By Janie Corley
At 11:45 a.m. on July 29, 2006, an email from the other side of the world appeared in my inbox. The subject line: “INVITATION: World Farmers for Christ Conference.”
The text included an invitation to us personally. The author had read about our farm on the Internet and was inviting us to a conference in Bredasdorp, South Africa.
The idea of the conference was “to connect farmers from different parts of the world and to give them the opportunity to talk about how they can make a difference in their own communities. We welcome people like yourselves to share your experiences with others.” The conference was only 38 days away — Sept. 5.
So many miracles occurred in those next few weeks as God orchestrated four passports, arranged discounted flights (charged to credit cards in faith) and assured our family that this was His plan. My aging father-in-law was extremely ill and our fall farm season would begin only seven days after we returned from South Africa. And we farmers were not world travelers.
Twenty-two hours after leaving Nashville on Sept. 3, we landed during the spring season in Cape Town, South Africa. As we traveled to our hosts’ home, we saw landscape covered with sheep and canola in full bloom, a countryside so very different from our own. We arrived at the du Toit farm house and watched hundreds of sheep being moved across the driveway with the dogs and farm staff.
For dinner, we shared a meal of roasted lamb as the family began to tell us their stories of farm life and their walk in faith. They raised sheep — about 6,000, but because of the very limited rainfall (18 inches total compared to the average of 40 inches in Kentucky), they had to use all of their 25,000 acres to support the sheep. We could not even comprehend what an incredible effort it was to farm in such a dry climate.
The days ahead were filled with similar stories. We saw a country ravaged by apartheid and all the issues of race and inequalities yet we saw these Christian farmers and laborers working hand in hand to make a difference. We learned of the struggles from our new farmer friends from Europe and other parts of Africa. We talked with African farmers who were trying to teach their community how to grow peanuts and then turn them into consumable products, not unlike what our early American farmers did as they transitioned from cotton to peanuts in the early 1900s.
We also heard from one of the developers of the movie “Faith Like Potatoes.” Not knowing about the movie, prior to leaving America we had read the story of Angus Buchan, a Christian farmer in South Africa who chose to plant potatoes in the year of a drought. But in faith, he planted and his harvest was bountiful. Imagine how our faith was lifted as we experienced all these stories of farmers and their perseverance.
For four days, we worshipped and fellowshipped with farmers from around the world. While vastly different, we were all the same — farmers who loved Jesus and were walking in faith. And yet, until the end, we didn’t really know why we were there, but God used this trip to teach us.
On the last day of the conference we went to Cape Aguhlas, the most southern point of Africa. There were two men from two different countries, Kenya and Scotland, doing the most important part of farming — walking in faith. Those men showed us how to make a difference in our communities: they were praying, not for themselves but for people of all the nations. We heard Him — go home and do likewise.