Josh Anderson is a Samaritan’s Purse staff writer. He recently traveled to Kenya with staff photographer David Morrison to record some of what God is doing through our work in this part of East Africa. Over the course of 11 days, they saw a variety of farming, forestry, water, and discipleship projects that are bringing the hope of Jesus Christ to poor and disadvantaged people throughout the country.
My wife’s grandfather spent nearly six decades farming 400 acres of land in rural Iowa. From the time the sun peaked over the rows of corn in the morning until it finally called it a day and drifted gently behind the western horizon, Grandpa Gene could be found working in his fields.
Black dirt, blue sky, and green plants filled his office. His desk was a John Deere tractor. Yet farming provided Gene with much more than a field of dreams and the means to provide for his family.
The tilled earth was Gene’s sanctuary, and it was here among the wind-tussled cornstalks that God whispered His truth: “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:7-8, NKJV).
Years of high yields and poor harvests, big demand and low prices, plenty of rain, flooded soil, and bone-dry dirt had trained Gene to be patient. Callouses that formed as a result taught him to find strength in the Lord.
The moment I met Simon Mondina while traveling in Kenya, I recognized that he demonstrated many of the same qualities as Gene. He was humble. He spoke with quiet confidence. And yet his faith in God was undeniable. It must be a farmer thing.
Simon, like most poor farmers in Kitui County, suffered greatly during a severe drought that parched much of East Africa between July 2011 and mid-2012. This part of the world relies heavily on two rainy seasons to provide most of their water for the year. But the rains were sparse, which left millions clinging to life.
“Everyone was suffering,” Simon recalled. “We were all starving.”
It was the worst drought in 60 years. The famine that followed caused a severe food crisis across Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya that threatened the livelihood of 9.5 million people. Many refugees from southern Somalia fled to neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia, where crowded, unsanitary conditions together with severe malnutrition led to a large number of deaths.
Samaritan’s Purse has operated a field office in Kenya since 1998, and we were able to provide emergency food and water to hundreds of thousands of people, along with other long-term relief efforts across Kenya.
Simon was part of a group that was taught about dry-land farming by our teams. These techniques included collecting rainwater, cultivating seedlings, and using safe methods for pest control. With this knowledge, local farmers would no longer have to rely solely on the rainy seasons for their livelihood.
Simon took what he learned and built on it by constructing a large greenhouse for his young tomatoes, kale, and onions. He used his own money to purchase drip lines that provide regular amounts of water throughout the day to ensure they grow.
“These drip lines are like a miracle from God,” Simon said. “They provide a full day’s worth of water before running out.”
His patience and perseverance is paying off. These days a smile creases easily across Simon’s face as he talks about what’s on the horizon for his modest farmstead. It has already grown to include a beehive for honey, cows, goats, and the beginnings of several additional innovations.
Joy bubbles out of Simon like his miracle drip lines. Just one look at him and his wife, Florence, confirms that more is flourishing on this farm than crops and livestock.
“God is watching over us,” he said. “He is always providing for His people so we can grow in our reliance on Him.”