September 27, 2016

I currently work in the “Life Empowering Technology & Science” Department at the University of the Nations campus, a part of YWAM Kona.

A few years ago I never would have thought this is where I would be… and this is a bit of that journey…

My day-to-day work happens primarily in our Natural Farm Training Center, where we focus on teaching and demonstrating; Ways to grow and prepare nutritious, sustainable organic food, Alternative forms of renewable energy, Water collection and purification, Low/No cost methods of building structurally sound shelters, Basic sanitation practices to help prevent disease, sickness, and infection.

Food. Energy. Water. Shelter. Sanitation.

We see these as all aspects of our vision, which is to “Empower People with the Holistic Gospel” We train and equip international missionaries, short-term outreach teams, and other individuals with these valuable tools of community restoration.

Addressing both physical needs and spiritual needs in sustainable and empowering ways is how we roll.

So, how did I end up here?

I have been in full-time ministry for about 10 years now, most of that time has been spent either as an international field-missionary, an outreach coordinator, or a trainer of missionaries… and I have seen things done extremely well on the “mission field” and sometimes not so well.

I have experienced and taken part in countless dramas, street performances, dances, sermon-ettes, one-on-one evangelistic outreaches, large auditorium filled Gospel presentations, construction projects… and almost every other type of “ministry tool” that can be used on an outreach.

I think that all of these things can be very impactful, heart changing, and transformational and have seen all of them done well in ways that show compassion and dignity, but about 4 years ago I started wondering if there wasn’t something missing; something more…

We had just returned from a 2 month long outreach in Nepal. My wife and I had brought a small team of YWAM students and staff to serve alongside our full-time international Nepali missionaries serving in Kathmandu, Pokhara, and the surrounding villages. We had some awesome and talented dancers sharing their gift throughout this time, we supported the local house churches in the villages with encouraging messages and times of worship. Our team helped lay the foundations for a new church building in the middle of a field, and presented the Gospel and prayed for hundreds of people during open-air presentations in the middle of Kathmandu… it was a beautiful time for our team and the missionaries we were working with and the Nepali people seemed to dig it too.

A couple of weeks after we got back I started asking myself a question though, or rather a question came to my mind that I just couldn’t shake…

“Why not Rabbits”

You see, while we were out in the villages my wife and I slept in a loft right next to our hosts Water Buffalo. This huge beast was essentially the family’s bank. They fed it and fed it until it would eventually be large enough to slaughter and be a source of food and income for our generous host family. If The Water Buffalo were to get sick and die, that would be a devastating situation.. additionally, there is no refrigeration and limited alternative methods to preserve such a large amount of meat. Sanitation is also an issue, that large animal produces a lot of waste and the animal was mere feet away from where food was prepared and cooked. In one village we visited, it took 2 days to find a bar of soap. We went into a “Butcher” at one of the villages and it was a mix of bloody meat and flies sitting on top of a wooden slab in an unventilated and warm shack, the same knife being used to hack away at piece after piece of slowly decaying flesh.

A friend of ours who does homesteading in Illinois had been talking to me about raising rabbits as a protein source for a couple of years. They are clean animals, and the waste they produce can be put straight into a garden or field to grow crops… immediately. They produce twice the amount of meat as cows for the same amount of grain. Rabbits breed and grow so quickly that 2 does (female rabbits) can produce over 600 lbs of meat a year. No need for refrigeration, if a rabbit unexpectedly dies you can make some more, and even a quick google search will show you countless other reasons they are an amazing alternative to beef… So I asked myself… “Why not Rabbits”.

This also caused me to think of how a community might be transformed? Could there be long-lasting, empowering changes that actually help bring health, wellness, economic increase, etc… all through a different approach to how we had been doing ministry? I believe the answer is “yes” and it is something I am currently pressing into.

This also sparked a longer personal journey for me. I started asking myself “Where does my food come from?” “How/Where is it grown?”, “How does it get from ??? to the grocery store?”, “What is it really made out of?”, “Where does my waste go?”, Dangerous questions.

I started also seeing a connection between how we care for Creation and my faith. It seems like an important part of the “God’s restoration of all things” narrative. To me, how we interact with Creation became just as much a “Spiritual” act as praying or worshiping. In some ways maybe even more…

So we began doing a couple of things over the course of a few years. We tried to shop with more awareness. We began composting with red worms. We built a raised garden bed in our back yard to grow food and recycle our old food waste, we began cooking more carefully to produce less waste, we began raising rabbits to try out “the great rabbit experiment”… and the story continues. We just added one thing at a time. The more I learned, the more my conviction urged me to keep pressing into this… and it is an ongoing process.. I’ve even wondered if I might become vegetarian at some point, not because I don’t think animals should be food. I love to eat dead animal, especially if it lived a good life up until it became food. I just wonder if it is sustainable? Like I said, it is just a process and a personal journey I am still taking steps in… and out of all the things you can step in, this one is pretty good. (I work in a natural farm) #poopjoke

We have since moved from the house we had started this journey in. We left around this time last year, spent some time in Montana where my wife took part in a worship/music internship, and later last year we moved to Costa Rica for a couple months where I did a Community Development training. We are now living in Kona, Hawaii and working at YWAM’s largest missionary sending campus, just beginning to get settled in…

As it turns out, other Christians have been asking the question “Why not Rabbits?” and more questions like it… and now I get to work alongside them as we press into these issues.

Food. Energy. Water. Shelter. Sanitation.

Many of my coworkers have some sort of specialized training in these areas.. our team has electrical engineers, a microbiologist, a chef, an architect… and many more impressive and smart people, and we need people like them involved in what we do here.

Then there is me… I am not a scientist. I’m a guy with some personal convictions, on a journey, wondering what the Holistic Gospel looks like and how it can transform individuals, communities, and nations. I am a learner, a problem-solver, an innovator, a teacher, a tinkerer, a risk-taker, a world traveler, a Christ follower, and together as we live out the holistic Gospel we are world changers…

There is room for more people like me in this field, we need more story tellers, artists, parents, businessmen, poets, mechanics, scholars, etc..

We need people who bring a unique flavor and perspective into the great narrative of “God bringing restoration to all things.” So, I urge you to consider asking yourself some questions, see where they lead, and take another step into living out the holistic Gospel.