Solving World Hunger God’s Way

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"Fuchsia Fantastic" 18 x 14 acrylic on canvas

“Fuchsia Fantastic” 18 x 14 acrylic on canvas

Like many people in this slumping economy we’re staying close to home. We remind ourselves that people come here to enjoy our beaches, our tropical weather, and our wildlife. So we check out the tourist brochures, enjoy the side trips, and try to see things with fresh eyes.

That’s how we stumbled upon a national treasure; take that back–a global treasure. If you’ve heard about ECHO (Educational Concerns (for) Hunger Organization), you know what I mean. “Wow!” was all I could manage the first time I visited this incredible place.

On my second visit, I was so excited I felt like shouting “Wake up America–here lies the answer to world hunger!”

I longed to tell ECHO’s amazing story, but how could I do it in 1200 words or less? How do you eat an elephant? You keep it simple. So come with me on the most remarkable journey of my life.

Egyptian symbols

Egyptian symbols

Twenty-five minutes north of Fort Myers on I-75, and then a right turn on exit 143 to Bayshore Road (route 78), we are greeted by a sign welcoming us to ECHO Global Farm and Nursery. A short left down Durrance Road, and we arrive at the white frame visitor center an unpretentious building with a gravel parking lot. We enter from a country porch that serves as a “sample-and-taste” area for the tropical fruits and vegetables grown on ECHO’s 52 acres.

Inside, a seed shop and book store peaks our curiosity. Saving the shopping for last, we pay our admission fee: adults $8, children under 12 free. Each year, over 9,000 tourists enjoy ECHO’s guided tours; moneys from these ventures amount to less than 25% of ECHO’s income and goes back into the ministry to serve the poor and for the Glory of God.

ECHO receives NO government funding and depends solely on hundreds of volunteers and generous donations. A volunteer greets us and directs us to a small auditorium where another volunteer presents an overview. Afterward, a ten minute film explains ECHO’s history and mission. From that point on, we are hooked.

In 1981 Co-Founder Dr. Martin Price traveled to Haiti to learn about a “miracle tree” called the maringa. Indigenous to the Philippines, the maringa tree has unique restorative and nutritional powers. “Mothers who were malnourished,” Price noted, “began lactating again after eating the maringa leaves. Children with distended stomachs were running and playing after only three months on a maringa diet.”

"Broken" mixed media on canvas (SOLD) Prints available

“Broken” mixed media on canvas (SOLD) Prints available

Thanks to Price, the maringa is recognized as one of the most nutritious vegetables in the world, and has become the most respected and requested seed and plant species at ECHO. The starvation and poverty that Price witnessed in Haiti became the impetus for the founding of ECHO and its vision for the future.

ECHO’s mission is lofty: “a ministry to bring glory to God and a blessing to mankind by using science and technology to help the poor.” For 28 years ECHO has worked to bring this mission to fruition. Why have corporations and governments failed to solve the canker of world hunger: because they simply throw money at the problem and then walk away.

ECHO is people driven not power and profit driven. They are an inter-denominational Christian organization that serves over 180 developing countries worldwide, and 3400 mission organizations. They don’t just feed the poor. They teach them the skills they need to grow their own food; foods that will thrive and survive in their own unique part of the world.

"Victims of War" 24 x 18 mixed media on canvas

“Victims of War” 24 x 18 mixed media on canvas

These global growing areas are represented on our tour. As we walk from one miniature setting to another, our guide explains the soil type, elevation, and rainfall of each specific climate. These global areas become a “living classroom” giving us a chance to see vegetation and typical growing conditions in each climate. For a few moments, we are able to see, sniff, taste, and experience the conditions that exist around the world.

The ECHO farm provides education and training for “community development workers, missionaries, volunteers, and interns who take their hands-on agricultural experience on overseas assignments. This process of ‘training the trainer’ has proven to effectively empower the poor with solutions of HOPE.” Past ECHO interns are now helping earthquake victims in Haiti, and I suspect Chile, to get back on their feet.

The newest addition to ECHO is the Technical area. Here interns and employees devise systems for smokeless cooking and power. Solar panels made from foil, plastics, and wood frames are used to support cell phones and computers.

