Sunday, September 25, 2011

Serving the Poor

My trip to Bolaven Farms and the Bolaven Farms Cafe in Pakse, Lao, opened my eyes again to the plight of the poor and the church's too-often inadequate response to them. Our history has been short-term adventures for the curious follower of Jesus or conscientious global citizen who wants to help somone-either in their name or the name of Jesus. These short blasts of energy and supplies help for a season but do not change the life-condition of those helped.

What I like about the Bolaven Farms model is that the end game of all the work and investments is a sustainable way of life for the farmers. The vision is that in four years a farming family will own, work, and harvest their own coffee in order to support their family. This takes time, patience, and will not come easily. I appreciate Sam Say more each time I am with him because no matter his faults as a business owner or those who manage the farm he loves the farmers and truly wants them to have a new way of life both physically and spiritually.

As you drive to the actual farm you see the huge processing plants and coffee groves of the mega companies, but when you learn of how they treat the farmers you soon discover they are all expendable. Profit is king--don't get onto them too hard. We have the same issues in our country. This reality makes it difficult for a model where the worker benefits as much as the owner to compete with the mega companies. It is an unfair system that requires the best Christian people have to offer.

This also means that those who support the farm must be in it for the long haul. A new coffee tree will not bear usable beans for three years. No one-time mercy trip will make the model work. It will take years of patient partnerships to change the life of the poorest of the poor. I am happy Legacy Church bought in early to support Bolaven Farms. We use their coffee exclusively on our campus and encourage our people to subscribe to the coffee personally and to encourage neighbors and businesses to use it also byes, it's a bit more expensive than those brands produced on the corporate farms, but this is about the farmer.

Jesus called his followers to care for "the least of these," and this does not mean one-time exposure to their lives. It means investing in their lives in a model that can change their lives. Join me as we live incarnationally and intentionally as the people of God.

To order coffee for your business or church, go to the Bolaven Farm website

(I'm writing this in transit from the farm will in the Siem Reap airport in Cambodia. Please excuse the misspellings.)

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