Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Goats and the Gospel

Providing goats for livelihood opens doors for the Gospel in Niger.

Providing goats for livelihood opens doors for the Gospel in Niger.

A Samaritan's Purse livestock project in Niger provides opportunities to share the Gospel and also meet physical needs

For a visitor to Guidan Baje in Niger, it might have been a surprise to see sheep and goats in the middle of the village.

Village children join their parents at the distribution.

Village children join their parents at the distribution.

Samaritan’s Purse staff working with the livestock project tried to chase the livestock into some kind of organization, while children clambered over walls and each other to see the commotion. Adults from the village gathered in a crowd, some seated, some standing in the 108-degree heat, watching and waiting for activities to begin.

This is livestock distribution in Niger—one part careful planning, one part modifying the plan onsite, and one part chasing sheep.

The project works with villages to target families in need, such as those with widows, elderly, or many children. Village leaders and chiefs work together to decide which families have the most need, and then Samaritan’s Purse selects families to receive four goats and one ram.

These goats are a temporary loan to the families so that they can begin to raise livestock. When the goats produce offspring, the families then return four young goats to the project so that they can be transferred to new families and the process can be repeated.

Open Doors for the Gospel

When I came to Guidan Baje with the livestock team, the distribution began with a short introduction from one of the project staff named Sani Toukour. He explained that Samaritan’s Purse is a Christian organization and spoke about how this motivates the livestock project.

Goats provide villages with a sustainable way to provide food for their families.

Goats provide village families with a sustainable way to provide food.

This introduction happens at every distribution so that those in the villages will know what it means to be a Christian. Some villages in Niger have never met a Christian, which makes the role of Samaritan’s Purse so important.

After the introduction to the distribution, the chaos started again as the staff began to distribute livestock to families. Many of the families were new beneficiaries, and were receiving goats and sheep that had been transferred from other members of the village. There was a good deal of pushing, pulling, and prodding involved in giving the goats and sheep to their new homes.

Since the project chooses the poorest of the villages, the impact on their lives is tremendous. Their social status in the village has changed because they own livestock, and since they’re able to sell livestock and generate income, they’re also able to save money or give loans to their neighbors. As a result, those who were the least in the villages become some of the most important, able to help their own families and their entire villages as well.

Samaritan's Purse livestock staff work with village leaders to distribute goats to the village.

Samaritan’s Purse livestock staff work with village leaders to distribute goats to the village.

The goal of the livestock project is to not only give goats and sheep to help in the short term, but to teach households how to raise livestock for the long term. Families will then be able to continue to sell animals and to buy meat and eggs.

This is the goal of the livestock project – to produce lasting change not only in food security and household status, but to show the love of Christ so that people will know Jesus.

“We share the love of our God, and we do what Jesus has told us to do,” said Daouda Jacques, one of our livestock coordinators.

And this is the hope of the livestock team: That hearts will be forever changed by the love of Christ.

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