Planting the Seeds…
by Pamela Taormina
I think the first seed was planted about 10 years ago when Ken and I met Father Given Gaula. He was a young Tanzanian seminary student coming to study at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia. We were still living in Northern Virginia and had been open to the idea of hosting a foreign student for a while, but the timing had just never been quite right. So when the opportunity presented itself to host a student (albeit a more mature one) for a week and we were going to be in town we volunteered.
From the moment we picked him up at the international terminal at Dulles airport and heard his cheerful “Hallo” I knew we were going to be in for a delightful experience. Given did not disappoint – we learned much from each other over the next 2 years as he completed his studies at VTS, and spent weekends and holidays with us in Virginia. Given in his inimitable way was able to secure a full scholarship for his wife Lilian (also an Anglican priest) to come to the US and study at another seminary in Pennsylvania. Their three children stayed behind in Dodoma, Tanzania with Given’s mom. We were so impressed by their holistic spiritual and practical approach to serving God’s people in Tanzania. We committed ourselves to doing whatever we could do to assist them in this endeavor. At the beginning this involved supporting them and their family in New Zealand while Given completed his doctorate. But God has a funny way of challenging our plans – for while Given and Lilian thought they were to return to Tanzania and teach at St. John’s University in Dodoma, the people of the diocese of Kondoa had elected Given their Bishop! After much prayer and consideration of the sacrifices that would have to be made, especially concerning the education of the children – you see there is no secondary school in Kondoa, the children live in Dodoma with their grandmother and attend school there - it was decided that Given should accept the honor to become the Bishop of Kondoa.
It quickly became apparent that the challenges of providing for a spiritual awakening were intertwined with the realities of the daily struggle for food by the residents of the diocese. The vast majority of the population of Kondoa are subsistence farmers who rely on the hoped for rainy season to be able to grow their food for the coming year. But large parts of East Africa have been in a drought situation for several years, and even in the best of times, the crops never last throughout the year. So this is where the seed began to grow… (Pardon the pun) I stumbled upon an amazing organization right here in Winter Park that has been working with subsistence farmers in Malawi for several years.
Africa Windmill Project is based on the principle that you meet people where they are, you have respect for them and that you walk beside them on your journey. The idea is to help small holder farmers learn how to irrigate their crops using very basic hand pumps, grading of the soil, composting, seed harvesting, proper storage of crops, the slow introduction of additional nutritional crops to enhance the diet all through the creation of agricultural clubs. They have a collaborative approach that involves the sharing of ideas with other organizations. The goal is to have the local farmers take true ownership of their lives. And it is working – there are farmers now that grow crops year round – a variety, not just cassava, potatoes and maize. Some of the farmers are confident enough in their own abilities that they are making their own innovations and suggestions of new ways to be more productive! Some farmers have a surplus and are able to sell their crops in the local markets. There is a new sense of hope in the future – that there will be a future!
That is why I am going with the Drakes and their kids to see what they’ve been able to accomplish in Malawi. Bishop Given has already been to visit the demonstration gardens there and has identified some possible locations to start a new Africa Windmill Project in Kondoa, Tanzania.
We will be evaluating those locations also on this trip. I am so excited to be able to share this experience with you. I know that it will be truly transformative. We begin the journey tomorrow – planting the seeds.