The Gospel Lived Out:
Spiritual Renewal Brings Holistic Transformation
Written by Becky Rosaler on October 20, 2015 in Sower
This article originally appeared in the Fall Sower. If you missed it, read on and see how spiritual renewal is taking root through Plant With Purpose.
Lucas Frías de Los Santos held tightly to his belief that God was dead, a belief amplified by difficult life circumstances. His small village of Maizal, Dominican Republic is remote with few community commodities. It was a struggle to make a life for his wife and children. His farm did not produce enough to feed his large family, he had no way to save money, and his community was divided. Even if God was alive, Lucas thought, He certainly was not doing His job.
Ghandi famously said, “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” Such was the case for Lucas, who lacked food, economic opportunity, and hope. But in partnership with Plant With Purpose, God appeared to Lucas in the form of tangible resources like seeds and access to loans. Though most farmers in Maizal don’t make much money, they are seeing their resources multiply through wise stewardship. “We have learned that what little we earn, we must save,” he says. “It is the most important thing I have participated in,” Lucas shares.
PHYSICAL AND SPIRITUAL POVERTY
Poverty is both physical and spiritual. The condition of poverty surfaces as hungry stomachs, no place to call home, and limited options. Day to day survival leads to quick fixes, handouts, and band-aids. Spiritual poverty speaks of inadequacies, despair, and an inability to dream. The poverty trap keeps people down, with long-term solutions seemingly impossible to find.
Plant With Purpose is working toward holistic transformation where both physical and spiritual poverty are addressed. Our international team of development professionals are motivated by faith in God. This faith is gently integrated throughout the entire program so that spiritual renewal is present in all aspects of Plant With Purpose’s program. Before heading into the field to plant trees, prayers are spoken. While gathered for a Village Savings and Loan Association meeting, a Bible reflection is offered. And all aspects are done with the joy of the Lord. Luis Castellanos, country director of Plant With Purpose Mexico speaks to the heart of Plant With Purpose’s international programs, “We believe that every component of our work is a part of our ministry, and for this reason we don’t make distinctions between the physical and spiritual.”
For Lucas, training in sustainable agriculture helped him recognize the importance of caring for his land. “I learned to value the environment, which is part of God’s creation,” he says. And as he began caring for his environment out of love for its Creator, his farm production increased. Lucas and other Maizal farmers received training in soil conservation, organic fertilizers, and crop diversification. Farmers are rejuvenating aging cocoa trees through grafting and planting new varieties that will grow a higher yield of cocoa. Maizal’s cocoa production is aiding in their economic development.
Lucas, the farmer and father of five recently shared, “Plant With Purpose has helped me understand the immense love God has for me. I have grown in faith and acknowledge that there is life only in God and that He is far from dead.”
LOCAL CATALYST FOR GROWTH
Plant With Purpose’s goal in the Dominican Republic is to build the capacity of local churches to be catalysts for spiritual and developmental change in partnering communities. To work toward this end, Plant With Purpose provides workshops to equip pastors to lead, serve, and meet the physical and spiritual needs of their communities. Leaders determine the most pressing issues in the community and seek holistic solutions.
Pastors are catching the vision to be the church to their communities. Pastor Teodora Sanchez was looking for a way to get to the heart of her community of Loma Verde. Because of Plant With Purpose’s investment, she shares, “I learned that it is the responsibility of the church to be involved in community issues. Our church is impacting lives, and we are addressing some of the problems that have affected our community.”
In recent years, a pressing issue identified by communities was adult illiteracy. Plant With Purpose encouraged local congregations to find qualified teachers. Weekly meetings have been conducted at local churches like Pastor Teodora’s. The results have been life changing. Gregoria Suero can testify to this.
MAKING DREAMS REALITY
“When I was a girl I was unable to study. My parents never let me go to a school; their only concern was taking me with them to the farm and I was not allowed to go to a study center. I spent my life longing to study but I could not. Then I began living with a man I wasn’t married to and this made my life more difficult still,” Gregoria shares. Not being able to read or write, Gregoria’s identity card had three crosses in the place of her name. Feelings of shame followed Gregoria as she made her way through life. “I felt so ashamed every time I went to a place where I needed to show my identity card. Sometimes I wanted hide but it was inevitable to show my card.”
“When I heard about the literacy project, I thought this is the opportunity I never had.” Gregoria enrolled and eagerly learned to read and write, claiming it was one of the best decisions of her life. “The first thing I did was to go to the Central Electoral Board and change my identity card,” she shared.
The impact of this literacy project is much broader than Gregoria’s new identification card. The shame that followed her is gone. For the first time, Gregoria can read her Bible. In her newfound freedom she shares, “I would like to thank my God for this wonderful opportunity, to my professor Magali Lebron for his patience, Plant With Purpose for their support and supplies provided, and to Pastora Teodora Sanchez who helped me a lot. Thank you everyone for making my dream a reality in my life.”
Pastor Teodora did not stop at literacy groups. This everyday hero has led the way in implementing community recycling campaigns, providing education on the prevention of water-borne illnesses, and mentoring the youth in Loma Verde through weekly Bible studies. With encouragement from Plant With Purpose, Pastor Teodora’s ingenuity is impacting her community in new and lasting ways.
Solutions to both physical and spiritual poverty are working themselves out through Plant With Purpose’s holistic program. God is revealing Himself to countless farmers. Lucas and Gregoria are two who have experienced this transformation. In practical ways, their needs are being met and through those interactions, a deeper relationship with the Lord is being realized.