2006 update on Tierra de Gracia


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Agricultural mission overview in English.

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2006 update on Tierra de Gracia

  1. 1. “So neither he who plants is anything, neither he who waters, butGod who gives the increase.” 1 Corinthians 3:7 This is an overview ofTierra de Gracia Lutheran Farm in Venezuela.
  2. 2. In the tropical climate of Venezuela, there are two seasons.
  3. 3. Six months of rain. Much of Venezuela receives 60 inches of rainannually, but most of it from late May to mid December.
  4. 4. Six months without rain. By the end of the dry season, water levelsin streams are low.
  5. 5. During the dry season, crops wither while insects feed on the leaves.
  6. 6. There is the risk of wildfire.
  7. 7. During the rainy season, weeds and fungus suppress crop growth.
  8. 8. As in the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:3-9, there also areobstacles to the growth of Christian faith in rural Venezuela.
  9. 9. Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod missionaries planted the Word ofGod in the hearts of people here in the eastern Venezuelan state ofMonagas 50 years ago.
  10. 10. But since then these rural churches have experienced manyhardships.
  11. 11. In these rural districts today, unemployment runs as high as 80percent of the population and typical family income is less than2,000 U.S. dollars annually.
  12. 12. Poverty can tempt people to give up all hope.
  13. 13. In this impoverished environment, many infirmities result frommalnutrition and contaminated water.
  14. 14. Because of these economic conditions, none of the rural churchescan afford fulltime pastors and closed their doors years ago.
  15. 15. This is a shame, because the formation of the Lutheran Church ofVenezuela began in these rural parishes as well as Caracas.
  16. 16. When members of the rural churches moved to town they formedthe core groups of some of the largest Lutheran congregations inVenezuela.
  17. 17. At one time Sunday attendance in the rural churches of Rio Chiquitoand Quebrada Seca, the two communities hardest hit by economicproblems, averaged 80 people per week.
  18. 18. By the late 1990s, however, typical Sunday attendance had droppedto less than 20 – when there were Sunday services..
  19. 19. The rural churches that remained open were only holding worshipservices one or twice a year..
  20. 20. Still there was a hunger for spiritual as well as material bread..
  21. 21. For these reasons, the Lutheran Church of Venezuela has supportedthe development of an agricultural mission as a project of Cristo ReyLutheran Church of Maturin, Monagas.
  22. 22. Dale and Sandra Saville were sent to Monagas as agriculturalmissionaries after many years of successful mission work among theNavajo in the United States..
  23. 23. In cooperation with Pastor Adrian Ventura and other members ofCristo Rey, Dale developed a business plan for a working farm toaccomplish two objectives.
  24. 24. First objective: Train rural residents in better methods of agriculturalproduction and marketing to help them improve their incomes andstandard of living.
  25. 25. Second objective: Generate funds to support a pastor andevangelistic team for the rural areas.
  26. 26. There is the potential for agricultural improvement throughoutVenezuela, but expecially in the state of Monagas.
  27. 27. The soil in Monagas is among the most fertile in the country with thecapacity to produce a remarkable variety of crops.
  28. 28. Livestock production could benefit from genetic improvement.
  29. 29. There is great demand for poultry.
  30. 30. Another possible method of raising income is the raising of exoticbirds for export.
  31. 31. Dale Saville and the Cristo Rey farm committee spent a long timelooking for the best land.
  32. 32. Work on the current site, about an hours drive from Maturin, beganin 2002.
  33. 33. They found 140 hectares of good land, but it was overgrown withweeds.
  34. 34. Fences and a paved road divided the property into two parts.
  35. 35. A river formed the eastern and southern boundaries with enoughwater to irrigate 67 hectares. Irrigation is critical for crop productionduring the dry season.
  36. 36. The farms soil was ideal for irrigation, an alluvial mix of clay, loamand sand.
  37. 37. At first the workers hand only crude hand tools to clear and cultivatethe land.
  38. 38. Thanks to donations, mechanical implements became available.
  39. 39. But there was still a lot of work to be done.
  40. 40. The farm comittee acquired title to the land in February 2004 withthe help of a loan from supporters in the United States. Thecongregations of Maturin, Rio Chiquito and Quebrada Seca gatheredfor a celebration on the farm.
  41. 41. The farm was officially named Tierra de Gracia (Land of Grace)Lutheran Farm.
  42. 42. In March 2004, the farm was able to buy a 75-horsepower tractorwith contributions from churches in North Dakota and Montana.
  43. 43. Two tillage implements were included as part of the purchase.
  44. 44. The churches that raised money for the tractor and implementswere rural churches small by North American standards.
