THIRSTY GROUND UPDATES

January Update: Food, Farming and a 24-Hour COVID Curfew

The past couple months have been busy! As we’ve wrapped up port blast rebuild projects, we’ve resumed normal refugee relief and our farming projects. We have seen the Lord keep doors open, and also open new doors with new needs to help with. We are also thankful for the abundant provision from the Lord during this time to enable us to keep serving out here for the Gospel!

The crushing economic hardships brought about by hyperinflation and the general collapse of the country’s economy has brought almost 90% of Syrian refugees under the international poverty line. This time last year only roughly 55% of refugees were under that poverty line. Now almost all of them live on less than $3 a day.

This has meant increased needs and also expanded opportunities to help in areas as basic as food. This has spurred us on to double down on the agriculture development projects as well, but we are also facing new challenges from a surge in COVID-19 cases and strict lockdown measures!

More Food Needs Than Ever Before

One of the dozens of food boxes we distributed during Christmas time to families in need. In addition to pre-packed food parcels, we partner with local grocers for direct distribution of food to families in need.

This time last year, we helped approximately 30 families with direct food assistance, and assessed most others to not be in immediate need due to day laborer jobs they had. As of this week, we now have over 90 families on our direct food assistance list, and assess that MANY more may be in need too. Those 90 families represent over 500 people being directly helped. We are also adding an increasing number of locals that are now impoverished by the current economic collapse. We are finding that our ministry is expanding beyond just that of helping refugees, as many local natives are also falling into poverty and food insecurity as well.

We couldn’t fit even one more food box in our car when we went to pick them up!

One family example can give a picture of the need and poverty out here now. This family could only afford potatoes to eat. That is all they had for their meals along with some bread. Their kids were fast on the road to malnourishment and vitamin deficiency. The families home was also freezing cold. They couldn’t afford a heater and had probably sold their old one long ago to try and pay bills. They would wrap up in blankets at night, and try to keep their kids as warm as they could.

We’ve since added this family, and others like them, to our list to receive direct monthly food and heating oil assistance. We also purchased them a heater to make it through the winter.

We do not foresee an end to food needs among the refugees anytime soon. Thank you for praying for them and for giving to help make food assistance to them possible! We trust the Lord will use the compassion shown to further open doors to reach these families.

Towards a Sustainable Farming Initiative

We were thankful to harvest a couple hundred pounds of broad beans before the winter weather came. While not the full amount we hoped for, it was a promising start!

Our farming projects are continuing to move forward. We had a reasonably good harvest of broad beans – given the very late planting dates – and distributed several hundred pounds of these beans to various refugee families in the past two months. We’ve also had some nice crops of broccoli and potatoes, even this late into winter! Our current production goal for the terraced micro-farms is to provide enough weekly vegetables to 40 refugee families for a year. We are a LONG way from achieving that, but it is our current benchmark to measure production efficiency.

We are currently training the workers on crop rotation techniques and organizing land plots to help them more intensively farm the land. This coming year is our first “full” year on the terraced farm land. We are already beginning to till up the soil in anticipation of planting this next season’s crops. We are aiming for a healthy mixture of beans, peas, spinach, carrots, corn, potatoes, cabbages, and garlic. We are also trialing some local varieties of hummus and lentils.

Healthy looking broad beans ready for harvest as late as November last year.

In addition to better organizing the farms, we are also trying to impart to them basic principles of biological farming and soil health. We do intend to avoid using chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Traditional farming methods out here overly rely on chemical inputs. We’ve found this depletes the land over time and makes the food of a lower quality. The hope is this new knowledge can not only benefit these farms to produce better crops with less reliance on chemicals, but also help these refugee farmers envision a more sustainable form of agriculture they can practice even when they depart from here.

If God created this Earth – which we know He did – and intends for us to live off of its food, then we have to trust that He gave us everything needed in the natural world to grow our food sufficiently too, without relying on modern chemical inputs!

Our Host Country Is Now Under a 10 Day, 24-Hour COVID Lockdown

While we all like to start the new year with some good news, 2021 has not been so great for our host country. It now rates as one of the highest per-capita caseloads of COVID-19 in the world, despite being a pretty tiny country.

The hospitals are actually full to capacity, with long waits for an ICU bed. The previous economic collapse this past year thoroughly weakened the hospitals in this country, and diminished their ability to handle this additional COVID patient load on top of all the other winter sicknesses common out here. It is not a good situation.

This has led the government to take some very drastic actions to try to slow the spread down. One of those actions is to impose a 24-hour curfew for at least ten days time. What does that mean? Nobody can leave their house except with permission from the government – obtained by applying for it online – to go to essential places like pharmacies or the airport. All of the grocery stores are closed during this period. The only way to get food is to call a delivery service and hope they have someone available in your area.

Prior to the lockdown we sought to get food and heating oil out to as many families as possible to help them weather this period. It will be very hard for them. They don’t have jobs, nor anything like a “COVID relief check” to help them during this time. We expect there will be great needs awaiting us in ten days time once the lockdown lifts and we can move about more freely. Thank you for praying for us and the refugees during this increasingly difficult time!

If you wish to be involved in any way, you can support TGI via our site, sign up for our relief updates e-mail newsletter to better know how to pray, or contact us if you are interested in knowing more about how to be personally involved.

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