Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series of stories about the more than 50 Presbyterian mission workers and international peacemakers who are speaking in more than 150 presbyteries in the coming month as part of World Mission Challenge. — Jerry L. Van Marter
For Mark Hare, being a mission co-worker means living daily with struggle and hope.
Since 2004, Hare has served in Haiti, where he works with a grassroots farmers’ association. The Mouvman Peyizan Papay (MPP) — Haitian Creole for Farmer’s Movement of Papaye — comprises about 20 farming cooperatives. Hare works with a crew to develop a small area of land called the Road to Life Yard. The yard makes use of sustainable agricultural techniques like the diversification and integration of small animals and vegetable crops.
Hare is quick to point out that the Haitians he works with don’t need him to come in and tell them how to farm and survive. The people there know how to survive in their country, which, with about 80 percent of the land being covered in mountains, is not very farmer friendly.
Instead, Hare’s role is to share some sustainable farming methods. Much of his knowledge comes from the six years he spent in Nicaragua as a long-term volunteer with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
“It’s not a matter of coming in and saving their lives,” he said at Southminster Presbyterian Church here Oct. 11. “It’s a matter of coming in and sharing their lives.”
Hare was in Indianapolis as part of this year’s World Mission Challenge, in which more than 40 mission co-workers are visiting 152 presbyteries to share stories of their service in the field.
Although Haiti might be best known for poverty, deforestation and political instability, it is a country with much abundance, Hare said. The rural land is fertile and filled with rushing water. Farmers are resourceful and hardworking. Families place much importance on community and the dignity of children. And the people are deeply spiritual.
“Every component of life in Haiti has a spiritual component,” Hare said. “Life in Haiti abounds.”
The crew at the Road to Life Yard bases its work on Genesis 2:15, which says “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.”
Hare and his team apply three characteristics to their work: simplicity, usefulness and multi-purposeness. They also work to spread the news of their work to others. Using a truck bought with donations, farmers can go into communities and share their techniques. The crew also hosts workshops and invites interns and visitors to come to the yard.
MPP was founded about 35 years ago and is based on the idea that farmers don’t have to wait for help from others — they can change their own lives. In addition to the Road to Life Yard, the organization has many elements: it produces solar panels, broadcasts a radio station and helps farmers find access to land and health care.
And although life in Haiti has its share of struggles, Hare said he also sees God at work for the Haitian people.
“I see a clear, shining path before them, which for me is God’s kingdom,” he said. “I consider it an enormous privilege to be on the struggle and the path with them.”