Mennonite Hero for today

September 23, 2013

Missions and chickens

Written by  Linda Moffett

A Central Asian woman prepares to milk on a local farm.A Central Asian woman prepares to milk on a local farm.Photo by an EMM worker in Central Asia.

Having grown up on a dairy farm, Jacob knew that a career in agriculture would suit him well. After getting a bachelor’s degree at Pennsylvania State University, he continued studying and earned a Master in Dairy Nutrition. Jacob also wanted to serve in Christian missions and chose a short-term assignment with Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM) in Central Asia.

Jacob worked with EMM long-term missionaries who are working in a poultry business, a business for transformation project. The business provides a witness to Muslim neighbors, some economic stability in an impoverished region, and a much-needed source of employment for local Christians, who often face discrimination.

“Local believers need jobs and sources of income,” Jacob observed. “But the culture here is clannish; basically you get a job because you know someone. This makes getting a job difficult for Christians living in a largely Muslim context.”

The poultry business Jacob worked for sells chicks and feed, but it also trains local believers to set up and run their own businesses. This provides a way for them to move to different locations throughout the country and earn a living while spreading the good news of Jesus. “These local believers are much better at leading people to Christ than we are,” said Jacob.

“If people think you are a paid missionary, your credibility is gone,” Jacob said. “So being in the country for a non-missionary purpose is important. By working in an agricultural business, I am dealing with the government and local corruption, so I have the same struggles as the locals do.”

“Jacob’s technical expertise opened doors for relationships rather quickly,” said Dan Rice, EMM’s business for transformation coach. “We want to take opportunities created through business to model our faith and build relationships. We have the opportunity to share
the good news of Christ in a contextualized way.”

“Just to see the looks on the Christians’ faces when they learned they could start their own businesses and to hear their stories was incredible,” Jacob said. “The vision for the poultry business is an amazing vision that I pray is fully realized.”

More… (click images to view)

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