This is a farming community and some of their strengths and assets are land and labor. It's always good to start with strengths. How could we assist in improving their farming yield to feed themselves better, improve nutrition and generate income with the surplus? We knew of an organization called Farming God's Way that helps people with limited resources improve their farming yields by teaching effective farming practices. It uses basic principles that improve soil quality, planting techniques to maximize growth, planning and attention to weather and weeds and wise use of resources like composting and mulching. Educating someone in the community this way could benefit everyone, so we sent a key community member to a year-long Farming God's Way farming school. After his training and internship he returned and taught what he'd learned. The community gained knowledge they could apply to the resources they already had- no capital was needed. Some people were able to increase farming yields and the diversity of crops, and improve their diet and their health. Some people began farming things for commercial sales, raising their income and enabling them to send some of their children to school. His education had impact. How much impact? I'd love to say an entire village, but that wouldn't be true, at least not yet.
This work takes time. The list of issues is long.
In many ways it would have been more satisfying to build a beautiful clinic or buy a new tractor, but then what? We all like nice neat outcomes. We like tangible results. We like before and after pictures. It's the way we are programed - to value product over process.
But isn't our life about the process?
Life is the journey to become our true selves and grow closer to God. We do this over time and through experience and along the way we help each other. Often our paths lead us into dark seasons, hard places. People in the villages know this vividly as they face frequent loss and work hard for little pay-off . But it's in the process of life that we can find our commonality, our shared humanity. Our stories and our days wear different clothing, but love and suffering and grace are universal. We can't forget this because remembering makes us more likely to "do with" and not "do for", to resist actions that send the subliminal message of "i can" and "you can't". Remembering this costs. It takes time. It can bring disappointment. Doing things together across cultures takes longer and there are more bumps on the road but it builds unity and understanding.
Of course outcomes are important. We want to have an impact. We want to see whether what we are doing is making a difference. But we can't forget about the benefit and role of qualitative research. Sometimes I wonder if we get so attached to our quantitative methods that we lose what can be learned from story.
Perhaps even in our own lives we should live into the process of our journey and be gentle. Look to what we are learning not merely what we are producing. And perhaps what we ought to want more than outcomes is story.
That is what will be here. I will be sharing the stories. The process. Because we believe that is where the truth is, where the fullness is and where real and lasting change happens both for ourselves and in our work.