Posts Tagged ‘ farm ’

ICM: Changing the Face of Poverty

International Care Ministries in the Philippines.  Awesome people, amazing mission, brilliantly executed.

I’ve been a fan of ICM — an organization dedicated to changing the face of poverty the Philippines — since I attended a presentation in a DC conference room over a year ago. I was quickly enamored by their model of ministry and their well-constructed strategy designed to meet the needs of the poorest of the poor on a holistic level.

Naturally, when an invitation came to spend a week with them to learn more about their programs and management in the Philippines with the backing of one of my generous supporters, I leapt at the chance.  I spent a week traveling around the country with a group of ICM staff, supporters, potential partners, and a handful of other missionaries from Cambodia and Indonesia.  I made some great like-minded and like-hearted friends, and came back to Thailand re-energized, loaded with ideas and equipped with some concrete tools to integrate into our work here.

ICM has developed a “values, health and livelihood” curriculum which they deliver through three- or six-month training programs, administered in partnership with local pastors reaching the poorest of the poor in their communities.

I geeked out a bit when we dove into their livelihood curriculum which includes teaching vermiculture (worms!) and vegetable gardening or container farming (in coke bottles or old tires) for homes without space for a garden.  We visited the demonstration farms but also saw their practices being employed in rural villages, fishing communities and slum communities alike. (The second photo below was a model for slum community projects.) I took the liberty of asking the local kids whether or not they liked the vegetables they were growing, to which I got a resounding “yes.”

ICM also operates preschools for those with limited or no access to educational opportunities; they currently have 80 preschools around the country serving 2,000 kids and their families. We not only got to spend some time doing activities with the kids but attended several graduation ceremonies; each consisting of about 300 confident five-year-olds running around in caps and gowns.  (And I thought Thai kids were cute…)

They have also recently started a malnourished children feeding program and run a number of other “mercy” programs designed to provide special assistance to individuals and families in need.  These range from funding special medical cases for poor individuals facing serious illness to operating a children’s shelter, and from partnering in slum reconstruction to providing economic opportunities for at-risk women.

Malnourished children program

Slum Community Reconstruction

It was awe-inspiring to see ICM’s presence and hear and see firsthand stories of their impact; they are an organization on mission to change the face of poverty in the Philippines, and they’re actually doing it.  They have a solid staff, strategy driven management with Kingdom vision.  I can’t think of a better model to learn from.

On a personal level, I admit I was a little worried my “squirrel” syndrome would take over when I got there and I wouldn’t want to come home to Thailand.  That wasn’t the case at all.   Though I certainly fell in love with the adorable kids and was quite jealous of the fact that the Philippines is a) already predominantly Christian and b) largely English-speaking… I found that I itched to get back to Thailand where the kids and families weren’t just new faces to me, but I knew their stories.  And I’m not merely a visitor to them, I’m now auntie Cori.  Despite the language barrier here (which is getting easier by the day) and the relative spiritual darkness we face, I would still choose Thailand any day of the week.  It’s home for me for now.

So… now my challenge is to apply some of the good stuff I learned.

Next up:  Stories from Buriram…

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Cultivate… What’s in a Word?

Considering where I’ve come from, where I am, and where God seems to be leading, I can think of very few words saturated with more meaning than the word “cultivate.”

I spent my “growing-up years” as the youngest of five kids on a large farm and ranch in scenic northern Idaho.  Springtime was spent moving cattle, putting up hay, hauling rocks and roguing weeds out of fields.  Summer was spent working 14+ hour days harvesting those amber waves of grain about which we sing so proudly. Fall was spent celebrating the victory of harvest, regardless of the size of the crop, and preparing the ground for the next season.  Somewhere in there we found time to camp, fish and explore the great outdoors, simply by stepping out our back door and into the forested playground that we were so blessed to call home. And my librarian mother always made sure we had a book in hand to expand our imaginations even further than the forests would push them.

It was just as idyllic as it sounds. Despite detesting the long hours of hard labor that were required of all of us kids to “keep the farm running” (or, more likely, to instill character), I think all of us kids would agree that we wouldn’t trade it for the world.

One of the many reasons I wouldn’t trade it: I learned the deep significance of cultivation.  I saw year in and year out the work that it took to grow a crop. The careful preparation of the ground. The sowing of seeds. The attention to the growing process to manage weeds and pests. The necessity of water and importance of the seasons.  The gravity of the task of feeding both your neighbor and the world. The faith that God would provide the increase and the fortitude to return to the fields to plant another crop even if we didn’t see the increase the year (or years) prior.

The years on the farm instilled a deep appreciation for God’s miraculous and powerful hand in the growing process. It gave me a deeper understanding of the importance of seasons. I understood the devastation of losing a crop, only to return to sow again with faith that God’s promised “increase” may look different than you expect.

You might say God was cultivating in me an understanding of both beauty and hardship, and slowly revealing the meaning of faith.

Since leaving the farm and pursuing career, passions, community, calling, and a life away from that largely idyllic scene, I have found that God has continued to cultivate these lessons and values in my heart and in my life.

He’s continuing to deepen and broaden my understanding of who He is – a God of beauty, wonder, compassion, power, mystery, and victory – and who I am in Him – a child of God on an adventurous journey of faith.

So don’t be surprised if you see a theme throughout this blog:  Cultivation.  I would predict that most of my musings will likely center around my life spent cultivating – cultivating dreams, passions, callings, relationships – and being cultivated by the Master Gardener and Author of Life itself.

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