ISA Grants Creating Enthusiasm for Agriculture Education in Uganda

iganga ISAG

Agriculture is very important in Uganda, often referred to as the “back-bone” of the county’s economy, contributing on average 22% of the national GDP and employing 72% of the active population. Despite that fact, agriculture education has not been a compulsory (required) subject and is an unpopular subject and career path by secondary students and their parents in Uganda. This has been as result of occupational bias (most parents in Uganda would prefer their kids to be medical doctors, lawyers, journalists etc., but rarely agriculture professionals), lack of knowledge on potential career paths in agriculture (until I went to the University, the only agriculture course I knew was veterinary medicine) and lack of sufficient practical time.

Agriculture education has suffered numerous challenges: low recruitment and retention rates of students, lack of interest from the learners, lack of practical time/opportunities, limited funding for practicals in schools, and low passion by teachers. Addressing these challenges requires empowering and re-skilling of teachers to teach the subject more efficiently and practically while creating understanding, fun and excitement among learners in addition to providing as many practical/learning opportunities as possible. This fact gave birth to the Field of Hope ‘Youth Agricultural Education Program’ in Uganda with a mission of “inspiring excitement about the agricultural industry in Ugandan students, as well as to developing a wider and deeper knowledge of the proper and modern technologies within the industry”.

In partnership with Vivayic Inc, Field of Hope developed excellent teacher guides with numerous info on career paths in agriculture that have improved lesson plans and delivery while promoting experiential learning in secondary schools across the country. To maximize the impact of the teacher guides, FOH embarked on re-tooling and empowering of agriculture teachers through professional development workshops conducted in the country since 2018. To further support and supplement the teachers’ efforts in equipping and producing agriculturally inspired students, Field of Hope established the ‘Inspiring Students in Agriculture Grant’ (ISA grant) with the sole purpose of enhancing learning experiences of students through various agricultural related projects, demonstrations, and field trips.

Since its inception in 2017, the ‘Inspiring Students in Agriculture Grant’ has enabled the establishment of four agricultural projects (poultry projects, goat projects, and a piggery) and a field trip in eight secondary schools! The program highly emphasizes and encourages high student involvement in every aspect of the project from planning, execution to marketing there by providing direct hands-on skilling and demonstration of agribusiness principles to the students. The projects established as a result have enabled practical skilling of students in vegetable growing, poultry, piggery and goat production among the beneficiary schools in Uganda. Notable of the skills gained include good agronomic practices, disease identification, treatment and control in poultry, piggery and goats, marketing and record keeping. The projects have also facilitated improved feeding of students at their schools as they are able to produce their own food and sell to the school to make money. The projects have a student-based management structure which provide a platform for students to offer leadership to others in addition to promoting teamwork and a sense of responsibility among learners. The impact of the ISA projects has been clear through our interactions with the student leaders during our visit to these schools. I am a witness to several inspired and impressive students serving as project managers (such as Ruth from Iganga Girls S.S), project coordinators, treasurers and passionate members in their clubs.

The excitement created as a result of these learning opportunities has attracted and interested other learners into joining learning the subjects in these respective skills. Not to mention the teachers are finding it much easier to teach agriculture more practically in their school and the result has been increased recruitment and retention of students in agriculture subject in those schools.

In conclusion, the ‘Inspiring Students in Agriculture Grant’ has made very positive tangible and intangible contributions in the lives of students and teachers in Uganda creating enthusiasm and new hope for agriculture education in Uganda.

~Nicholas Ssebalamu, Program Associate

HOOOLA WE GET A HOME!!!

It’s been a full month of work at our new physical address in Uganda!

For the last few months that I have been part of the Field of Hope team, there’s been one question I have hated to answer from those we have visited or shared with about FOH: “Where is your office located?”

Is it a bad question? Of course not. However a response such as, “We have no physical office…..” earns an eventual interruption intended to challenge your authenticity or credibility. This is usually followed by loss of attention, and a facial expression of dissatisfaction is guaranteed.

Like a stamp, Ugandans attach great respect and honor to a physical address of any business or organization. Most Ugandans believe a stamp and an office differentiate genuine entities from fake ones (of course this is not always the case). Therefore, an office is one thing we have all wished to acquire for Field of Hope. We are so excited that our prayers have been answered!

During our mid-year team meeting with the Program Manager, a Field of Hope office was our only request. The day Alexa communicated approval by the Board to get an office space was a day full of excitement and joy among all the Ugandan staff members!

I now remember the days when we all moved out to hunt for a space: the great team work, coordination and smiles on each and every face communicated the relief the decision by the board had brought.

With God’s grace, an office space was acquired and paid by Field of Hope. We didn’t move in immediately due to lack of logistics, so we waited and waited until the day we would move in and work in our new home! Do you all remember that long wait for Christmas during childhood?? Time can pass slowly, but then BOOOOM suddenly the day comes!!! You all know that joy!

 

January 2020 we officially set foot in our new home!! The long wait finally come to an end, great thanks to our Lord! Our new office space will help the whole team in planning, coordination and implementation of Field of Hope projects through the various programs. The new space will reinforce our reputation when reaching out to all potential partners in Uganda!

Okullu Walter, the Field of Hope Country Coordinator, mentioned that “the new office space will give the organization identity and value, enhance organization activities and team building in addition to providing safe working environment and logistic storage for the organization.”

Obote Agnes, Program Coordinator, shared in joy: “I am excited that Field of Hope has been able to acquire office space, it will make coordination of activities and our locating very easy.”

For the past few weeks, our work has been excellent and we look forward to a more complete and stocked work environment. We ask that you join us in furnishing the space so that we can accomplish the work of developing knowledge and enthusiasm about agriculture properly!