  45. 45. The tractor was immediately put to work clearing and cultivatingland.
  46. 46. With the addition of the tractor, development of the farm hasprogressed much more rapidly.
  47. 47. A lagoon to catch and hold rainwater for irrigation was built in 2005with more funds from the rural churches..
  48. 48. The lagoon has the capacity to hold 1.5 million liters of water...
  49. 49. In 2005 the farm initiated livestock production with four bred cows.All soon calved and one gave birth to twins.
  50. 50. Fences, corrals and livestock pens were built.
  51. 51. This includes many kilometers of electric fence.
  52. 52. Teams of volunteers from the United States helped build fence aswell as with other construction projects in the last four years..
  53. 53. The farm now has,more than 20 hectares of pasture which, enoughto maintain 70 cows, 100 goats and 100 sheep.
  54. 54. The cows have been artificially inseminated with Tarentaise semendonated by a U.S. cattle breeder to improve the herds genetics..Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, St. Louis, Missouri, along withLutheran World Relief, has supplied the funds to buy four morecows.
  55. 55. The livestock program also now includes five sheep and 15 goats. Inaddition to producing young, the sheep and goats will graze betweenthe trees, keeping the orchards clean.. The goats were purchasedwith money donated by St. Peters Lutheran Church of Columbus,Indiana.
  56. 56. There are more than 1,200 citrus trees in the farms orchards...
  57. 57. There are 245 passion-fruit vines and 85 guava trees.
  58. 58. Early in 2006, 3,000 new papaya trees were planted to supplementthe production of 2,000 established trees. Papaya is the farms mostprofitable crop and the plan is to plant 500 new trees each month of2006.
  59. 59. Other crops include corn, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and squash.
  60. 60. José Luís Rivas is the farms general manager. As of this year, thefarms administrative committee includes José Luís, Pastor ArmandoRamos, Americo Rengel and Dale Saville, along with Pastor FranciscoCabarcas and Eduardo Castillo as liaisons with Cristo Rey.
  61. 61. A small house serves as the farms office and visitors center.
  62. 62. A second house serves as a home and office for Pastor ArmandoRamos..
  63. 63. Pastor Armando was ordained August 1, 2004, at Cristo Rey LutheranChurch.
  64. 64. Armando grew up in rural Venezuela himself although on thewestern edge of the country in the state of Barinas.
  65. 65. Since Pastor Armandos arrival in Monagas, the Tierra de Graciaevangelistic program has made tremendous strides. Roca deEternidad (Rock of Ages) Lutheran Church in Quebrada Seca now hasweekly attendance of 20 people. In 2005 there was one baptism andseven confirmations.
  66. 66. Bethel Lutheran Church in Rio Chiquito has increased Sundayattendance to 27 people. In 2005 there were seven baptisms and sixconfirmations.
  67. 67. Rundown facilities in Rio Chiquito and Quebrada Seca are beingrepaired. A new roof for Roca de Eternidad is nearly complete whilenew bathrooms are being built at Bethel.
  68. 68. Amichel, Ventura, a deacon at Cristo Rey in Maturin, assists PastorArmando in caring for the rural churches.
  69. 69. Another member of the evangelistic team is Yumira Valderrey asBible school teacher.
  70. 70. Volunteers from the United States have helped with vacation Bibleschool as well..
  71. 71. Eduardo Flores, a member of La Fortaleza Lutheran Church inMaracay, served as a vicar under the direction of Pastor Armando. Heworked with the youth of the rural churches and provided musicalaccompaniment during worship.
  72. 72. The youth of the rural churches in Rio Chiquito and Quebrada Secahave become very active..
  73. 73. Bethel and Roca de Eternidad sent 12 to the Lutheran Church ofVenezuelas annual youth gathering in 2005.
  74. 74. Evangelistic activities have included three vacation Bible schools andfour prayer vigils at the rural churches as well as door-to-door visitswith approximately 1,800 people.
  75. 75. At Tierra de Gracia itself, Pastor Armando leads about the workers indaily devotions. In addition, weekly adult Bible studies draw 35 to 40people to farm from the nearby village of Banco de Acosta.
  76. 76. On January 20, 2005, Pastor Armando performed the first baptismon the farm. in a special service with 75 people from Banco deAcosta and Quebrada Seca in attendance,. The child, José Enrique,was the son of one of the farms employees.
  77. 77. On Sunday, June 12, 2005, Pastor Armando conducted the firstformal worship service at Tierra de Gracia with 156 people inattendance. Four adults were confirmed: José Luís Rivas, LeobardoGamboa, Marelis Bolivar and Javier Alcantera.
  78. 78. Land has been set aside to build a church near Pastor Armandoshouse to continue the important ministry in the immediate vicinity ofthe farm..
  79. 79. Perhaps the results of the Tierra de Gracia project can best be readin the faces of these children . “...Let the little children come to Meand do not forbid them, for of such is the Kingdom of God.” Luke18:16
  80. 80. For more information, see the Tierra de Gracia Web site: finca.ilv-venezuela.net