Mission team hatches plan to care for Kenyan orphans
    November 2 2015 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

    “If you give a man a fish,” says the well-worn proverb, “you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.”
     
    But what happens when you train a Kenyan village to manage a fish hatchery? The answer to that question is what a group of Southern Baptists hope to discover.
     
    On Oct. 1 a team of five people set out to take a hybrid form of agriculture called aquaponics to western Kenya.
     
    The system is designed to grow fish and plants together in an integrated system; it also happens to be a great way for under-resourced orphan and widow care ministries in Africa to provide food for the needy and financially sustain their outreach efforts at the same time.

     
    11-2-15hatchery.jpg

    Contributed photo
    From left: Tim Raynor; local ministry leader Peter Abungu; Drew Raynor, pastor, Harvest Church, Cary, N.C.; Jeremy Wixson; local ministry leader Chris Omondi; Sara Beth Fentress, founder, 127 Worldwide; and Shannon Meadors, children’s minister, First Baptist Nashville, Tenn. Fentress started 127 Worldwide to play matchmaker, pairing churches in the United States with ministries around the world.

    Drew Raynor, pastor of Harvest Church in Cary, N.C. (formerly North Cary Baptist Church), said the idea for the project was the result of many prayers and a heavy dose of God’s providence.

     
    A providential connection

    The story began with Jeremy Wixson, a former fish hatcheries project manager for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Wixson has a master’s degree in fisheries management and worked in the field for more than a decade. Yet, he had a persistent feeling that his skills could be used in other ways for God’s Kingdom.
     
    He sat down with his Sunday School teacher at Arbor Baptist Church in Fitzgerald, Ga., to express his longing. The teacher, Tim Raynor – who is Drew’s father – agreed to pray for Wixson and help him determine how he could serve God with his skills.
     
    While visiting his son in Cary, Tim mentioned the longstanding desire Wixson had to use fish farming as a ministry that he had been praying about. The comment gave Raynor an idea. He knew someone who might know of opportunities to use such a specific skill set. So, he sent a message to Sara Beth Fentress, founder of 127 Worldwide, a non-profit orphan and widow care ministry based in Raleigh, N.C., that helps churches tangibly live out James 1:27.
     
    Fentress immediately sent back a “laser-focused, God-orchestrated response,” said Raynor. She told him about a prayer request from Rose Bugusu, a children’s home director near Malava, Kenya.
     
    Bugusu had seen a fish hatchery on a recent trip to the U.S., and she wanted someone to teach her how to do the same. She saw great potential for feeding orphans while also providing a sustainable source of income for the children’s home and schools in her village.
     
    Fentress said 127 Worldwide’s job is to play matchmaker, connecting local churches in the U.S. with ministries around the world, helping American Christians use their various skills and interests to serve orphans and widows internationally.

     
    11-2-15hatchery2.jpg

    Contributed photo
    Jeremy Wixson and Tim Raynor fit hoses to water tanks for the aquaponics system.

    The Raynors, Wixson and Fentress were all ecstatic. A few weeks later, accompanied by Shannon Meadors, children’s minister at First Baptist Nashville, Tenn., the team was on its way to Kenya.

     

    Fish farming and more

    The aquaponics project wasn’t the only item on the travel itinerary. The group spent two days in Nairobi before heading northwest to Malava and Siaya, home to a local church, medical clinic and school.
     
    The team made home visits into slums and distributed shoes to needy children. Raynor and Meadors also taught sessions for Kenyan pastors on expository preaching and children’s ministry.
     
    Once they arrived in Siaya, they began gathering supplies from local hardware stores, including large barrels, heavy-duty hoses, liners and fittings.
     
    The goal was to build a prototype aquaponics system to test for viability while at the same time training local ministry leaders how to set up and maintain similar projects. “The people are very hungry for this technology and this information,” said Wixson.
     
    The integrated system has three components: a gravel-bed garden, a clean water tank and a fish tank. A small pump and natural siphoning keeps the water system circulating on its own.
     
    Water containing fish waste is drained from the tank and fed into the vegetable garden as fertilizer; waste-water then goes through a natural filtering process as it seeps through the gravel bed before it circulates into the clean water tank; then clean water is pumped back into the fish tank for the process to begin again.
     
    Minimal ongoing maintenance is needed to keep fish tank water levels regulated and healthy plants growing.
     
    The team was able to build their first prototype system in about a day, while locals and ministry leaders took pictures and notes. The next day they did it all over again in nearby Malava.

     

    Spawning future plans

    Each of the initial systems uses a 250-liter tank (approximately 66 gallons) for the fish, sustaining a harvest of about 50 fish per month and supporting a small garden. If the prototypes are successful, the team plans to return in the summer of 2016 to install much larger aquaponics systems able to produce up to 500 fish per month.
     
    Fish sells at a premium in the marketplace, and several hundred fish per month would allow the ministries to provide food for themselves plus sell up to 80 percent of the product, creating a sustainable financial situation for ongoing – and possibly expanded – ministry. “The options are just so endless in terms of what God could do with it,” said Drew.
     
    “At that point, you’re not just talking about supporting a child for a month. You’re talking about, ‘Let’s change a whole village.’ … It almost can’t be overstated the tangible and spiritual ramifications for what God could do through [the aquaponics system] being implemented there.”
     
    Fentress wants to see other churches begin to think creatively about how they can use their skills to care for international orphans and widows. She recently led a similar trip where N.C. Baptists trained pig farmers in Kenya. “There are different avenues for ministry. If you are passionate about medical, or passionate about teaching children; if you’re passionate about construction … Whatever God has gifted you to do there are opportunities for you to partner with local leaders.”
     
    Visit 127worldwide.org to learn more about how churches can connect to international orphan and widow care ministries.

    11/2/2015 1:08:09 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments
    Filed under: fish hatcheries, Kenya, missions




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