Kind regards,

Nicholas

FOH Program Associate

Uganda – Let’s Go Back

A while ago, I was burning limbs from a freshly trimmed Crepe Myrtle tree. I piled up a massive clump of limbs. I rummaged around to find an accelerant because I am not a real Boy Scout that can actually start fires without help. All I had available was a can of tractor diesel, so I (irresponsibly) poured some of that over the pile and successfully (and safely, surprisingly) got the pile lit.

In that first moment when the diesel caught, the smoke drifted into my face and I smelled diesel smoke and burning wood, and suddenly I was in Kampala, Uganda. The smells poured over me, transporting right back to when I was sweating on a bus with my face out the window. Bodas (motorcycle taxis) stacked seven people deep with massive sacks of charcoal or g-nuts were weaving in and out of traffic, and huge trucks all named “God Will Provide” formed three lines on a two-lane road. The diesel fumes mixed with bricks baking in a homemade kiln on the roadside.

And I was with a team of like-minded friends, part of the Field of Hope network of volunteers.

And the memory of our experience flooded me.

I remembered that blue patterned seat cushion on our bus (‘God is Good’). I remember Edgar, our driver and motivator, proudly shout “Yes!” in an awkward American accent when I called him Captain. I remembered how life-saving a bag of fruit snacks were in that mid-bounce nap-inducing ride from Restoration Gateway to Lira.

I remember Dyllis’s kindness and laughter and hugs from the whole Alpha staff every afternoon. Dyllis was a staffer at our home base. She laughed at all my jokes and had genuine care for our group in ways that weren’t contrived or awkward. They were sincere and expected.

I remember smashing my stupid, sweaty face up against the wall in the shower/bathroom chamber. In some contorted yoga-esque stretch, I would sling cold water up from the lower water spout and throw my face into it hoping to get some parts of my upper body wet. Mostly I just managed to splatter water into my trashcan and over the toilet paper, since the bathroom and shower were like one multi-tasking exercise in efficiency. I can still feel the minty aftertaste of Dr. Bronner’s 18-in-1 soap in my mustache. Maybe because I never could get my face close enough to the water to rinse it all the way out, or maybe just because I want to be back there.

These memories kept coming. It made me filled, and also longing. It made me joyful, and nostalgic.

It made me thirsty for a Krest soda.

As I revisited these memories, I went back through our pictures.

I suspect that all of you who read this and have gone on international service trips will identify with this introspective recollection. I don’t know how each of you are integrating and seeing Uganda in your lives upon returning to the states, but I know I summon these memories daily. Your stories are my stories. My story is our story. Our story is a hopeful story, a collaborative story, and a bright shining spot. So I go there often.

I go back to a hilltop with a radio tower, and a line of pensive and reflective people breathing in a view and a spirit. And I remember thinking how badly I hoped the photos and the stories would stick, vibrant and clear. I can see each of you on that mountain.

I go back to the garden. Irene effortlessly outworked me – she outworked all of us (except for maybe Charles; he worked circles around me, too). And in Irene’s effortless swoops with a hoe, she piled and dug. Nearby, my clumsy chops spattered mud in all directions and destroyed perfectly usable mounds. I go back to that garden and I remember Colossians 3:23. I go back to the garden and I wonder what I am doing in my daily life that I can be proud of, that I can see progress on, that relies on others, that benefits others, and that matters.

I go back to Doug and Leah facilitating a pile of Ugandans in a human knot. And they are awkward, and fresh, and new, and inspired. Israel talks, when he hasn’t talked in hours. And they derived meaning well beyond our intended direction. I go back to the human knot, and I want to throw my hands in, because I wonder if I ever did that activity right to begin with.

I go back to that bus after the first day of the workshop. Mercy is singing. Simon Peter is answering in high notes I can’t even reach. Then Mercy and some of her seatmates are singing. Then all Ugandans are singing. Then I am singing. Then the whole bus, the whole world, all of time is singing. And there are 5, or 7, or 13-part harmonies in cadence and call unfamiliar to me that are so natural and real that they roll out of my lungs like they were meant to be there. I go back to that bus and I sing. I sing as loud and as hard as I can. And my boys sing with me – my 4-year-old, Eli, now sings his new favorite song from Uganda for the drive to school. I go back to that bus, and I sing. And I listen.

I go back to church. Everything about that day was huge, important, memorable, perfect. The quiet walk in the cool morning was only interrupted by rogue bodas, or random chickens, or curious children wondering why the mzungus were migrating. I knew in my heart on that cool, calm walk that the day was important. And then, in my memory, I see church. Well, I hear it before I see it. That cracked woofer in the corner thumps from half a kilometer away. The pop of another microphone and feedback from a loose cable crack across the morning. And then we turn the corner and follow the sound. And when we approach the building, I pause. Thankfully, Alexa courageously leads our lost troop of wanderers inside. And I can hear them praying. Two women chanting in hushed tones on the back wall, and another woman loudly syncopating open and honest invitations to God. It’s a wall of sound, a wall of love. And sweet Agnes hugs us all, and quickly hands off her beautiful child so she can join the clamor. And it’s a clamor. It’s worship. I find myself mumbling repetitions that I am not sure about the words. I find myself swaying. I find myself swinging my arms. Ooops, too far – I touch elbows with Doug. That doesn’t happen in the First Baptist Church of Muleshoe, Texas. But despite the awkward silent negotiations between space and Spirit, between fear and feeling, we all find a space to worship. As I take it all in, I look out the window and see kids playing hide and seek with my gaze. They giggle and dance. They sing. And I realize why a 7-million-watt speaker is needed for a room the size of my bedroom. The praise is for all the congregation not in the room. And then Agnes is singing, and she has the microphone, and she prays, and she tells us to convey our truest hearts’ needs to God. I ask for peace. I am at peace. I choke up every time I think about it. I feel overwhelming, heart-beating peace. I go back to that church often, and I ask for peace – and every time, I get it.

