Moldova (MNN) ― Only recently has the cultivation of exotic mushrooms become a practical endeavor. It's not necessarily difficult, and requires only a willingness to learn, a little work, and a little start-up loan.
So, what do a mushroom farm and missions have to do with one another? It has everything to do with a church-planting vision in Moldova. FARMS International's Nathan McLaughlin says about a year and a half ago, they expanded into Eastern Europe. Post-Communism was devastating on many of the smaller countries in the former Soviet Union. As a result, poverty became the norm. A scarcity in jobs and education caught many middle generation families by surprise. Desperation made substance abuse a common issue.
Into that scenario, hope shines even brighter. FARMS partnered with an active church-planting ministry, Gospel Ministries International, in Moldova. GMI works with feeding programs, orphanages, the forgotten elderly, offers Bible school training, church planting training and evangelism and discipleship.
Their goal, like FARMS, is to reach into places of deep need, leading people to solid financial and spiritual ground. But what works in one country, may not work in another.
Micro-enterprise was a perfect blend of need and supply. McLaughlin says they're now helping one church plant with a mushroom farm to get it self-supporting. "There's a group of three families that have renovated the lower level of a vacant building and with about a thousand dollars, some hay and garbage bags, they've created a business that employs a few dozen people from production to the final sale in the market." [The "garbage bags" are a special type of bag that they bought using the funds from FARMS. The bags are sterile and have a special consistency that prevents the mushrooms from becoming contaminated. (i.e. petroleum based, etc)]
Aside from helping the church, says McLaughlin, the project serves as witness to their faith. "One strain on the family that exists, is that you'll have the mother or the father that's often forced to leave the family to try and find work and hopefully send money back to the families,. With the FARMS project in Moldova, the biggest testimony that we hear is that it's allowing families to stay together. Its really become a tremendous witness to the cities where we're working."
As a result, the church is being empowered to carry on effective evangelism and church planting, as well as human needs ministries. Click here if you want more information.