Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Big God

A couple weeks ago I told you about my sister Juju. Juju spent the first two weeks of 2011 in the hill country of Thailand, working through an organization called Integrated Tribal Development Program (ITDP).

I spent this evening listening to her team share about Thailand and the wonderful organization they partnered with. The theme of the evening was definitely that we serve a BIG and MIGHTY GOD.

In Thailand, a country that is 97% Buddhist, ITDP is reaching tribal groups who have never before heard of the love of Christ.

And how are they showing them the love of Christ?

Through meeting real and dire needs. The first priority that ITDP does for a village is water and sanitation. ITDP identifies clean water sources and then installs a water pump which brings clean water to a community for the first time. They also help each household build (or dig) their own bathroom (which are outdoor squatty potties) and they teach them the importance of sanitation. These things alone can dramatically change a community and increase the life expectancy.

In addition to  these things, they teach nutrition, gardening, and schools and clinics are built in a central location where they can serve several villages. And all the while, these things are being done through ITDP staff who are building relationships with the people, and as a result, leading people to salvation through Christ.

The area where ITDP works was once one of the major opium producers in the world. Opium farming has been outlawed, and as a result many of the farmers have lost their income. It is also a major area of child trafficking.

To replace this crop, and to create sustaining business that will provide for families (and therefore take away the desperation it takes to sell a child) ITDP is teaching farmers how to farm coffee beans. ITDP has started a coffee company called Thai Tribal Arabica Coffee. They currently have a coffee shop in Thailand called Lanna Cafe, and have sold their product to Starbucks on a small scale, but they are in the process of expanding. In fresno there are thousands of pounds of raw coffee beans from Thailand that will soon be roasted, sold as a fair trade product, with the proceeds all returning to Thailand to the farmers.

My friend Juju is so excited about the coffee aspect, as she is a barista and an artist. She is hoping to be able to use some of her talents to help market the product. There are also talks that a cafe will be opening here, in Fresno, within the next couple years.  I can't wait to be able to drink their delicious coffee and support the farmers!

I love hearing about organizations like this, who really have an understanding about how to bring long-term change for communities physically, economically, and most important, spirtually.

If you would like find out more about ITDP, please visit their website.

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