I go back to church in other moments. Like when I need joy. I go back to that moment when the prayers are wrapping up. The drum machine beeps a countdown to signal it is changing tempos, the keyboardist snaps his fingers, the dude who has been wrangling cords and plugs for the last half hour snatches up the microphone, and the world suddenly pops awake. Its lit. Its worship. Its WORSHIP. Its loud and intense and unstoppable and even Doug was clapping (albeit on a different beat and time signature than everyone else). And the singer makes it his personal mission to get Charles to dance. And I want to high-five a stranger. I go back to church, and I let the beat drop.

I go back to aerobics, and I wish I had stretched more.

I go back to our first bus ride. Mike leans in to every story about proposals and relationships. He leans in with more than just his body. He takes in every word. He hangs on every syllable, and he cares for every component. And he tears up at all of them. And then when we ask him to tell his story, he begrudgingly shares it. And I secretly realize that despite my drama and antics and jokes and lines about losing a diamond in my pants and all my efforts to steal the attention, his story is infinitely better. And I see how he talks about his wife, and I go find my own wife, and I remind her how stupidly awestruck I am by her. I go back to that bus ride, and I learn how to listen and how to love from Mike.

I go back to the bookstore. A motorcycle is parked in the self-help section. A speakerbox large enough for a convention hall bumps the bass line for some sort of pop song that turns out to be a commercial for the exact store we are in. A stream of ‘helpers’ haggle over which box or pens or paper we actually need. I go back to the bookstore and I rethink why I shop in the US.

I go back to the dinner table with Tim and Janice. I go back to the rainstorms. I go back to the hotbox of a breakfast room and chug one more cup of coffee. I go back to find out whether that dude in the Indian soap opera ever figured out who his wife was. I go back to pet that nosy cat. I go back to see the teachers spill enthusiasm about changing their environment. I go back and see Geoffrey teach. I go back and see Immanuel planning expansions. I go back to see Moses’ eyes light up in Skyland. I go back to his chicken coop IN HIS HOUSE. I go back to Mercy’s classroom in RG. I go back to that pavilion at Otino Waa. I go back to a discussion about teaching. I go back and Mathias raises his hand.

I go back to Uganda often. And each time, our team is there with me. Andrea is trying to fight me. Morgan is kindly sympathy laughing at my dad jokes. Emma is framing research. Leah is humming “Come thou fount of every blessing.” Irene is questioning whether my name is really Redwine. Charles is designing a goat mansion. Alexa is praying over our group and refusing another slice of pineapple. Anna is asking intelligent questions I wish I had thought of. Katie is kindly accepting someone else’s overpacked items. Doug is snorting like a hippo at the club on a Thursday on spring break in college. Edgar is driving… with the windows closed… and ignoring the air conditioner that he had THE WHOLE TIME. Romeo is trying to teach me a secret handshake.

I go back to Uganda often, and each time I realize that much of me never left. I suspect that you are in a similar frame.

So, let’s go back there together in our quiet thoughts and reflections. Let’s do the awkward handshake. Let’s pray for each other. Let’s share some pineapple. Let’s continue to be part of the squad.

Let’s go back.

Cast List:

Team Members:

Dr. Tobin Redwine – Texas A&M Professor

Doug Keuker – Vivayic Co-Founder

Leah Gibson – Vivayic Curriculum Development Team

Andrea Tenney – Vivayic Curriculum Development Team

Morgan Walkup – Vivayic Curriculum Development Team

Anna Pratt – University of Idaho volunteer

Emma Cannon – North Carolina State Graduate Student researcher

Charles Cannon – Volunteer, North Carolina

Katie Schrodt – FOH/MIAP Intern

Irene Amito – Ugandan Team Member

Agnes Obote – Ugandan Team Member

Alexa Major – FOH Program Manager

Mike Hafner – FOH Co-Founder, Executive Director

Edgar – driver

Dyllis – staff member at Alpha Hotel, where the team stayed

 

Ugandan Instructors:

Israel

Mercy

Geoffrey

Simon Peter

Mathias

 

Bodas – motorcycle taxis

Krest- delightful, bitter lemon soda

The FOH Women of the Giving Tuesday 6k

Field of Hope supports five VSLA groups of women. VSLA = Village Savings & Loans Associations. Forty women are invited to join the group where they then elect leadership and begin committing a small amount to the savings box each week. After enough money has been accrued, the group begins loaning funds to the members. Women in the VSLA are often able to borrow money for the first time in their lives. This money is typically borrowed to pay for farming inputs or to pay their children’s school fees. The women of the VSLA group set their own interest rate and are required to pay back their borrowed money with interest in a certain amount of time. Field of Hope assists in training the women on sustainable agricultural practices, financial literacy, and discipleship, along with so much more!

Below is a snapshot of the average women farmers in the VSLA groups that Field of Hope supports

 

Alebtong Village (Uh-leb-tong)

58 women

Average Age: 40

Farms 4.75 acres

6 children

Average Annual Income: 443,830 UG Shilling = $119.81 US Dollars

3 cows

5.5 goats

22 chickens

A few sheep


Apac Village (Uh-pa-ch)

76 women

Average age: 42

Farms 6 acres

6 or 7 children

Average Annual Income: 500,000 UG Shilling = $134.97 US Dollars

2 cows

3 goats

5 chickens

A couple pigs and sheep


Amolatar Village (Uh-mo-le-tar)

65 women

Average age: 41

Farms 6.75 acres

5 children

Average Annual Income: 3,513,333 UG Shilling = $948.38 US Dollars

5 cows

4 goats

11 chickens


Dokolo Village (Do-kuh-lo)

110 women

Average age: 37

Farms 4 acres

4 children

Average Annual Income: 3,330,769 UG Shilling = $899.10 US Dollars

3 cows

3 goats

8 chickens

8 chickens


Alongside their livestock, these women farm a variety of crops such as maize, millet, sunflower, cassava, beans, and many more. Typically, they are responsible for fetching water, caring for their children, cooking, cleaning, washing, paying school fees, and farming.


