On a mission from God
Les and Catherine DeRoos and their family have returned from their mission work in Nigeria to visit with family, friends and churches that have supported them throughout their calling. They will return again to continue their labor of love and share in the lives of those who have become their new friends.
They had the chance to catch up with the DeRoos family in Alta and with their church family at Summit, and celebrate the high school graduation of their oldest child, Rachelle.
The four DeRoos children, Rachelle, Josiah, Zachary and Jonathon, all in their middle to late teens, have grown up in the missionary field and have opened their arms right along with their parents.
The lives of the Nigerians have been forever changed thanks in part to the DeRoos family; a bigger thanks, of course, goes to God who has given the family the wisdom to share.
With an agronomy background, Les opened up a whole new world filled with plants that normally would not be grown in the country. Iowans and others shared packets of seeds that would be grown in their own gardens - such as beets, cantaloupe, cucumbers, green beans, peppers, tomatoes, lettuce and watermelon.
The idea that Les developed was to turn their farms - on the average, a half-acre in size - which have been used to grow food food for the family, into producing food for profit. After speaking with the government of Nigeria and tribal leaders, the idea became a reality. