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rows of cacao plants

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Faith and Chocolate

In Shell, Ecuador, a small team from the mission organization Reach Beyond is working to develop a hardy cacao plant and to help jungle communities in eastern Ecuador establish it as a cash crop.

Reach Beyond started work in Ecuador in 1931, first with radio broadcasting, then expanding into medical care. But this farming venture is new ground, following a cacao plant distribution drive by the government that did not include instructions on nurturing seed- lings. Cacao plants need protection from the region’s drenching rains, as they take three to five years to mature. Once established, a families’ cacao crop can be grown in fields mixed with shorter-cycle plants such as cassava, beans, and yucca.

In the Reach Beyond program, inhabitants of participating communities own the fields around their homes. They enroll in a continuing education program and will share the profits of all cacao sales, which will be directed to two local factories that process and sell Amazon chocolate.

Wim de Groen, the organization’s community development director, describes its work as a parable in action: “We say that ‘sharing the gospel is what we do; growing cacao is how we do it.’ So as we learn how to care for these crops, we’re also reading the Bible and tying it into everything we do. When we graft our cacao plants, we’re starting with a root that is very sturdy and can hold on through torrential rains, but the fruit is not good. To that root is grafted a strong and beautiful plant – it grows a bright golden pod and yields dark, high quality cacao. It’s a wonderful example of how we need to be grafted to Jesus to bear good fruit.”

One of the Reach Beyond greenhouses in Ecuador

One of the Reach Beyond greenhouses in Ecuador
Photograph courtesy of Ralph Kurtenbach

Who’s Evangelical Anymore?

“Trying to mix Christianity with a political party can be sort of like mixing ice cream with horse manure,” Shane Claiborne likes to say. “It might not harm the manure, but it sure messes up the ice cream.” At a time when “evangelical” has become a partisan or even ethnic label, many are jumping ship or at least shedding the name. A few who still hope to reclaim the movement’s focus on “Jesus and justice” are planning an April revival in Lynchburg, Virginia, home of Jerry Falwell Jr.’s Liberty University. Among those joining Claiborne are Tony Campolo, Jonathan Martin, William J. Barber II, and Lisa Sharon Harper.

Korean Peace Pilgrimage: February– December 2018

Chungyon Won

About one hundred young people have started a pilgrimage to visit cities in South Korea, North Korea (if possible), Manchuria, and Siberia to pray for a peaceful future in Korea and beyond. Along the way, participants – most of them members of Bargn Nuri, a Korean intentional Christian community movement – are holding peace- and community-building workshops to meet locals who have suffered in Korea’s past wars. They are inviting friends from abroad to join them.

In recent years, Bargn Nuri (“Bright World”), which has a Protestant background, has joined with Catholics and social justice movements in an effort to stand together amid escalating political tension on the Korean Peninsula.

A group of college students founded Bargn Nuri in 1991 in response to social needs stemming from the country’s division and rapid industrialization. In 2000, the community settled on the outskirts of Seoul to increase its ministry and educational work. Today, 150 people live within walking distance, supporting each other and raising their children together. They also operate the Christian Youth Academy, offering lectures on history, philosophy, social justice, drama, and culture. In 2010, Bargn Nuri founded a farming village in Hongcheon.

Their commitment to peace is based on the witness of the first Christians. In the words of founder Cheolho Choi, “The early church did not just exist two thousand years ago and then fail. It has continued throughout church history. The forerunners of faith held on to Christ’s peace when wars and violence were rampant. The faith and life of the early church is still continued in community movements today.”

The pilgrims met during the Korean New Year holidays to read the New Testament and pray. In March they will travel to Jeju Island, where in 1948 the police and military massacred between fourteen and thirty thousand people, supposedly to suppress a Communist uprising. Although this happened seventy years ago, the truth of this atrocity is only slowly coming to the surface. The pilgrims will walk across the island and hold a memorial service for the victims. In October they plan to visit the North Korean cities of Pyongyang and Kaesong – provided they’re allowed to enter the country.

Chungyon Won is the Korean language editor for Plough and lives at Beech Grove, a Bruderhof in England.

Participants in the 2017 Korean peace pilgrimage

Participants in the 2017 Korean peace pilgrimage
Photograph from cafe.daum.net/lordyear

Poet in This Issue: Naomi Shihab Nye

Born in 1952 in St. Louis, Missouri, to a Palestinian father and an American mother, Nye has always belonged to more than one culture. She spent part of her adolescence in the Middle East before settling in Texas, where she has established herself as a literary voice of the American Southwest. Nye is the author of numerous books of poems, and her honors include four Pushcart Prizes, a Lavan Award, and a Jane Addams Children’s Book Award.

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