the new varieties.

What difference has this made to the church and the village?  In 2008 the congregation raised a permanent tin roof over the site of the new church building.  (The roof goes up first to protect the adobe bricks from the rain.)  Income from the church cassava fields paid for the first sheets of corrugated roofing.  More importantly, each member household paid for another half sheet of roofing.  For the first time in nealy 40 years the congregation gathered in worship under a permanent roof instead of palm fronds or grass thatch.

The new permanent roof is remarkable in itself.  But perhaps more important is the fact that for the first time people have enough surplus to have a sense of security -- the security needed to purchase roofing.  That means there is enough to eat, enough for school fees and enough for the occasional visit to the local health nurse.  For the first time in years there is enough breathing space in the frantic struggle to survive that people can celebrate the abundance that God gives.  

New cassava varieties are God's provision for Lubidi Christians, for their neighbors and eventually for hundreds of thousands of other subsistence farmers in Congo.  But it takes pairs of willing hands and feet to bring the blessing to those in need.  That's what ACDI Lusekele is all about because it's part of what following Jesus is all about.