Many urban African families are in persistent poverty and have limited opportunities for education and better-paying jobs. David Wilkinson said he and his father have been "reading through every single book of the Bible asking the one question: God, what is your answer to poverty?"
David Wilkinson said they realized poverty is like a tree. On that tree, he said, are the fruits of poverty: HIV/AIDS, sexual immorality, joblessness, and hopelessness. "The Bible is very clear about what causes [poverty], how to stop it, and how to make sure you don't get into it," he said.
One key is use of the earth. "The Lord never promises us a job," he says. "He promises only two things: food and shelter."
For Bruce and David Wilkinson, "God's answer was to take all of the principles in God's Word and to use them against poverty, against corruption, and all of those things that come out of poverty. And it's working."
In 2001 the Wilkinsons discovered local ministry leaders who were teaching township families to start a vegetable garden in a patch of ground as small as an ordinary door, about 80 inches by 30 inches. The Wilkinsons embraced the concept and started a self-sustaining program, called "Never-Ending Gardens."
When David Wilkinson arrived in South Africa, he immediately realized people did not have enough to eat. Fresh produce is often beyond the means of many families. He encouraged pastors to set up Never-Ending Gardens on church property and family plots. "We didn't talk about it," he said. "We went out and did it."
He said they have trained township children, the elderly, and disabled individuals how to plant seeds, water them, and selectively harvest produce. Volunteers have helped start 600 Never-Ending Gardens.
David Wilkinson also stresses self-reliance. The Bible teaches that the person who is not willing to work should not eat, he says: "If you have 150 people who you feed on a daily basis, and you don't have them lift a finger, you are disobedient to the Bible." He said soup kitchens that encourage the needy to work will discover that "people are more thankful" because they don't feel demeaned.
David expects to incorporate their experiences with gardening into their teaching series under development, God's Answer to Poverty, to follow on the success of God's Answer to HIV/AIDS, broadcast on national television in several African nations. They also expect to start 1,000 family gardens per month by 2005.
Copyright © 2003 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Also posted today is "Mr. Jabez Goes to Africa."
CT Managing Editor Mark Galli reviewedJabez and The Secrets of the Vine.
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