THANK YOU for your generous support on Giving Tuesday.

100% of the money raised today will go directly towards Field of Hope programs in Uganda and India thanks to the generous donations of the Founder’s Circle and FOH Board of Directors that cover all adminsitrative costs. 

Let’s Walk a 6k

How many times has “Run a 5k” been on your New Year’s list of resolutions? On your bucket list? Your goal list for the summer? To be honest, it’s been on mine quite a few times. Usually when I place it there, I Pinterest a “5k in 30 days” running plan and set off to work, only to be interrupted by life some two weeks in.

Sound familiar?

What if I told you there are those out in the world who walk SIX kilometers every day.

Every. Day.

Like clockwork.

It’s set in stone in their schedule.

No life interrupts them because this 6k walk is pivotal to giving them life.

 

They walk this 6k carrying as many jerrycans as possible, filling them all up, just to turn around and walk home.

For them, training is easy – most have been completing this journey since they were old enough to walk and contribute manpower.

For those of you counting steps each day, that’s about 7,500 steps for the average person.

I’m going to venture a guess and say that most of us were unaware that,

on average, the African woman walks 6 kilometers per day to fetch water for her family.

Many times, this water is contaminated, yet this will be the water she uses to cook, drink, clean, wash clothes and bathe with. She must carry enough water to complete all of these tasks, yet her jerrycan only carries a little over 40 pounds, resulting in her usually making multiple trips – walking over six kilometers with over 40 pounds of water multiple times in just one day. It’s reported that this walk carrying water will absorb 25% of an African woman’s daily calorific intake – you know she must get tired.

In a world obsessed with productivity, can you imagine how much time is spent on this task alone? Not to mention the time to cook, clean, and bathe not only herself but the children within her family. We haven’t even begun to contemplate the work she will need to complete in her field…

For all of these reasons and more, Field of Hope is dedicating Giving Tuesday 2019 to the women of our farmers groups. We challenge you to walk six kilometers with us on this day and to encourage others to take the challenge or make a pledge to honor those women who so selflessly serve their families. Walk wherever you are! For me, I’ll be walking the rough ranch roads in flip flops in honor of my friends. You can walk the track around your local football field (that’ll be 15 laps), the walking trail near your house, or jump on the treadmill.

Join us in the challenge

Join us in the challenge for only $30 and receive FOH walking paraphernalia and a challenge packet, or pledge a dollar-amount for each kilometer walked by all challengers on December 3rd.  All proceeds will go to supporting women and children in Uganda and India!

Sign up here

It’s time for that item on your resolution list to change form and mean more – take the challenge and walk a Giving Tuesday 6k!

Wilcox named Executive Director

Field of Hope has named Alexa Wilcox as new Executive Director. Effective November 1, 2019, Wilcox will lead funding efforts, donor relations, program development, communication strategy and partner relations for the organization, which implements agricultural empowerment projects in Uganda and India.

Wilcox joined Field of Hope in 2018 as a program manager, after interning with FOH projects in Uganda in 2017. A Bowie, Texas, resident, Wilcox earned a Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Communications at Texas Tech University and a Master of Science in International Agriculture at Oklahoma State University.

FOH board president Dan Strempke said Wilcox brings valuable assets to the mission and implementation of international agricultural projects. “Alexa has helped us define more clearly our strategic vision and effective paths forward,” Strempke said. “Her appointment to Executive Director will definitely take Field of Hope to the next level of service and dedication to our mission.”

Wilcox replaces Field of Hope co-founder Mike Hafner, who led the organization since its beginning in 2010. Hafner will continue to serve FOH as a board member.

Strempke said that Wilcox’s vision and leadership will be key for future FOH programming. “We have significant plans to expand programming in each area: youth agricultural education, smallholder farmer advancement, and leadership,” Strempke said. “We are excited to see what God has in store for Field of Hope, and also excited to have Alexa leading the charge!”

Wilcox said she credits the organization’s successes to its mission and values. “Field of Hope is a phenomenal organization—this is something I become more sure of as I spend time in the company of those involved,” she said. “Founded on Christian values and with God as our epicenter, that’s to be expected.”

Wilcox explained the transition of leadership as a continuation of Hafner’s legacy of service. “It truly has been one of the biggest blessings of my life to work as Program Manager under and for Mike Hafner,” Wilcox said. “He has infinite wisdom and truly demonstrates servant leadership in all of its forms. He has been an invaluable part of Field of Hope and has mentored me in all aspects of life, always demonstrating love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Both Wilcox and Strempke said that they are optimistic and energized by the future of the organization’s efforts to serve the world.

Field of Hope implements faith-based programs in Uganda and India aimed at empowering partners through projects in youth agricultural education, smallholder farmer advancement, and leadership development. Visit www.fieldofhope.org to learn more.

God’s Wisdom through Words: 2019 Annual Board Meeting

At last month’s FOH Annual Board Meeting, we opened with a listening prayer. This involved each member of the board and our current program director taking 30 minutes to spend with God – not asking Him for anything but, instead, listening to His direction and guidance. One member noticed a theme occurring – many of the “answers” coming from this prayer were words that began with the letters “pr”. These were words such as prayer, provision, protection, promises, praise, and pressing on. It is our desire to share with you how these words inform our work at Field of Hope.

