I Am Not Poor, But My Head Is Poor: A 2017 Report on Endiro Growers Bukalasi

There has been significant coffee news out of Uganda lately.   The Ugandan Coffee Development Authority reported that total exports for the 2016-17 season increased by 18% (
Another announcement was recently made by the world’s largest furniture retailer, Ikea, who has entered into a multiyear agreement with Ugandan coffee giant Kawacom to put some 500,000 retail bags of coffee on the shelves of their stores around the world ( 
Such stories were welcomed with excitement by coffee industry players in Uganda, but just how good is this news?
Unfortunately, it is too quickly assumed that increased exports of Ugandan coffee automatically mean good things for the farmers who grow it.  Global coffee trade, however, has long been a demand-side industry in which practically every bean has a buyer somewhere. The farmer who sold all of their coffee last year is not necessarily better off when they sell all of their beans again this year.  Selling out does not necessarily equal economic growth in business and thus cannot be thought to automatically signal positive transformation in the coffee village.
What does?

Transformation of the Coffee Village

Think about it.  A farmer, let’s call her Joyce, who sold 500 kilos of coffee cherries at 1000 Ugandan shillings (UGX) per kilo ($0.27 USD) in the 2013-14 season has made a total of 500,000 UGX or $138 USD.  If demand for Joyce’s coffee increases during the next year she can still only sell a maximum of 100% of her crop.  So, the only way her condition can improve is if she has the means to increase her crop volume or the price at which she sells it. Unfortunately, in Uganda, most farmers don’t have this kind of power.
When we at Endiro began to explore the farm side of coffee a few years ago, we discovered that even the “Fair Trade” farmers were not receiving either fair trade wages or any kind of community inputs which would help them to increase their volumes.  Instead farmers were facing annually decreasing crop yields and were being offered ever-decreasing prices for their coffee.
So, the reality was that a farmer like Joyce from our scenario above reached the 2014-15 season and found that she had only 300 kilos to sell and that the coffee buyers were had decreased their buying price to 900 shillings per kilo. Joyce then earned only 270,000 UGX or $75 USD.  Her hope that coffee could ever improve her quality of life was quickly diminishing.
A recent report by Lehigh University’s Kelly Austin found that the average coffee farming family in Uganda’s coffee-rich Bududa district earns only about $100 USD per year from their crops. Austin goes on to cite increased illnesses, poor education access for children, and gender inequality as just a few side effects of this extreme poverty. (FULL REPORT)
Facilitating change is, at one level, quite simple. If coffee is going to become a source of hope and positive transformation, two things must happen.  First, farmers must get better prices for their coffee and, second, they must achieve better crop yields.

Bukalasi as we found it

Endiro has been dedicated to pursuing these two things since 2015.  We began our work in the Bududa’s  Bukalasi community with a group of women and men who had been exploited for many years.  These were farmers who were producing coffee that ultimately made it to the shelves of grocery stores in the USA and Europe in packages stamped with a “Fair Trade Certified” label.  Their reality however was far from fair.  The Bukalasi women were selling their ever-decreasing volumes of coffee to middlemen as cherries for 800-1500 UGX per kilo.  The middlemen then resold the coffee to cooperatives and brokers who then continued to move the coffee through several layers of trade on its way to Third Wave coffee joints and high-end grocery stores in the West. No money made it back to Bukalasi in the form of trainings, equipment, or community development projects.  The farmers were left to struggle alone against drought, pests, sickness and more. After  all, if they failed to produce, there was always another farmer somewhere else who had coffee to sell.

