Melba Zavala Huete cranks the hand pump, and water streams from a plastic pipe onto her grove of coffee bushes. They flourish across from a verdant patch of cucumbers, radishes, carrots, and greens, all organic. Not only will these crops be healthier for her family; they fetch twice the market price of those grown with pesticides and fertilizers.

Sculpted rows along the sloping field save precious topsoil and moisture. Neighbors may burn their land, but Zavala will not. She knows that kills the soil's beneficial microbes.

"Before, we ate chemical-laced food that was bad for you," Zavala says. "Before, we didn't know anything about these things until they came to show us."

They are evangelicals from a nearby town whose pastor's vision for ministry stretches beyond sharing the gospel with the community. As pastor of Light and Life Assembly of God in Condega, Nicaragua, Uriel Tercero aims not only to evangelize his neighbors, but also to teach them to improve their lives. Since the early 1990s, Tercero has directed his church's social outreach in a farming region near Nicaragua's border with Honduras.

Tercero, himself from a farming family, says he has watched traditional crop-raising practices such as field-burning damage the land and, with it, livelihoods. Most in Nicaragua—the Western hemisphere's second-poorest country—live off the land.

Tercero suspected much of the area's poverty resulted from bad farming methods. "This is a way to show we're here to change not only the spiritual but also other aspects of life," he says. "We wanted to start with [teaching] church leaders and pastors, so that then it can go to the rest of the community." ...

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