Monday, November 26, 2012

Dea Lieu - January 1, 1960 - November 20, 2012: "To see with their eyes, the beauty of the gospel."

On Tuesday, November 20, we received the very sad news of the passing of our friend and colleague, Dea Lieu.

As you may remember, Dea was the affiliate manager for the partnership in Côte d'Ivoire, called ACLCP (or the "Association of Christians Against Poverty" in English).  After fleeing to Grand Rapids during their civil war, Dea found himself at Dordt College, where he graduated with a degree in agriculture and missions.  He returned to Côte d'Ivoire in 2007, after being away from his family for four years and immediately put his education to work, with the formation of ACLCP, designed to reach subsistence farmers in the 18 Mountains Region. While at Dordt, Dea had been diagnosed with a kidney condition and on my visits to Danané, I observed him paying careful attention to what he ate and drank to take care of his kidneys.  In 2010, Dea came to the US for the Partners Worldwide conference and paid a routine visit to the doctor to have a check up.  At that check-up, Dea was informed that his kidneys were shutting down and that without dialysis or a kidney transplant, he would have about six months to live.
The Board of ACLCP

Dea's amazing Global Business Affiliate (GBA) in Iowa immediately rallied and strived to do the impossible:  to raise the funds necessary to get Dea on dialysis, find a live donor for a kidney transplant, and raise enough funds to keep Dea on anti-rejection medication in the future.  This was not an easy decision, as Dea did not have insurance, so they were looking at having to raise approximately $500,000 USD.  Being the faithful servants that they are, they began to pray, and God began to provide.  Dea ended up qualifying for a certain type of insurance...funds came in to cover the out-of-pocket costs and future meds...and a live donor was found from within the GBA - a faithful group of only five persons, yet a donor found from within!  What an amazing God.

Dea, his wife Charlottte, and myself after a Board meeting in Danané.
Dea had the surgery in January and healed very quickly.  In June, he was released to return to his home, after being gone for 20 months.  He spent the first couple of months being reunited with his family and working on his farm, and then got back to work with ACLCP.  I saw him just about four weeks ago, when he made a brief visit to Liberia where we were working at the time (due to the border being closed, I wasn't able to get across...but Dea found a way to get to me!).  Approximately ten days before his death, he came down with a fever, which developed into a fungal pneumonia.  The drugs that he needed were not in Abidjan and had to be flown in from India.  Being immunocompromised (because of the anti-rejection drugs for the kidney), his body was not able to fight this pneumonia, and he passed away on Tuesday morning.

I spent a couple hours that evening via Skype with the GBA in Iowa, wondering how they were doing with this - having worked so hard to help save Dea's live just a short time before.  And, no surprise to me, I found them weeping yet praising God for His Sovereignty.  They all declared that this is not the end of the road for this work and for this ministry.  Two members of that team (Ron Rynders and Cal Cleveringa) and myself will be traveling to Côte d'Ivoire for the funeral in about a week.  Please pray with us for Charlotte and her five children:  Désiré-Michel, Jean Louis, Fabien, Ange, and Armande.

Below is a brief video made by the Iowa GBA as they were seeking funding for the kidney transplant.  You will enjoy hearing Dea's voice and vision.  I especially like hearing his vision for the church in the brief clip after the credits roll:  "...the beauty and proof of the gospel needs to be lived out; we want as a church to be out with people so that they see with their eyes the beauty of the gospel."

Amen, Dea!
Dea enjoying the fruit of God's beautiful creation, which he thoroughly enjoyed!
Front row (left to right):  Fabien, Armande, Ange, and niece; Middle row:  Dea, Charlotte, Desiré-Michel; Last row:  Jean Louis

Monday, November 19, 2012

Marketplace Revolution 2012

So much has happened in the last few weeks!  Shortly after getting back from West Africa, I was joined by my colleagues from the countries I had just visited.  It was great to be hosted by them, and then to turn right around and be a host to them!  We toured Grand Rapids, Chicago, Wisconsin (Fond du Lac and Friesland), and Indiana (DeMotte), in just two short weeks!  We attended the Partners Worldwide Marketplace Revolution 2012 at Willow Creek in Chicago, visited the Shedd Aquarium, took an architectural tour of downtown Chicago, visited Rick Slager's farm in Fond du Lac WI, visited Alsum Farm and Produce in Friesland WI, participated in two days of Vision 2020 with Partners, and concluded the visit with Belstra Milling Co in DeMotte IN.  Lots of driving, lots of great conversations and debates, lots of planning, ideas, and dreams...and lots of laughs!