 

Provision – Faith Meinzen

Recently, my husband Steve and I traveled to India to see if and how Field of Hope could continue its work through the Bethania orphanages there. We had installed drip irrigation at the Boys’ Home in Kannivadi shortly before several years of drought, which had dried up the well.

When we arrived, we were greeted by the boys’ smiling faces. This we have come to expect. What we did not expect was to see a field full of green pumpkin plants, paired with young papaya and drumstick trees. How could pumpkins, papayas, and drumstick trees thrive without rain? It turns out that Eduman, the new director, had worked for World Vision for many years. Not only had he learned to empower women and children, but he had also honed his agricultural knowledge and skills. So Eduman and the boys had planted each pumpkin seed and small tree in a small crater surrounded by dirt. The boys carried water from the tanks that were purchased each week to these plants, and the plants were thriving.  In the meantime, the boys were learning about agriculture and feeling very good about the garden and themselves.

In Field of Hope, we train locals to train their fellow citizens in agriculture and finances. God has provided us with the perfect combination of faith, compassion, knowledge and skill in Eduman. Thank God for His PROVISION!

 

Prayer – Dan Strempke

God’s desire is for us to pray!

Paul writes; “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” (Ephesians 6:18)

So God wants us to pray, and to pray in Jesus name.  Jesus prayed, and he taught us how to pray the Lord’s Prayer.  Yep, He made it pretty clear.

I so appreciate C.S. Lewis’s writings, but it usually takes several rereads before I can understand his depth and intent!  I particularly like his quote below on prayer: The first three sentences modeling how prayer should be instinctual, an involuntary action like breathing and our heart beating (and I have a long way to go here); The last two sentences giving his perspective on the impact and value of prayer (this really resonates with me);

“I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God. It changes me.” ― C.S. Lewis

I pray that I will pray as Paul directed, that through the Holy Spirit it will change me.

My ask is that you would please pray for Field of Hope, that in doing so our hearts and minds will be led by the Holy Spirit to serve in a way that will glorify God.

 

Promises – Kelly Huenink

Field of Hope is thankful God’s promises are ALL true and cannot be broken.

I once read a book called “Faith of Leap: Embracing a Theology of Risk, Adventure and Courage” by authors Frost & Hirsch. The title implies that the core part of the “leap of faith” is the LEAP! They emphasize the idea that life is either a daring adventure or nothing.

As Field of Hope sees growth potential and opportunities to expand ministry, we have decided to take a huge LEAP! We are choosing to trust in Jesus’ promise in John 14:27:

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

We know the Lord goes before us and is with us, so we move forward in confidence that so long as we are acting in obedience to His will, he will catch us as we LEAP!

 

Praise – Mike Hafner

Praise is one of those topics that, in my mind, is completely misunderstood.  I think there is a strong faith component to Praise that needs to be incorporated in the definition.  Let me explain…….

Several years ago, I came across a book that really changed my life and opened up not only a different way of looking at life, but also how God deals and communicates with us. The book is Power in Praise.  It is a very short book, but very powerful.  From that book, I have come to have an entirely different view of Praise.

I think the real root of Praise is the Faith it takes to Praise God in all things, no matter the circumstances.  That takes great Faith to see that even in the most difficult challenges we face, we need to Praise God.

You might ask, how can we do that?  It makes no sense to Praise God for the ugly things that may happen in our life.  Perhaps a better way of looking at it is to put it this way…. that no matter the circumstances we face, God can cause good to come from it, if we have Faith in His provision.

Easier said than done?  In some cases, yes, but…even when we are in the midst of a terrible struggle, even when the walls are closing in, even when we are about to give up, try your best to whisper Praise to God Almighty for what He will do with this present difficulty.  Believe me, your challenge will not go to waste; in fact, it could very well bring you to a new place in your relationship with Him.

First, God is thrilled when he hears our words of Praise when we are going through difficult times.  He knows at that moment that our Faith is well-grounded, and that we trust in Him in the midst of the challenge.  I have seen it over and over again, when looking back at a problem in my past, God was able to cause good to come from that problem.  He is faithful!!

Also, Praise changes us. It may not change our situation, but it will change our outlook, it will change our attitude as we Praise God for his solution and outcome to something that looks impossible to us.  Just like prayer changes us, Praise does the same.

Finally, Praise confounds the devil.  The devil uses challenges, difficulties and struggles to disappoint us and discourage us.  He is pleased when the situation pulls us down and causes grief, anger and sadness.  When we Praise God in the midst of the issue, it throws the devil off balance and puts the issue directly into God’s court.

Since the inception of Field of Hope, we have encountered numerous challenges and struggles that were anything but pleasant to go through.  I can honestly say that we came to view these issues as terrific learning experiences.  In the midst of those situations, God always gave us instructions on a better way.  In fact, we came to expect that when we were struggling with something, we knew that God had a better plan.

So right now, think of the situation you are facing that is causing you to be disturbed.  Don’t dwell on the struggle, but pray to God for His mercy and for understanding, and thank Him for what He will do with this challenge.  Ask that this challenge not be wasted, that we will grow as a result of it and that God will use the situation in a mighty, powerful way for His glory and expansion of the Kingdom.

 

Protection – Cathy Hafner

From the very beginning, we have felt God‘s protection over Field of Hope. This protection has always been accompanied by prayerprovision, and praise!

When we were setting up the nonprofit, God protected us every step of the way by providing experienced people to lend us their advice and expertise.

Before every trip, petition for protection has been a major component of our prayers.

