Doreen Rejects Fear and Stretches Her Faith
To fear or fear not, that is the question.
Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds were all told to "fear not" when God asked them to do something that “stretched” their imagination and pulled them out of their comfort zones. Thankfully, they listened to God instead of their fears and became part of the amazing, joyful story of the first Christmas.
What does "fear not" and “stretching” look like for our African FARM STEW leaders like Doreen?
I met Doreen in 2017, when Edwin and Jen Dysinger introduced us. Before that, she had fled for her life with her children on multiple occasions due to war. She and her husband shared the conviction that he should stay in South Sudan, serving as the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s President. She protected their children by traveling through treacherous territory to refugee camps, which held their own danger.
Like her husband, Doreen was committed to serving her people with the gift of Jesus' love. And once she learned about the FARM STEW recipe for abundant life, she just had to share it too! So Doreen stretched herself, and her meager personal resources, to extend His love to her neighbors.
Thanks to the generous FARM STEW Family, in March 2018, we hired Doreen to dedicate herself full-time to FARM STEW work. In addition, we hired 4 refugee trainers, including Elias, to work under her direction. In early 2020 the Lord opened a way for Doreen to start work in South Sudan and now in 2021 she leads a total of 29 trainers.
Daily, Doreen continues to choose “fear not” in her work with FARM STEW. Recently she sensed the Holy Spirit nudging her that the communities in Tonj State needed to be reached. At the start of this year, the UN predicted that this area would face severe famine. Not only that, but the people there are plagued by cultural beliefs wrapped up in witchcraft and curses. The region has a reputation of being hostile.
Fortunately, the chiefs of the villages accepted Doreen, and she was allowed to begin teaching. However, her lessons on soy milk and vegetable platters were not what the people expected. Some previous visiting organizations had simply provided money and left. When it became clear that Doreen would not be doing that, the crowd of over 100 people began to grow angry.
Suddenly, one villager waved his hand to silence the large crowd. He pointed at Doreen and said, “This woman ate all the organization’s money and now she comes to indoctrinate us with the Seventh-day doctrine! We will not accept, go away from here!"
Many of the villagers become furious, demanding that FARM STEW give them money or leave!
Seeing the situation deteriorating and becoming dangerous, Doreen boldly stepped in front of the large crowd and said, “We, FARM STEW, bring knowledge, not free money. If you want to learn, stay; if you don't want to learn, stop making noise and leave!”
Immediately one chief got up and strongly endorsed Doreen and the FARM STEW message. The volume of the crowd died down and, although a few of the villagers left, most of them stayed. Doreen proceeded to teach “freedom from dependency”!
In the following weeks, while Doreen trained the community, lives began to be transformed.
How did Doreen's stretch allow other families to “fear not”?
Mary and her family also live in Tonj. When FARM STEW later arrived in her village, Doreen demonstrated to the community how to grow soy and tend a a garden. When they finished, she gave Mary, and the other participants, one small cup of soybeans and some vegetable seeds.
However, Mary did not simply cook and eat the soybeans. Instead, she used her new knowledge and diligently planted what she had received. She then tended to her garden.
Now, Mary's little cup of soybeans has stretched to become a bountiful harvest! Now, she can replant her own seeds, growing them to provide for her family in the year to come! Your stretching for Mary allowed her to move from surviving to thriving!
In Tonj, the good news is that not only Mary, but many villagers have a harvest to celebrate with great joy. But the good news has not yet reached “all people”!
There are still far too many “Marys” and their children struggling to just survive. The kids are barely living – plagued by hunger, wearing threadbare clothes, and often not in school. We’ll have to stretch to heed their calls. And when we do, we will be met by God’s mighty hand and outstretched arm that is eager to save.
Today, FARM STEW needs our growing family to stretch together to bring the “good news of great joy” to those who need it most.
When Jesus said "yes" to come down to this world, He came into a planet filled with fear. He was born into poverty and soon became a refugee. However, on the night He was born, angels sang, "Fear not!"
Jesus was willing to say "no" to fear and "yes" to us, ultimately stretching Himself out on the cross for us. His gift is the "good news” of "great joy that will be for all the people!" He said His gospel was “good news for the poor.” To follow Him, we must be like Doreen, willing to step out in faith, say no to fear, and allow God to stretch us in ways we never imagined!
In 2022, FARM STEW wants to say "no" to fear. My prayer is that you will stretch with us, reaching out of your comfort zones, to bring this "good news of great joy" to all the world.