Endiro Growers Bukalasi Women’s Group

There is little question that we at Endiro had almost no idea what we were doing when we first began to partner with the ladies of Bukalasi.  We had never farmed coffee and had almost zero agricultural knowledge.  What we did have was a passionate and uncompromising commitment to a few key principles:
1) Ignoring global market prices, we would pay 8,000 UGX per kilo of coffee, without exception.  
2) We would train and equip the farmers so that they could perform initial processing (floating, pulping, washing, drying) so that we could achieve a specialty grade coffee.
3) We would do everything in the context of genuine relationship.
The farmers didn’t believe we were serious at first.  After all, no one was paying that much for coffee.  No one was paying anything close to that.  We were surely deceiving them.  So, at first, they protected themselves.  They used our equipment and continued to sell most of their coffee to the middlemen. When we came for the first portion of the harvest in 2015, we found only a little more than a ton of coffee.  But then the money started to be distributed and the farmers realized that we were for real.  We finished that season (2015-16) with just under 7,000 kilos of coffee.
Now, remember Joyce, our imagined farmer from above.  If she sold us her 300 kilos of coffee that year, she just made 2.4 million shillings ($650 USD). That’s significant.
During the offseason, we continued to coach, pray with and work alongside farmers to re-strategize their farming methods. By teaching them basics of harvesting, pruning, teamwork, how to create natural organic fertilizers and how to control pests through organic methods we saw that the farmers increased their yields for the 2016-17 by over 100%.  We bought over 14,000 kilos from Bukalasi last season and the resulting quality has been judged by many to be Uganda’s best tasting coffee. In fact that Bukalasi coffee is now being enjoyed as far away as the USA and Taiwan.
Once again, we check in with Joyce, our representative farmer.  Now, her crop has increased from 300 kilos to 600.  Joyce now has an annual income on par with the Ugandan national average, something she had never dreamed possible.
During a recent visit to Bukalasi to launch the new season, we heard from all of the Bukalasi team leaders – farmers elected by their peers to represent teams of 50 farmers.  Their testimonies were breathtaking.  One woman said that it was the first time in her life that she had ever seen 1 million shillings.  She was immediately followed by another farmer who said it was her first time to see 2 million!  Several farmers reported that they used their money from last year to buy milk cows and that as a result their children were no longer suffering from malnourishment. Many farmers used their earnings to pay school fees for their children who were no longer missing school.  A young man reported with pride that he had begun nursing school thanks to the family’s coffee earnings.  One can only imagine the long-term impact that an educated younger generation will have on Bukalasi.  The reports continued for a long time.
For the 2017-18 season, Bukalasi has set a goal of 50,000 kilos of coffee and so far they are well on pace.  Preliminary testing suggests that the coffee this year will be the best they’ve ever produced, approaching cupping scores in the high 80s.  Some of our farmers will produce 1000, 2000, 3000 and greater volumes of coffee this year and find themselves quickly approaching the ranks of Uganda’s middle class.
For our part, we have stepped up our commitment to these farmers.  We will be paying 8,300 UGX per kilo this season in Bukalasi and investing in additional equipment, training and more. We are even working to develop coffee leaf tea and cascara (a beverage made from the dried fruit of coffee cherries) so as to bring two additional streams of revenue to the Endiro Growers Bukalasi Group.  
I am not poor, but my head is poor.
This is what we mean when we say we are brewing better together.  We mean partnering with the farming families, who must be fully participating agents in building their own future, to develop holistic strategies which genuinely bring transformation. The ladies of Bukalasi have a saying that they have adopted as a kind of motto for their forward success – “I am not poor, my head is poor.” We believe that these women have much to teach a world of ultra-wealthy coffee conglomerates who cannot see their way to increasing the amount of money they pay farmers. In fact, they have much to teach all of us.  How many of our supposed obstacles are little more than mental blocks.  Maybe we aren’t so poor, but our heads are poor.
We hope you coffee lovers out there will take a moment to consider the choices you make with each cup you drink. We hope you café owners will forget about brand names for a moment when you look for a coffee supplier.  We hope you micro-roasters will look beyond mere certifications and price tags when you order your next bag of green.  Get to know the real story.  And, if you are so inclined, join the Endiro story and brew better together with us (! 


Standing for the Rights of Others: Southern Baptists and a New Jersey Mosque

Photo by Frank van Leersum

The International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention has been doing some backpeddling after rather heroically coming to the aid of a Muslim community in New Jersey which was facing unfair zoning requirements in their efforts to build a mosque.

You can read more on the story here as reported by Christianity Today.

After the IMB and the SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission filed an amicus brief (along wth 16 other groups) in support of the mosque, they faced some backlash from IMB trustee Dean Haun who deemed the amicus brief an "unholy alliance" and said:

"If we defend the rights of people to construct places of false worship, are we not helping them speed down the highway to hell?"

There's so much about that statement that should send chills down your spine.

So, I read that yesterday.  And then today, I read about a friend of mine, a Chicago church planter who's church was also being unfairly treated by a city zoning board.  His case was almost identical to the situation of the mosque in that the religious group was being blocked by city officials in the name of inadequate parking.  It quickly reminded me of one of my own church plants that recently had to deal with the same thing here in Chicagoland.

Now, let's leave aside the question of whether a pastor from rural Tennessee is in the best position to comment on the kind of urban zoning pressures that those of us in big cities have to deal with.  But, beyond commenting, Haun actually resigned from the IMB board and then apparently lead his church to suspend their giving to Southern Baptist Missions.

And then it gets even more concerning.

The IMB responded to the criticism by changing their processes for filing legal briefs.  Essentially, they have taken the position of siding with Pastor Huan's Morristown, Tennessee priorities and agreeing to never do it again.

A few points to consider:

1. Denying justice and equal treatment under the law to anyone is always wrong.

Because ... it's ... denying ... justice!

