The day Canadian missionary Don Kantel released 400 chicks into a poultry enclosure in Mieze, a village of 20,000 in northern Mozambique, all the village's children gathered to watch, wondering what would happen next. Before the shipment of day-old chicks arrived, Kantel had methodically prepared the enclosure and explained to villagers the process of feeding and watering the chickens and regularly cleaning their space. The Mozambicans didn't understand why anyone would do all this work for a few scrawny chickens. Chickens run loose in Africa, eating whatever they find, mostly insects and garbage. Nobody cared for them at all.
Kantel and his wife, Elizabeth, an expert in community-based health care, were determined to create a holistic model for transforming life among Africa's poorest families through job creation and evangelistic outreach. Through Iris Ministries, a mission to orphans and vulnerable children, the Kantels helped launch the model in Mieze. The project brings together farming, animal husbandry, long-term orphan care, education, and a newly planted church, all in a sustainable way with indigenous leaders.
For much of his life, Kantel has been, in his own words, "something of an elitist," an academic who founded St. Stephen's, a small Christian university in New Brunswick, Canada. He had shown little interest in the fate of the rural poor. When he did think about poverty, he reasoned that the poor were likely the authors of their misfortune. He never envisioned himself as "Papa Don"—a retired administrator getting his hands dirty fighting poverty.
Kantel smiled watching the chicks run around. All was going according to plan. But before the day was out, Don and Elizabeth faced a defining crisis. Winds began ...