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Back from ECHO

December 12, 2011

Well, we made it.  The trip going was not what we had planned.  Our first flight out was cancelled and so we waited in Rock Springs for nearly 9 hours until we flew out to Salt Lake, then we took a red-eye into Atlanta, and short hop to Florida, arriving 12 hours later than we intended and missing the first morning sessions, but we made it.

The ECHO conference was well attended and extremely well organized.

Before I go on, I have to add that the First Lego League competition that we attended 2 days prior to going to Florida was literally organized down to the minute, literally, which is an outstanding fact considering that nearly 600 kids were participating.  Riley & Trevor’s robot, by the way, (*PROUD PARENT ALERT*), scored 15th out of 45; the team as a whole didn’t win any awards (there were other elements to the judging), but I was way proud of my son who overcame.

Now back to ECHO.  The conference was well attended with nearly 300 participants and the speakers were all very good.  I have the DVD of plenary speakers, so if someone is really curious… Among the participants were students who were attending Christian colleges wanting to know more about agricultural missions, several of the participants were people preparing to go out on missions, many were already involved in a small way with agricultural work abroad, and then there were some who have been doing this sort of thing for several decades.  They came from many  countries and on the last night we had a “Prayer of the Nations” with people praying in over 25 languages!

There is really so much to summarize that I couldn’t do it justice here, but there are a couple of points I’d like to highlight.

One is that when we minister, whether in Africa or Wyoming, we must minister to the needs of the whole-man.  This can be as straight forward as helping them improve their harvest either through better methods or better seeds, or a bit more complicated to delve into the deeper roots of poverty.  But poverty is not just a lack of physical needs, it is in actual fact rooted first in spiritual poverty through a lack of Shalom and in our minds, either in wrong thinking or just “misdirected” thinking.

Second, God is an awesome and an unfathomable God who has entrusted into our care an unbelievably rich creation ripe for harvest.  One speaker had traveled the world looking for superfoods in some the poorest and harshest conditions.  His 214 photos of tubers, of cacti, of flowers and fruit neglected and overlooked by researchers today was at the very least a testament of how rich God’s creation is.  Additionally, there is nothing too difficult for God, no matter how poor, how weak or how neglected – God is able.

And thirdly, as one speaker summarized all of our thoughts – trade not aid.  Dependency helps no one.  Hand-outs are helpful some of the time, but generally they do more harm than good.  As this one speaker practices through his own business, helping the poor to add value to their own goods is one positive way of lifting them out of poverty.  His project, Sababu Conscious Clothing, which I will promote here, takes the cotton grown in Mali (don’t get me started on cotton!) and manufactures the shirts in Mali as well, bringing all the profit back to Mali.  Many of us were doing the same thing in our own projects (us purchasing and then bottling honey in Benin for instance) because we recognize that we must help people to do better with what they have, not just giving them what they need.

The list of speakers and their knowledge was very good, and I was very encouraged to hear of others struggling with things that we have struggled with and getting ideas on how to solve those problems.  I was very honored to be included on the speaker list, but am confident that I left with more than I brought.

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