In the early trips in 2010 and 2011, as newcomers to Uganda, Mike and Brandy were protected from illness or harm in their travels. Since then, although both Brandy and Mike had to deal with malaria once, God protected them by providing good people who made sure they were provided the best treatment quickly.

They have been protected on the long drives and the flights in small MAF Cessna planes, even when the roads were dreadful and the weather was terrible. And even on the road, when a vehicle had a mechanical breakdown, God protected them by his provision of just the right driver who could get the vehicle running again. We have also had stories of interns and team members being lost in the bush but receiving God’s protection and provision in finding their way to their destination.

One specific instance of protection was when Mike was in the car in Kampala. It was rush hour, and the roundabout on their route was very slow moving. The general protocol was for people in the roundabout to gradually give way as others entered, but as they were driving through this roundabout, the person slowly but deliberately ran into their car and then raised a big ruckus. When the policeman arrived to help settle the matter, Mike’s driver Bonny did his best to reason that the other driver was at fault. Thankfully, God provided Mike with the proper driver, Bonny, who was able to mitigate the situation and keep everyone safe. Thanks to God’s provision of an experienced driver and the money needed to get him out of a bad situation, Mike was protected from a worse outcome.

We sense God’s hand of protection in his gentle guidance, as new partners and programs are considered and sometimes tabled when we did not feel this was the right time, direction, or partner.

For all past protection we praise God! And we will continue to pray for protection and provision for our Ugandan team, our partners, the people we serve, our university interns, and our volunteers.

 

Pressing On – Steve Meinzen

Since I chose to blog about ‘press on’, I decided to check for synonyms of those words.  The synonyms that struck me the most were persevere and proceed. Since my wife, Faith, and I have been concentrating our Field of Hope work in India, we recently traveled there. Through the 21 hour trip, we persevered. Through the malaria meds and spicy foods which made for gurgly stomachs, we persevered. Through the 5 year lack of monsoons which dried up the well where we had installed drip irrigation at an orphanage, we persevere. When approval for the building permit takes way longer than expected at the new girls’ home where we will install fruit trees for food and sustainability, we persevere. When the orphans and Bethania staff who we partner with in India receive anti-Christian persecution, they persevere.

And that is where the second synonym of ‘press on’ comes in. Why do we proceed? We proceed because the plantings are thriving at the boys’ home in spite of the drought under the able supervision of the new director. We proceed because we witness the dedication of the caring Bethania staff at all their facilities and are encouraged by it. We proceed because of the thirst for agricultural knowledge that farmers expressed in village meetings. But mostly, we proceed because God promises to be with us as we reach out to others with His message and love.

Field of Hope Founders: 8 Year Celebration!

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

In 2009, I embarked on a journey that I easily thought would be the greatest adventure of my life, an 11-country, 11-month mission trip experience: The World Race. Traveling around the world within a calendar year not only stamped my passport but forever etched my heart. Sure, I found adventure, but more than that…I found purpose.

Perhaps the question I get asked most often about my experience is how I chose Uganda as the country I’d return to and engage in long-term ministry. I can’t help but to hesitate…to smile…and earnestly respond…

 

Uganda chose me. 

 

Only God could pluck an Illinois farm girl and plant her heart and feet into the Ugandan soil. How could I not return?

Now looking back over the past 8 years, I can appreciate how sincere but naive we were when co-founders, Mike and Cathy Hafner committed in the faith of Ruth 1:16 to “go wherever I would go” and Field of Hope was born.

 

What has surprised me the most? I thought it would be easy. Find a problem. Insert a solution. But it wasn’t easy…the good things rarely are. Instead it was messy. It required more commitment, more grit, more resilience than I knew I had. There were cultural misunderstandings, disappointments and learnings. But you know what I also realized…God wasn’t just up to something in Uganda…he was up to something in me. I think it is easy in the West to think we have it all figured out…through our efficiencies…technology and solutions…but Uganda has given me far more than I’ll ever give. God knew what he was doing when he brought us together. He knew I needed Uganda.

Still today, I need Uganda to remind me of the beauty that comes from the broken, the value of faith over comfort and relationships over resources…at the same time reorienting my relationship with resources.

 

As I think about the success of Field of Hope over the past 8 years and our stewardship of the resources that have been provided, I accredit it to the culture and commitment to integrity and humility that is ingrained in the organization and our leadership. We didn’t know where we were going when we took that first step. And sure, we made a few missteps along the way as we dove into this agricultural development space. But if you remain humble…teachable…committed to doing the right thing…the Lord will show you who you were created to be.

I believe that’s true of a non-profit organization, but it is also true of you…of me…of each of us.

We don’t have to create our identities or the purposes that we were put on this earth for…instead we get the joy of discovering them as we walk with God. I believe the Lord destined Field of Hope to do good works, prepared in advance for us to do…and then He set us on the adventure of humbly discovering what those works were…and transforming each of us through the process.

The journey is not over. In many ways, it has just begun. The Lord has led us to new ventures and more partnerships than we could have ever predicted when we took those first steps 8 years ago…but I pray we will always have that Ruth 1:16 faith to “go wherever He would have us go.”

We are an organization…made up of people…pursuing His purposes in the world…which God prepared in advance for us to do…

Will you join us?

~Brandy

Field of Hope Founders: 8 Year Celebration!

We sat down with co-founders Mike and Cathy Hafner and asked them some questions about the great eight years of Field of Hope!

What did you expect to see eight years ago when you started Field of Hope? How does the reality measure up to the vision?

