What do cutting wood and church planting have in common? Apparently, more than I even dreamed. We work with the Mapuche people in Southern Chile. Many of them live in the rural areas off muddy roads that wind through the mountainous countryside. They are a people group that has been marginalized by society. Their land was aggressively taken from them, and then they were assigned small plots of land that are scattered over less than desirable areas. They don’t live in villages but in remote clusters of 2 or 3 meager houses. The winter months are long, cold and wet. Inefficient wood stoves allow for cooking and heating the humble, wooden homes.
We enter a new community through the introduction of a friend or family member. The people are not overly trusting of outsiders. The Mapuche word for foreigner is “Winka” which means thief…that doesn’t instill a lot of trust. So trust must be built. We talk about crops, family and health. We learn from them about their culture and needs.
One such need is often the need for firewood to make it through the long, wet winter. We want to show the love of God and to gain trust so often we cut and chop wood. We often find elderly people or widows who don’t have the strength for such work. If there is a “man of the house”, we find time to cut the wood together. It is an effective way of connecting with them. Men often don’t talk much, and trust is gained through a simple act of hard work.
Later, we gather at the table to share bread and maybe a bowl of hot soup. The meal is simple but the table is set with the best they have to offer. We eat and laugh. Then the mate cup is pulled out with the metal straw. This cup of hot herbal tea will be passed around the room to each individual. Each person drinks while the rest enjoy the conversation.
In time, we can turn to deeper matters of the heart and how Christ has effected our lives. Often they are very open to prayer for their health, crops and animals and allow us to share the Gospel with them. After several visits we may be able to start a Bible study where we can teach them to study God’s word for themselves.
This life on life evangelism is very different from the “one week campaign” method which is commonly used in Chile. We find most church leaders unsure and resistant to this new strategy. Unfortunately, traditions are hard to break. It appears the “one week campaigns” were successful in the past, but Mapuche society has changed and a more personal strategy is required. We discussed how to change the method of sharing the gospel without changing the message. “Unreached” or “Unengaged” people are not reached with the gospel because they are difficult to reach.
We began to think outside of the box. Firewood was a need, cutting wood was something we could do. A bridge was made, a door opened. At one such opportunity, a man arrived at the home of his parents and found our team cutting wood. A little frustrated, he asked, “How much is this going to cost?” We responded, “Nothing. We want to show God’s love.” He began to cry. “Never has the church shown us God’s love in such a practical way. Usually, they tell us how bad we are; that we are sinners.” Too often the church fails to humble themselves to serve and learn.
God is moving in the muddy back roads of Chile. Leaders are catching the vision to serve, to listen and then share the good news of Jesus. People
are responding. Some that would never attend a church are opening their homes with their neighbors to study God’s word. Just like splitting wood, it
takes time. Sometimes your axe gets stuck, and you need to try again in another area. But at the end, the wood is cut, and the home is prepared for the long winter ahead.
We have faced obstacles and have had to readjust and restart in new areas. Firewood is being chopped, but much more importantly leaders are being equipped and lives are being transformed with the Gospel of Jesus.
By: Ruthanne Lynch, Serving in Chile
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In the late 1990s one of United World Mission’s partner ministries came alongside a group of 12 women in rural Costa Rica to help them start a micro-business: the Association of Women in Biolley (ASOMOBI). Most of these women grew coffee on their small, family farms, and they wanted to create one central location to do all of their roasting. Our national partner helped them buy their first coffee roaster. In a couple years, the women began to develop a coffee processing business. Through partnership and the prosperity of this micro-business, several families have come to know Jesus.
One of the first families to become Christians is a very large family, and today several of their children are pastoring churches all over Costa Rica. The legacy of this group of women who started ASOMOBI has expanded far beyond the economics of their small town to have eternal consequences throughout their entire nation. They’ve even garner attention from other parts of the world! An Italian coffee company, Illy, recently made a documentary film about ASOMOBI, called “A Small Section of the World”.
You can view the trailer and see a piece of their story below.Watch Now
For over eighty years the NGO Roblealto has served children-at-risk in San Jose, Costa Rica. Its business segment operates a profitable business-as-mission model called La Granja (The Farm).
La Granja combines creative entrepreneurial practices with a missions focus to build profitable businesses which provide resources for marginalized families. Last year they contributed $400,000 from business profits. Each year approximately 1,000 children and their families receive assistance through Roblealto children’s programs. Former business executive Steve Mean is a UWM missionary and business advisor to Roblealto.
UWM talks to Steve about his role and perspectives in this successful international business that serves the poorest of the poor.
UWM: Where do you live, and what do you do?
My wife, Denise, and I serve in Costa Rica, the Central American country located between Panama and Nicaragua. Although Costa Rica is known for its lush jungle and beautiful beaches, it is also a country with stifling slums, generational poverty, and child exploitation.
I work with a ministry called Roblealto. It is a child advocacy ministry which cares for the physical and spiritual well-being of children. We work to bring hope to the impoverished. Through Roblealto’s daycare centers, school, residential shelter, feeding programs, and health clinics, children are healed and loved. They provide an opportunity to find the only true hope: the love of Christ.
UWM: What makes Roblealto unique?
Any faith-based NGO that has stayed true to its principles and survived for over 80 years is special. Since its inception Roblealto has held to Christ as its foundation. Healing and changed lives are only possible through God’s love and mercy. Another distinctive is Roblealto’s intentionality to remain sustainable. It operates several profitable businesses in the agricultural industry to help support the ministry efforts.
UWM: Tell us more about the business.
The farm first started with a few cows to supply milk for Roblealto’s hungry children. The business has evolved, and now its principle activity is poultry genetics. We hatch and sell day-old baby chicks which are used for both egg production and for chicken meat. It is an integrated business which sells nationally and abroad. The Granja is run by an energetic group of professionals under the stewardship of a Board of Trustees composed of respected local businessmen. The farm is operated and led by Costa Rican nationals. Last year we sold over 15 million birds and employed approximately 250 employees. We also operate a feed mill and a small dairy. Perhaps my favorite part is a specialty cheese factory where we craft artisanal cheeses and ice cream. In the past five years the Granja has enjoyed strong profits and has made constant donations to the children’s programs.
UWM: Can you give us some specifics about what you do?
My role is a business advisor and coach to the farm business. While my official title is member of the Board of Trustees, that is a little misleading. I am more like a cheerleader or an advocate. I care about the Granja, its leaders, and the children we serve. Roblealto is a remarkable place of miracles and healing. I enjoy my role in the ministry. Every day is different. For example, one day I may get to visit a daycare center to see a kid’s drama performance and the next day I may huddle in a conference room with team members, drinking coffee and hammering out a marketing strategy for a new business segment. It is interesting work and worth doing.
UWM: How does UWM fit into this?
The UWM partnership fits well on several levels. First of all, the work at Roblealto is consistent with the UMW ethos of supporting and encouraging local leadership in ministry. Secondly, UWM’s understanding of context and culture along with its focus on long-term relationship allows for service that is relevant and strategic without being overbearing.
UWM: Anything else you want to add?
I am grateful to be able to be a part of all this. I give thanks for our UWM family who supports and prays for us as missionaries and for the children of Costa Rica. Please continue to pray for us and that the children of Roblealto find the hope of Christ.
See More about Roblealto
See the ministry of Roblealto narrated by Ricardo, the General Manager of the Granja.Watch Now
Watch this amazing story of Granja Roblealto, and how it supports the Roblealto Child Care Association and other ministries that make up this unique Costa Rican business-charity partnership.