John & Patti Partridge
In November of 2018, we did it again.
As you may recall, from 1989 to 2003, Liberia was involved in two successive civil wars. During that time, the entire nation was totally devastated. Bridges, roads, schools, churches, power generation, everything was destroyed. Even the means to grow food, such as tractors, were all destroyed, farmers fled for safety, the jungle took over their lands, and much knowledge of agriculture was forgotten. In the end, the entire nation was reduced to the technology available over a hundred years ago and had to start over, almost entirely from scratch.
The Farmer to Farmer mission has been helping the church in Harrisburg to develop the ability to grow food, both for themselves and others. We have also been, wherever possible, helping them to become self sufficient in any way possible. Last year, we did some light construction, did repairs and built new blackboards at the local school, offered some teacher training, paid for several new fresh water wells to be dug and had some existing wells repaired to provide access to clean drinking water, and offered encouragement to the pastors, and to the community as well.
This year our focus was almost entirely on education. We visited, encouraged, and gave gifts to local schools, painted classrooms, and added scholarships. Farmer to Farmer is providing scholarships raising funds to girls in the community whose families would otherwise never be able to afford to send them. Although the teachers at the public school are paid by the government, the families still have to pay for uniforms and school supplies. For this reason, most families cannot afford to send their children to school and more than 60 percent of Liberian children will not attend school at all.
During our most recent visit (November 2018), we (Farmer to Farmer) also advanced work on the construction of a new agricultural high school in Harrisburg that will also serve as an agricultural school for adults in the evenings. Because the nearest high school is a three hour walk from Harrisburg, most students simply stop going to school after they finish the 8th grade and begin helping their family to make a living however they can. Recently, Farmer to Farmer and the village of Harrisburg completed the long and difficult process of deeding the land needed from the community to Farmer to Farmer. Now that this has been completed, planning and work to develop this land and build a school are now continuing in earnest.
Reverends Ray and Cathy Ake, recently retired pastors from our East Ohio Annual Conference, traveled with us on our November trip but stayed behind and have now begun a one-year term as volunteer missionaries. They are working daily to make the dream of a high school in Harrisburg a reality. Already, the land has been cleared, a road cut, and a grove of cocoa and plantain trees are being planted with more in a nursery that will be planted when the rains come again in the spring.
Having traveled to Harrisburg twice, Patti and I now have many friends there and we hope to return again. But at this time, we don’t know when that might happen. The trip is not inexpensive and we have other things, other ministries, and other missions that demand our time. But we are confident that we will go back.
For now we want to get the word out and let people know what is going on in Liberia and show them how they (you) can help. But when we return, we want some of you to go with us.
Whether you are a pastor, or a layperson, this trip will forever change the way you think about Africa, about missions, and about the church.
You don’t have to be “young.”
During our visit in January 2017, we realized that Patti and I were the youngest people on our team. The oldest was in her eighties. We did the math and discovered that the average age of our team was 64 or 65. Some of them had never been out of the United States before. You can do this.
You don’t even have to be Methodist.
Although the funding for Farmer to Farmer flows through the United Methodist Church, our work in Harrisburg is with the entire community. We are partners with the school at St. John’s Methodist Church, but also with the local public school as well as the Lutheran school. We are not building a “Methodist” high school, we are building a community school and as we do so, we are partnering closely with the Lutheran church and with other churches in the community.
If you’d like to learn more about our trip, or more about the Farmer to Farmer mission and our work in Harrisburg, Liberia, please contact me at PastorPartridge@gmail.com or by mail at Rev. John and Patti Partridge, c/o Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio.
May God bless you richly!
Pastor John & Patti Partridge