Alternative fuel sources are being developed that help poor families save money and improve their health and standard of living. A simple bio-gas fuel system uses cow manure and water in a recycled 55-gallon drum to produce methane gas; “enough to cook two meals a day for an entire family for up to four months!”

As we move into the Tropical rain forest area, a watering pump is demonstrated. The pump was designed from materials that a developing country might have on hand. A young boy in our group jumps on board and begins pumping with his feet. The water moves from an overhead tank, through a hose, and into an adjoining garden row.

"India Rising -- Prince ofd Thieves" 16 x 20 acrylic on canvas

“India Rising — Prince ofd Thieves” 16 x 20 acrylic on canvas

The urban gardens are next. What do you do when you don’t have land space? You grow food on the roof. Small gardens are made from kiddy wading pools and rubber tires. These mini-gardens require very little soil. Carpet on the bottom keeps the soil moist. Empty pop cans on the top keep the plants upright. A drip system waters the plants with minimal water. Good things to know should a food shortage ever occur in our own country.

ECHO takes pride in their seed bank. Many of the seeds are grown on the ECHO farm. There are over 350 varieties of vegetables, multi-purpose trees, fruits, and other crops that have the potential for producing under extreme conditions. Each year, ECHO “sends free trial packets to overseas leaders who report back on their performance and community acceptance of the plants. In some cases, a pack of ten seeds has multiplied into thousands of plants,” and have, in some cases, introduced a new crop.

On tour, we see live maringa trees. The trees are kept short so families can easily harvest the leaves. In a dry powdered state, the leaves contain 27% protein, 38% carbohydrate and 19% fiber. We sample the fine green leaves which taste like water cress, having a light peppery taste. Fresh maringa leaves can be cooked or used in salads. The roots and the seeds have vital uses. The entire tree is edible.

We learn that every 16 seconds a child in a third world country dies from drinking polluted or contaminated water. The maringa tree has the cure. One crushed maringa seed can purify a bottle of water in about 90 minutes. The remaining 10% can be purified by leaving the bottle in the hot sun for another 30 minutes. One seed per bottle multiplied many times over can save a lot of lives.

"India Rising -- the Lost" 24 x 18 mixed media on canvas

“India Rising — the Lost” 24 x 18 mixed media on canvas

Neam is another tree that Dr. Price discovered in his travels. The leaves contain an anti–bacterial oil that can be used for psoriasis or other skin ailments besides keeping mosquitoes and bugs away. The locals use neam twigs as a toothbrush and make toothpaste from the leaves. Their white teeth and lack of cavities indicated to Price that this was a tree ECHO should grow and share with other poor countries.

There is so much more to learn. We’ve only brushed the surface. Because of what ECHO does, lives around the world are made better, richer, and healthier.

Check out their web site: http://www.echonet.org/

Better yet, plan a trip to ECHO and take the tour yourself. You won’t be disappointed.

A Loaf of Dorothy’s Bread

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My granddaughter making her first batch of mini-cupcakes.

When Dorothy was 95 years young, she still baked bread every week like her mother used to, and she saved one loaf out of three for her friends. You see, Dorothy didn’t drive. She depended on friends and neighbors or a local taxi service to get around. She repaid all of us in homemade bread (she wouldn’t take “no” for an answer). One bite of her buttery bread and you’re just this side of heaven.

I’ve also tasted her Cherry Danish, and her chocolate brownies with penuche icing that are so moist and rich the taste lingers for hours. I’m sure her love of cooking and her optimistic outlook on life have kept her young. She’s tiny and petite, but never frail. At 95, she could still climb her front stairs with vim and vigor; although, some days were better than others.

Dorothy’s mother made bread. She passed this skill onto her daughter; a legacy of love that allowed Dorothy to “break bread” with others in the same way. Sharing bread with family and friends is a tradition that strengthens the social fabric of society. Every culture around the world uses bread in one form or another as the building block for each meal. Since the beginning of time, bread has been the “staff of life.” Evidence of grain usage pre-dates recorded history.

Adding more ingredients.

Adding more ingredients.

It is still being argued over who made bread first, the Chinese or the Egyptians. The Chinese still use the same fermented but steamed bread that they used thousands of years ago. The Egyptians learned how to bake their bread, and probably built the first ovens. They discovered that fermented wheat formed a gas that made their bread lighter.

