Got Milk? My answer to this question is, "yes, by God's grace, I do."
I have often mentioned the struggles I have with the oppressive heat in India. Sometimes, when I'm
especially blessed, I receive a little relief in the form of a fresh breeze or a drink of cold milk.
When I was a boy in grade school, back in Illinois, a high school boy named Chris honored me by asking me to lead his Grand Champion Dairy Cow named Bessy in the Parade of Champions at the County Fair. Although I have never been a farmer or even lived on a farm for any significant period of time, agriculture has always been an integral part of my family life and my upbringing.
Many years later as I began my telephone career I moved back to that old home town and renewed a relationship with Chris. Chris invited me to help him complete some carpentry projects on on his dairy farm named Paradigm Farms. The agreement
So what could that possibly have to do with "Acts of Mercy" and my current visit to India?
Anyone who has followed this blog will not be surprised that we have recognized yet another ministry that Acts of Mercy, under the leadership of John and Carol Christian, has quietly begun here in Mahabalipuram. On past visits, I was aware that John had a few cows and that he was enjoying the care and the benefits in the form of the fresh milk. I also knew that the Christian's farm, named "Fresh Winds", is intended to be an experimental enterprise, where John can try innovative methods in agriculture. With testing and experimentation, he cannot only explain, but also demonstrate to the local people the economic and nutritional benefits of good animal husbandry.
While riding with John back and forth to Chennai during the last week, we took some side trips to personal residences and small businesses to deliver heat sealed packages of fresh organic milk. As the trips continued, we had a chance to talk a little about the future of this venture as a ministry to the people of India.
John now has fourteen cows in his herd with strains of Brown Swiss and Ayrshire breeds providing better production genetics than local breeds. With better breeding and nutrition, John experiences twice the milk production of local cows. The milk produced by this improved diet is not only better tasting, but also higher in nutritional value, which is critical in surrounding villages filled with undernourished children and adults.
John is working to grow the herd but artificial insemination is not readily available in India and appropriate bulls are not prevalent. The dream is not to have a huge dairy at Fresh Winds, but to develop and introduce small herds of quality, well-nourished cattle into surrounding villages and to teach local farmers the skills and benefits of high quality animal husbandry.
John's dream includes keeping a few head at another future ministry outreach project called Happy Homes, which is a compound being developed to serve widows near the village of Vayaloor. This ministry has impacted me in a deep and personal way as I shared in a pevious blog post. Having the cows on location in Vayaloor will improve the diet of the widows and their children living on the compound. The widows will also receive training in caring for livestock, but a large part of the vision is for the herd to demonstrate to the local villagers the benefits of good animal nutrition and care.
John describes the poor quality milk that is produced by local cows that forage for themselves all day and often eat paper and garbage from the streets and roadsides. The milk is poor for lack of proper forage and nutritional supplements, even though these supplements are available and affordable if the herdsman is properly instructed in their use.
Some months the dairy at Fresh Winds breaks even and some months when many customers are in need of fresh milk, a small profit can be made. But this is not the real focus for John and Carol. The cows of Fresh Winds are just another tool in the ongoing efforts of this mercy-minded ministry to bring better health and a glimmer of hope to a people who so desperately need both.
Only if you love milk as much as I could you appreciate the gift of a liter of whole milk, so cold that ice crystals are included. When Carol presented me with my first liter of Fresh Winds organic milk, I could not help but remember my friend Chris and my year at Paradigm Farms in Illinois. During my time in India, this delicious milk has been an almost daily gift to me from Carol that I (sometimes) share with Susan after a hot and humid day working in Chennai or at the school.
What wonderful "Acts of Mercy" the Father gives to us and to the people of India through the hands of Christ that are named John and Carol Christian. God challenges each of us to examine our hearts and find something that stirs our inner passions. What can we see that needs to be done? Here in India, we have come to appreciate how refreshing a small breeze can be. How about creating a Fresh Wind in your corner of the world, as well.
Forty years ago, I helped my friend Chris on a farm named Paradigm. How ironic that all these years later, I am helping a new friend who desires to create a paradigm shift in the dairy industry half a world away. I pray that someday, I will be blessed to sit in a room and listen to a conversation between my two friends, Chris and John. I would expect the conversation would include a discussion of cows, feed, and milking, but knowing my two friends as men of faith, I am certain the conversation would come to honor God, the Provider of all things. Including milk.
Wishing each of you a fresh breeze and a tall glass of cold milk,