The farmers of Archbold, Ohio worked with Foods Resource Bank, a Michigan-based organization that connects urban churches to rural ones and allows for a “people helping people” approach to solving problems. The farmers bought, bred and sold cattle on the plains of northwestern Ohio with the expressed intent of sending the proceeds to a struggling African community. They also held an annual “Burger Bash” to highlight their work and gain donations, raising over $7,000.
The money was sent to Machakos, a poor farming community in Kenya, where residents had been forced to walk up to 10 miles a day to get water to nourish their parched fields. The Kenyan farmers hired an engineer to design a dam and provided the labor to build it themselves. Within a month, Machakos had an ample, accessible supply of water, and the farmers had built irrigation canals to supply their fields. No longer forced to walk miles a day to get their water, they had time to work on other projects, namely building a road to get their goods to market. One farmer saw his yearly income increase fivefold with his newfound business.
The farmers of Machakos named the dam project the “Mercy of God.” The love of God was surely its motive, just as the American spirit was its fuel. In his book, Democracy in America, the famed political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville writes, “When American(s) ask for the cooperation of (their) fellow citizens, it is seldom refused; and I have often seen it afforded spontaneously and with great good will.” Archbold farmer Jim Rufenacht demonstrates that special character of our countrymen, but he sees it in characteristically simple terms.
“It’s nothing special,” he said, visiting the Mercy of God for the first time and addressing its jubilant builders, “We’re just farmers like you.”
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