Mike:

Well, early on, I had a very different vision for Field of Hope.  I expected that Field of Hope would be investing in capital projects like large drip irrigation gardens and helping farmers purchase tractors, attachments and implements.  I have learned that you cannot transform agriculture by just dropping western agricultural products and practices into a developing country.  It is much more complex than that. It has been amazing how God has changed that original dream to something much different – and much better.  Our work with women smallholder farmers and students in high schools and orphan care centers is the right thing to do at this time.

Cathy:

When we started putting this together, we were really just feeling our way along. We did a lot of researching, not only to figure out where we might fit into the development efforts in Northern Uganda, but also to learn how to establish a 501C3 nonprofit. We had good guidance along the way, and as things fell into place, we were amazed and excited over every step forward. We realized that Only God could open doors for us. That became our motto: Only God.

Has there been a most memorable moment over the years with your work? If there have been several, what are one or two that stick out the most?

Mike: There are so many…

  • After Brandy, Cathy and I had agreed to form a nonprofit, we took vision casting trips to determine how Field of Hope could potentially be a blessing to others.  Armed with information and a passion to serve and realizing we could not fund all our efforts on our own, we set up a dinner meeting at Johnny’s Steakhouse in Moline, IL.  We invited friends and associates and put on a presentation of our findings.  I can remember being incredibly nervous about asking others to join us in the adventure.  To my everlasting amazement, an unbelievable number of people made donations to Field of Hope.  They really provided the tailwind to get us going.
  • One of the more memorable moments happened early in the ministry.  We were busy pursuing our tractor and irrigation strategy when I was confronted by Carol Higgins of Otino Waa Children’s Village.  Carol knew I worked for John Deere, so she assumed I knew agriculture very well.  (Carol did not realize I had spent nearly my entire career with the Construction & Forestry Division of Deere and knew very little about agriculture.)  She said that Otino Waa (an orphan care center with 350 kids) needed to have a high school agriculture class – and I was the person to teach it.  Thus began our work educating young people about agriculture and demonstrating drip irrigation.
  • Another moment that profoundly affected Field of Hope was when we were beginning to train smallholder farmers.  We desperately needed to have curriculum written and had no idea where to have that done.  A friend of Field of Hope told us about this incredible agricultural training development company called Vivayic.  We called Seth Derner of Vivayic to ask if he could help.  We fully expected to get bounced off the call, but to our amazement, Seth and Doug Kueker agreed to partner with Field of Hope in writing curriculum.  Since that time, Vivayic and all their personnel have become loving associates and friends.  We could not do what we do without the Vivayic family.
  • Several years ago, Steve Swigert, a good friend and now Board Member of Field of Hope, asked if we could accept interns from the Oklahoma State University “Masters in International Agriculture Program” for short-term assignments.  We agreed, and since that time the short-term assignments have changed to full-term internships.  The interns we have received through the MIAP program have been some of the most loving, kind, and humble people I have encountered.  To a person, they have assisted Field of Hope with their sacrifices and love for the people we serve.  They willingly work in the midst of challenging living conditions, bad roads and transportation – and a bit of homesickness – and never complain.  The internship side of Field of Hope is continuing to grow, and I could not be happier about it.

Cathy:

There are so many landmark moments!

  • Seeing Brandy on one of the brand-new John Deere tractors.
  • Navigating to http://FieldofHope.org to view our very first website.
  • Bringing the VOMAP Project Coordinator Agnes Obote (with her toddler daughter Jesiah) to the QuadCities to join Brandy in several speaking engagements – and watching them experience flight, elevators and escalators, tractors & combines, and Willow Creek Church in Chicago.
  • Mike starting each class with the Otino Waa students with singing and clapping, doing lab experiments, and developing their student gardens.
  • Hiring our first intern Alexa to be our Program Director. I could go on and on…

 

What challenges surprised you over the last eight years? Were there certain situations you didn’t expect to occur? 

Mike:

Our failures early in our ministry surprised me.  Naively, I thought that if we tried to make a difference in the world by improving agricultural practices, God would provide smooth sailing for us and clear the path.  That did not happen.  I look back on those days and realize we did not always seek God’s will about Field of Hope plans and projects; we pretty much had our minds made up about what we would do.  I look back on those days and realize how important it is to go through the crucible, not only in our lives, but also with regard to Field of Hope.  Since then, we have tried hard to LISTEN to God and not put words in His mouth.  We have learned that He will speak and direct and give guidance and raise people up in His time, not ours.

Cathy:

We knew circumstances in Uganda would be challenging. Joseph Kony and the LRA had done terrible things to the people in Northern Uganda; there was widespread poverty and disease. We had heard that for every two steps forward, there was generally one step back, often more. What surprised me the most was – and is – the attitude of the Ugandan people. They are filled to overflowing with joy, gratitude, and warmth, and their deep and unwavering spiritual foundation continually inspires us. So instead of letting frustration rule, we learned it was important to stay positive, focused, and persistent, and to praise God.

What does it take to keep an organization like this running for almost a decade? 

Mike:

Passionate, loving people.  From our Ugandan trainers, to our Ugandan partners, our dedicated Field of Hope board members, the terrific, enthusiastic interns, and our wonderful, passionate, caring volunteers and donors, we could not do what we do without them.  God was instrumental in bringing every one of these people into our Field of Hope family.  Cathy has also been crucial in keeping us on track and being diligent regarding our “back office”.  She is tireless in her devotion to Field of Hope and the inner workings and those things that are less fun than front line work.

