Teaching men to fish

The adage is well-known: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Texas Baptists are both "giving fish" and "teaching to fish" — physically and spiritually — by providing $103,000 to equip IMB missionaries to teach people how to sustain a fish farm in South America and meet other needs around the globe.

When Gus Reyes, director of Baptist General Convention of Texas' Christian Life Commission, was seeking help to allocate funds from The Texas Baptist Hunger Offering, he reached out through the Baptist Hispanic network. IMB's Hispanic Mobilization team eagerly responded and sent five requests for needs in India, Spain, Thailand and Brazil. The first proposal was from a Texas Hispanic missionary Antonio Lopez*; he and his wife are graduates of Baptist University of the Américas and members of Primera, Las MIlpas, in the Rio Grande Valley Baptist Association.

Lopez requested funds for a fish farming project at Centro de Formação de Líderes, a three-year Bible institute in Brazil. The ministry fits with Texas Baptists Hunger Offering purposes, as funds must be used to alleviate immediate needs or help move people out of poverty — purchasing food, preparing meals, supporting agriculture and animal husbandry development, providing clean water and sanitation, supporting micro-enterprise and income development and helping prepare people for employment.

At the Centro de Formação de Líderes, two basic ponds are stocked with catfish and tambaqui, two types of fish sold in the local markets that are resistant to rough conditions.

"Taking care of the fish would help create a job skill for the Bible students," Lopez wrote in his application for the hunger offering funds. "It would also help put food on the table for the Bible students that live on campus year-round. The sale of the adult fish would help in providing scholarships, pay for school supplies and have possible income to help pay the professors for the first time in five years."

The center is located in the lowland jungles of Brazil. During the rainy season (November through May), the fishponds fill up, but during the dry season (June through October), the ponds become dry. Texas Baptists' gifts will help fund a project to collect hundreds of gallons of rainwater during the wet season.

"Using a system that collects water and stores it underground and above would help solve our dry season by opening the valves and feeding the ponds," Lopez said. "The requested funds would help purchase the huge water containers, PVC, conduits, rental of heavy machinery, water measuring devices, fish nets, small compressor motors, oxygen producing motor, two freezers, food for fish and minnows."

In addition to fish farming, more than $13,000 funded to the Brazil project will cover a small food-production project where lettuces, tomatoes, greens and other vegetables will be grown in a simple greenhouse that only uses water. The funds also support indigenous tribal training events, including work with national ministry partners in and around Cruzeiro do Sul, a jungle city of about 90,000 people.

Through this project, and the others funded through the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering, IMB missionaries will be able to glorify God not only by meeting physical needs, but also by finding opportunities to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with individual souls — thus taking steps toward completing the Great Commission.

"Believers acting together can make a difference in lives," Reyes said, noting the CLC's "biblical compass" is Micah 6:8. The verse reads, "Mankind, He has told you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God" (HCSB).

Baptists — and Hispanic Baptists, in particular — can further their support of the Centro de Formação de Líderes project by volunteering to help Lopez with many needs in the small Bible institute: helping train others in managing the fish farm, working in the greenhouse, installing equipment and taking fish out with nets to take to the market or production factory. Other needs include helping maintain the institute through painting and electrical work; conducting Vacation Bible Schools; or helping evangelize the Cruzeiro do Sul area.

"We don't think children should go to bed hungry, both in Texas and around the world," Reyes said. "CLC is focused on feeding hungry people, and we are always open to people who can help do that."

For more information about the BGCT's Texas Baptist Hunger Offering, contact Ferrell Foster, offering coordinator, at ferrell.foster@texasbaptists.org.

To inquire about volunteering at Centro de Formação de Líderes, contact cheypris@gmail.com.

Read this story in Spanish or learn more about IMB Hispanic mobilization.

* Name changed.

Anne Harman is a writer for IMB.

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