The second a Christian says that it is okay to deny a Muslim equal treatment under the law, that Christian forms an unholy alliance (to use Pastor Haun's phrase) with the perpetrators of injustice.   Just read a little Bonhoffer.  German Christians who failed to prophetically stand against the unjust treatment of Jews ... Russian Christians who failed to prophetically stand against the unjust treatment of Roma or Muslim people ... American Christians who failed to prophetically stand against  the unjust treament of African slaves ... anyone remember these things?

Pastor Haun, injustice is a highway to hell too!  Ethnocentrism and Islamophobia are false religions! You and your church have positioned yourself on the side of NOT defending the rights of others -- the side of injustice.

2. If you don't speak up for the rights of others, you will have no credibility in speaking up for your own rights.

This was the rationale of the IMB when they filed the brief:

[Our] specific interest in the brief arises out of our belief that all peoples of the world have the right to religious liberty, including the freedom to embrace the gospel. This is what we believe and why we take the gospel to them, despite situations that pose great risk. A public record by IMB of supporting freedom of religion for all people in the United States—regardless of their beliefs—gives IMB workers overseas a credible foundation from which to advocate for freedom of religious exercise in countries that are hostile to Christianity, penalize those who convert, or make it difficult for a new church to own or rent property for worship. … IMB’s call on the government of these other countries to support the religious freedom of their citizens will ring hollow if, in the USA, we only support freedom of religion for Christians.

And this is absolutely correct.  It is not only the just to defend the rights of everyone to religious liberty, but it simply makes sense.  Pastor Haun may not want to venture as far as Yemen or China or Nepal where the rights of Christians to plant churches and worship freely are not always as certain as they are in Morristown, Tennessee, but perhaps he can take a Megabus to Chicago and talk to the pastor of Immanual Baptist Church about their struggle over parking ordinances.  If we fail to defend the rights of a Muslim group in New Jersey, what have we to say when the City of Chicago denies a religious use permit to a Southern Baptist Church over the exact same issue?  What right have we to expect Muslim nations to give relgious liberty to those who wish to follow Jesus if we do not ourselves champion religious liberty as a universal right.

This isn't complicated theology... it's Golden Rule stuff (Mt. 7:12).

3. A Kingdom worldview is not afraid of the spread of non-Christian religions.  

Are you not yet tired of Christians who bemoan the opening of a new Mosque or Hindu temple in their communities? Do you not yet understand just how ungodly is that all too common "there goes the neighborhood" response to peoples of other faiths moving into town?

How long are we Christians going to be so stupid?

A Biblical worldview knows that the Kingdom of God is coming and that the gospel of that Kingdom must be proclaimed as a testimony to all people groups before then end (Mt. 24:14). When the nations move into town, we should be throwing parties because it means new opportunities to share the love of Jesus with those who don't know him.

very tired of Christians who get all panicky when they see a Mosque or Hindu temple being built in their communities.  To me, this is dumb and reflects a worldview that does not understand the Bible.  A Biblical worldview knows that the Kingdom is coming and that the gospel  of the Kingdom will be preached as a testimony to all peoples and then the end will come (Mt. 24:14).  When I see a mosque or temple being build, I rejoice because I know it means a new opportunity to share the love of Jesus with people who don't know him.

But people like Pastor Haun seem to be afraid of Islam.  They are afraid that "false religions" will take over their country.

Such people need to be reminded that this world is not their home and that the country they should be seeking is an eternal one.  Whatever happens to the USA is pretty darn irrelevent from the perspective of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom will come and reign forever.  No religion can ever overcome it, delay it or alter its course .  When the Muslims and the Hindus and the Buddhists and others come to town... when they come to Morristown ... that is cause to rejoice and to extend welcome.  It is a sign of the Kingdom and the coming of the new age.


How to Lead a Course on Diaspora Missions for Your Church, Small Group or Team

In a time when migration issues are so controversial, followers of Jesus don't always know where they are supposed to stand.  Discipleship on issues of diaspora, immigration, and God's purposes among the people on the move has never been more important.

For several years now, people like myself and many of my friends have been working hard to create resources that will enable you to get equipped and to equip others.  Below you will find a straighforward curation of some of the absolute best resources available and some guidance on how to use them to start a class for your team, family, small group or church.

Most of these resources are free.  I challenge you to plan a class where you are.  If you have questions along the way, I promise I will help you.  Here you go...

Lausanne Global Classroom - Diaspora

This brief but comprehensive video was produced by the Lausanne Movement and the Global Diaspora Network.  If I was teaching a diaspora course, I would let this video provide the outline for it.  You will notice that it very nicely breaks down into bite-size segments and covers a wide range of issues related to diaspora missions.   I recommend building your course around this video.

