24 July 2011

Changing Lives Through Agriculture

Although the focus and strength of Mercy Ships is the medical that it can provide in West Africa, we also have an agricultural programs that is changing lives in other ways. The stories that come from this agricultural training every year are amazing. Teaching wise farming techniques and God's charge to man to be good stewards of the land is literally reaping harvest in countries (and lives) that have been barren for a long time. This is just one story from here in Sierra Leone written by the Communications Department.

Bambay is an extraordinary individual, whose life’s goal is “not to be a beggar.” This reflects the reality of life in Sierra Leone after their brutally violent ten-year civil war. The conflict devastated the people and left the country in shambles and poverty.

During the war, Bambay, his mother, and two younger siblings fled from their village and hid in the bush for a month. When they ran out of food,
Bambay went back to his village to find something – anything – they could eat. He planned to return to his family that day, but it was late. So, he accepted an invitation to stay until the next morning. It was a disastrous decision.

During the night, the village was attacked by rebel soldiers. “You voted
for this president!” they shouted. Bambay tried to explain that he was only 15 and couldn’t vote for anyone. But they wouldn’t listen. They chopped off both his hands and left him for dead . . . along with the other villagers who had been mutilated.

Later that day, he was found by a roving seller of goods and taken to a nun at a nearby church. She took him to a hospital and then nursed him back to health. While Bambay was in her care, she asked him what he’d do if he ever found the man who cut off his hands. “I would kill
him!” said Bambay.

The nun began to plant the seeds of forgiveness into Bambay’s thinking. She told him how important it was for his future to relinquish the hate and anger that fueled his unforgiveness.

The nun also did what she could to prepare the young man for life on his own. She
arranged a surgery that would split the hacked ends of both hands, allowing him to grasp things.

One day Bambay was out with his friends when he saw “Sewer Poison,” the nickname given to the man who had cut off his hands. He went after him and caught him, but couldn’t bring himself to kill the man. The seeds of
forgiveness had been well-planted. His friends offered to kill the man for him, but Bambay wouldn’t allow it. The man pleaded for his life, and Bambay forgave him.

That forgiveness enabled Bambay to move on with his own life. He eventually met and married Mary, and today they have a seven-
month-old baby daughter, Ann.

Today, Bambay is a trainee in the Food for Life Program that was started in Benin by Mercy Ships and Bethesda, another non-governmental organization. The goal of the program is to train people in organic farming methods and in leadership principles. These trainees will, in turn, teach others in their communities. In this way, the program is duplicating easily in Sierra Leone. It has the potential of transforming food-growing in the country, as it improves the financial status of those involved.

The Food for Life program is also partnering with City of Rest
Rehabilitation Center’s Agriculture Therapy and Skills Training program.

Bambay wants to be involved in using the program’s biblical concepts to help rehabilitate the mentally ill, as well as drug and alcohol
addicts Bambay is, indeed, a remarkable man who is achieving much, much more than his goal to “not to be a beggar.”

Story by Elaine B. Winn

Edited by Nancy Predaina

Photos by Tom Bradley and Ken Winebark


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