Here are a few pictures that capture the essence of the last couple of weeks:
Allen Gweh and Moses Davies from Liberia watching the US election results the day after arriving....I guess it wasn't too exciting...but in their defense, they were jet lagged!
The Ghana delegation visited the Shedd Aquarium.  Here is Juliet, her husband Nana Yaw, and baby Nhyi, on the Chicago Skyline.  It was amazing to be at the Shedd and see God's amazing creativity in creating some many beautiful (and not so beautiful) creatures!
A few of us went on an architecture tour of Chicago with Dr. Lynn White from Trinity College.  This was one of my favorite buildings as it was such a surprise!  With the cool architecture and design, who would have guessed it is a prison!  Dennis Atta-Peters was only the second of two guests for the tour guide to EVER guess that it was a prison! 
A quick trip to Wisconsin allowed the Liberia and Ghana delegation to visit with Rick Slager and his "Produce with Purpose farm", as well with Larry Alsum to see his amazing food processing factory!  A truckload of seed potatoes are on their way to both Liberia and Ghana as we speak!
Last week, I had the pleasure of spending the week with the Partnership Managers from around the world with Partners Worldwide, going over the training material.  It was a great group, with representatives from India, Romania, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Kenya, Nicaragua, Honduras, Ecuador, Liberia, and the US! 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Week 5 in Liberia: If you give a mouse a cookie...

The well-known children's book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, by Laura Numeroff, came to my mind frequently during my last week in Liberia.  If you aren't familiar with it, it goes like this:  If you give a mouse a cookie, he's going to want some milk to go with it, then a straw to go in the milk, then a napkin to wipe his face, a mirror to check for a milk mustache, which will lead him to notice he needs a haircut...and so on.  One of our favorite children's books.

As you know we started the animal husbandry portion of LEAD's research farm with pigs about a year ago.  However, if you give a farm a pig, it's going to need some feed (actually, a lot of feed!  Pigs need about five pounds of feed per day if they are to grow and not just maintain their weight!) - feed that is balanced with starch, protein, vitamins and minerals.  If you feed the pig, there will be opportunities to use the manure for crop production.  If you succeed with growing many pigs, you will need to have a market.  If you overflow the market, you will need to have a processing plant...and so on. 
Todd teaching about forage peanut - this patch was started from 11 seeds!

During that week in Liberia, I was joined by three guests:  Todd DeKryger, Malcolm DeKryger, and Kayla Casavant.  Todd is a micro-biologist, with a specialization in intergrated pest management and crop production.  He visited LEAD last year and has been active this past year in the research farm development.  Todd spent time training farmers on crop production for pigs.  For the first time we were able to bring the farmers to the farm, separate them into two groups and they could each spend time on the field, getting hands on, practical learning, instead of classroom learning. 

Malcolm in a teaching moment.
Todd brought along his brother, Malcolm, who is a large pig farmer in Indiana (400,000 hogs per year!) and specialist in swine nutrition.  As LEAD has developed it's pig farm over the past year, our need for Malcolm's expertise has been great and we are so happy that he was able to join this team.  Malcolm spent time with the pig farmers, learning about what food is available and creating "recipes" based on local, affordable feed availability for pig feed.  One specific thing that LEAD will begin processing is palm kernels through three machines:  a cracker, separator, and press.  These machines will produce palm oil, which will be sold to help sustain the operations of the farm, and the by-product will be used to feed the pigs, as it is rich in protein.  These palm kernel cakes will also be available for all LEAD pig farmers in the area.

Malcolm, Allen, Todd, and Kayla
A third guest for the week was Kayla Casavant, who is the new Partnership Manager for Liberia.  She will be starting her work in January and will be stationed in Liberia for two years.  Kayla has spent the last two years in Senegal, working with business development there, and we are blessed to have her join this team!

I am now back in the US and this week will welcome many of my colleagues from West Africa.  Partners Worldwide is having their international conference at Willow Creek on November 8 and 9 (  Allen Gweh and Moses Davies from LEAD will be arriving on Monday and will be here for a month;  Fanny Atta-Peters (and her husband Dennis), Juliet (and husband Nana Yaw and son Nhyi), as well as about 8 business owners from Hopeline Institute in Ghana will begin arriving on Tuesday, staying for about two weeks.  It will be great to be a host to them after they have been such great hosts to us!   

Palm kernel separator - one of three machines needed.
Amos, a pig farmer (right) sharing with Malcolm and Philip (farm manager)
Rice fields in Nimba County from one of our co-ops

The roads aren't much better in Liberia as it is the end of the rainy season...
...but they are better than in Côte d'Ivoire.  Kind of glad now that I didn't make the drive to Danané!