Cathy:

We have discovered that each person involved with Field of Hope brings special talents and gifts that are crucial to the care and feeding of this nonprofit. Brandy had the vision and the passion to set things in motion. She is an engaging speaker and a wonderful relationship builder, and her excitement about the people and the programs has always been contagious, motivating people to partner with us. Mike’s experience with John Deere prepared him to be an outstanding executive director. He thrives on “doing the doing”. He is able to connect with people of all ages, and his enthusiasm and sense of fun also inspire and build relationships. He loves teaching and helping people. I enjoy the behind-the-scenes role of office director, managing information, planning and proofreading, communicating with donors, taking care of other details that some might find tedious. I love seeing an idea become a reality, marvel when I observe how God connects us with the very person needed to solve a problem. I thrive on watching how our Ugandan team and interns are changing the world – at least in the part of the world we are privileged to serve. As we step up our involvement in India, I am eager to see what new stories will be written.

 

To what do you accredit the success of FOH? 

Mike:

First and Foremost, it has been God’s favor that helped us fail quickly and get our paths reoriented.  It was God’s favor that brought us partners at just the right time to help us expand our work.  It was God’s favor that brought us Agnes Obote and the right loving trainers in Uganda to take us to the next level in reaching women farmers for critical training areas.  It is God’s favor that brings new partners and initiatives almost daily for us to consider as we move forward.  As I mentioned, our early plans were not the correct path.  God got us reoriented pretty quickly in the way forward.

Cathy:

Answered prayers. We frequently had to get out of the way, pray about situations, and wait for guidance. We are all amazed at the “divine intersections” that have occurred, when we would meet someone with the expertise to help us with a dilemma. All our Board members fall into that category. Each one has brought something essential to this work: wonderful attitude, knowledge, skills and talents, experience.

If you each could pick one word to describe the last eight years, what would that word be? 

Mike:

FAVOR!

Cathy:

RELATIONSHIPS!

Fulfilling a Dream – Attending University!

Walter Okullu is Field of Hope’s inaugural Ugandan scholarship recipient. A long-time friend and trainer of Field of Hope, we are beyond excited to witness and encourage his development!

Walter with Mike Hafner, Co-Founder and Executive Director. 

Walter was raised in Aduku of Apac District in Northern Uganda. He was the first-born of seven (all boys but one!), and his family accommodated five other relatives along with both of his parents. In Walter’s words, his family was “God-fearing and church active”. His father is retired from teaching secondary school (high school) and now works in the church and on the farm. Walter said he was younger than most of his cousins, who lived with him, but he was very active with them in football (soccer) and church. He also was fond of scientific innovations.

“Given the extended family together with the little financial resources, it was hard to balance education and other basic needs for the family. But my parents, being so passionate about education, figured out how to ensure everyone studied with the meager resources they earned. This meant all the financial resources went towards education. However, one means that bailed us out was farming. This meant we could have food all year round, and the surplus could be sold to meet other essential needs in the family. This allowed my relatives and me to study all through to the college level. Nevertheless, we would always be involved in garden work during off-school time, even at this young age.”

Walter said that seeing his parents providing for his cousins and relatives gave him “an understanding and appreciation of different people, not necessarily my own blood brothers or sisters…” This gave him a “heart of sharing and the belief that everyone has a right to living a fair life.” This fair life, though, was only made possible through agriculture.  A fair life means having access to food, and food could only be made available through agriculture.

“With farming providing that much support in our family, everyone, including me, came to appreciate that it was at leveled terms with the job my father was doing, since both were a means of living. This made me appreciate and treat agriculture as my bread earner. Every garden work from land preparation to harvesting I was part of.”

Walter invested in agriculture early on. After receiving one hen from his cousin, he multiplied that to 60 hens. He then traded those hens for goats, a profitable business in Uganda. Walter now serves as an agricultural officer for the Dokolo District. He also works for Field of Hope as an agricultural trainer. When asked where his passion for agriculture comes from, he responded:

“I would attribute (my passion) to many factors:

  • First and foremost, God tells us a lot about agriculture in these readings: Proverbs 20:4, Deuteronomy 28:8, 28:12, Genesis 1:11-12.
  • I come from an agricultural background where it is the sole earner for most of the community members, including my family. In fact, my late grandfather was an agricultural officer who instilled that discipline in our family.
  • From my parents: they struggled with us due to the little resources they had. I started appreciating right from a very young age that agriculture is just not for food but a means of living. So many people are not having formal jobs, but from my family experience, I know for as long as one can go into agriculture, he can live a happy life.
  • Nationally, given the fact that there are few extension officers in the country compared to the number of farmers, it makes me feel compelled to bridge this gap of lack of extension services that our rural community cannot access.
  • The change in global peace. There is a lot of war in the world. It is so touching to see children, adults, mothers starving, due to these insecurities, which can’t allow them to farm or have access to food, and yet this is a basic need. I feel indebted to do something about this, but neither do I have the means to go and fight to bring these to an end nor traverse the world to distribute food aid to them. But, hey, I can help increase production and improve the standard of farm products that can contribute to the overall global food requirements that may help cater for the refugees, as well.”

After four years of University, Walter hopes to graduate and elevate from his current employment position. He also said he hopes to “empower the community more, so that they take agriculture as a modest way of life”. He also hopes to increase his own personal agricultural enterprises. He strives to impact the industry by empowering youth and women and encouraging his country to tap their potential. Walter would also like to contribute his voice to policy creation on a government level and work with communities to attract funding for advanced agricultural projects.

Walter leading a training for smallholder farmers through our Women’s Group program. 

“I am deeply indebted to God Almighty and Field of Hope. What Field of Hope is doing is a one-in-a-million chance. Thank you for being considerate to me and the Ugandan community at large. You are such a blessing. I forever will be grateful to you all. I look forward to more unity for this cause, as there are many people who are desperate, not necessarily because they don’t have where to grow crops and keep animals, but because they lack the knowledge on how to utilize God’s gift of natural resources. This is the gap we have to come in and bridge so we can have a happy population.”

Congratulations, Walter! We are so proud of you and look forward to your bright future!