Cost: Free

Usage: Video is broken into 10 segments. Use one or two segments per session and direct your Bible teaching and reflection around these segment themes.

Scattered to Gather: Embracing the Global Trend of Diaspora

This exceptionally brief text (less than 50 pages) provides an overview of the subject of diaspora from a Biblical and sociological perspective.  The PDF version is available for free and can give students an approachable introduction to the foundational missiological concepts that inspired the birth of the Global Diaspora Network at Cape Town 2010 and the Global Diaspora Forum in 2015.  I would let your students begin with this text before going on to the other key texts mentioned below.

Cost: Free

Usage: Focus on giving reading assignments at the end of each class section. The key sections are the "Seoul Declaration", "Diasporas and God's Mission", and "Next Steps".  Ask students to read these on their own time and allow 5-10 minutes of each session for open discussion on the themes raised.  If you course is longer, supplement with readings from this blog or Global Diasporas and Mission (below).  

Other reading: Scattered and Gathered: a Global Compendium of Diaspora Missiology ($72.00);  Strangers Next Door: Immigration, Migration and Mission ($9.99 Kindle); Global Diasporas and Mission (Free download)

Borderless Prayer

No course on mission is complete without a prayer strategy.  We released Borderless Prayer during advent of 2016, but the guide is relevant at any time of the year.  By using this guide, your students are going to learn about diaspora issues from various perspectives and be guided in how to pray. Depending on how long your course is, I would use one or more of these prayer articles during each session.  Cost: $1.99 Kindle; $5.99 paperback

Other prayer: Global Diaspora Network Prayer Hub

Usage: Designate time during each class session to pray.  Use 1-2 articles from the book to facilitate this prayer.  

Of course, you want to use the Bible as your foundation for any class on diaspora.  I do my best to keep providing Biblical reflections on diaspora right here.  Just use my "diaspora" label to currate those articles.  I also don't mind recommendind the main Borderless site for this as well as the Global Diaspora Network.

I will keep my eyes open and update this as new resources become available.  For now, the above are exceptional and form the basis for an excellent class on diaspora.


A Sight as Clear as a Hittite

As Abraham walked through the land of Canaan, he knew it was his.

God had promised as much.

Raise your eyes now, and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. (Gen. 13:14)

But when Sarah died, meekly he went to the elders of the Hittites and declared:

I am a stranger and an alien residing among you.  

Here again is that word, גֵּר (ger).

Give me property among you for a burying place.

What follows is an exchange unparalleled in Scripture in which two groups of people, foreign to each other ... other to each other ... out do one another in showing honor.  Give it a read and you will know what I'm speaking about.

One thing screams to me.  For both the Hittites and the clan of Abraham, it was a given that each had much to learn and benefit from the other.  Honor was appropriate because their hearts told them that the other was not one to be demeaned or dismissed but rather embraced and blessed.  Honor was fitting because the inherent worth of the other was obvious. 

And asserting ones legal rights to land? Just didn't seem to be as important as the treasure seen in the stranger's face.

Can I see as clearly as the Hittites when I meet a stranger, alien, immigrant, or foreigner?

Oh, what treasures am I missing in the face of the other?


I'm an Alien

The very first occurence in the Bible of the Hebrew word גֵּר (ger) is quite illuminating.

The word means alien, stranger, foreigner, migrant.  

But, in Genesis 15, it doesn't refer to someone else. It's not a term used to describe the "other".  Rather, it is a word used by God to describe what will soon happen to his own people.

Know this for certain, that your offspring shall be aliens in a land that is not theirs, and shall be slaves there, and they shall be oppressed for four hundred years. (Gen. 15:13)

Referring, of course, to the generations spent by Israel in Egypt, this time as aliens was to be formative -- it would, along with their deliverance, form the two sides of their identity as God's chosen people.  To this day, celebrate a Passover Sedar with observant Jews and you will quickly learn that the "land not theirs" still leaves a mark on who they are.

Actually, a follower of Jesus has only to celebrate the Lord's Supper to know the same.  God's people are still very much those that have been brought up out of Egypt.

It is the normal way of speaking to use the word alien, stranger, foreigner or migrant to refer to someone else -- the other.  But we are not supposed to be normal.  From a Biblical perspective, from Genesis 15:13 to 1 Peter 2:11, God's people have always been "aliens and strangers".  Indeed, it is the definitive way of faith according to Hebrews 11:13-16.

All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return.

Those who speak this way make it clear what they are seeking.  I wonder if my words provide the same kind of clarity.  

What are you seeking? What kind of homeland? What do you mean when you say refugee, immigrant, alien, stranger, foreigner? 

Do you realize that you are the stranger?

Do you understand what it means that this is not your home?