We know for certain that grains like rye, millet, barley, and wheat were cultivated in Palestine 100 years before the birth of Christ. Flat breads fried over an open fire are still the basis of nomadic diets in the Middle East. Some things never change.

The Bible is filled with references to bread and its importance in human history. When Joseph was in prison, falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, he gained a reputation for interpreting dreams. The Pharaoh heard of this and called for Joseph to interpret his dream.

God warned Pharaoh in the dream that Egypt would experience seven years of feast and plenty, and seven years of famine. Joseph explained the purpose of the dream, and suggested that Pharaoh store up grain in the good years so they might have food during the years of famine. Pharaoh did as Joseph suggested and made Joseph ruler over the land of Egypt. There was none higher than Joseph, except the Pharaoh on his throne.

Enjoying a taste!

Enjoying a taste!

The scriptures tell us that during the seven years of plenty, so much grain was stored that it was impossible to count it all. But when the famine came, all in Egypt had food to eat, and they had enough to sell to anyone who wanted it. People came from all around the region, and by this means was Joseph reunited with his family; a blessing and an example that God provides for his children when they obey him.

Jesus said: “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” He knew the people of his day understood the importance of bread in their lives. Now he was telling them that his teachings were as important to their lives and well being as bread and water for if they ate his bread (the Word of God), they would be filled.

The finished product.

The finished product.

We are also commanded to ask the Lord in prayer for our daily bread. Having clothes on our backs and food to eat are basic needs that God promises to provide if we but call on his name and have faith that he will answer.

Wheat and other grains, if properly stored, can last for many, many years and stay viable enough to sprout. Sprouts are chock-full of vitamins and can be used with bread to supplement the diet and add extra nutrition. Sprouts can top a sandwich much like lettuce. Fresh green sprouts can be eaten as a salad, or used as a vegetable. A family could survive and live well in a crisis just by storing wheat and legumes for a designated period of time.

When combined, bread, lentils, peas or beans form a complex protein that sustains a healthy life style. Vegetarians depend on these complex proteins in their diet. The great thing about eating this way is that it’s not only healthy, it’s inexpensive. Who knows, a diet like this may help you live to be 95? Maybe that’s the secret to my friend Dorothy’s longevity?

"With These Hands Wonder" available by clicking image.

“With These Hands Wonder” available by clicking image.

Dorothy’s bread has been broken and shared with many people. “Cast your bread upon the water,” scripture tells us, “for thou shalt find it after many days.” Dorothy’s bread goes out and returns to her in blessings and love from her friends, but she will tell you she receives much more than she gives.

Dorothy revised her bread recipe to accommodate her weakened arthritic hands. Her recipe requires less kneading because it has an extra rising in the refrigerator overnight. Since it’s a big job, the bread is made in two stages: the first day, she mixes and allows the bread to rise in the fridge; the second day she forms the bread, lets it rise again, and then bakes it. Still, quite an accomplishment for a 95 year old woman!

Dorothy has no children of her own, so I am sharing her recipe with you. Pass it along to your friends, enjoy it yourself, and help her legacy of love continue for many generations to come.

Dorothy’s Bread

2 pkgs. dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 C. warm water
Dissolve yeast in sugar water for at least 5 mins. or until the yeast bubbles and grows.
Add 2 large eggs, beaten
Fold into dry ingredients (waiting in another bowl):
6 C. flour (3 whole wheat, 3 white)
1/2 C. Sugar
1 T. salt
Add 1 C. vegetable oil alternately with egg/yeast mixture.
Add 1 C. boiling water, gradually; stirring until smooth.
Add 1/4 C. melted butter over the top; cover and chill overnight in the refrigerator.

Next day, turn out dough on heavily floured board. Knead a few times and divide into thirds. Roll with rolling pin; form into three loaves; place in loaf pans. Brush with melted butter. Rise for 1 1/2 hours. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for one hour.

Enjoy! And, Dorothy, dear; may God bless!

Epilogue: Dorothy is now 99 years old and has been confined to a rest home for the past three years. Her bread making days are over which makes this article and her recipe all the more special.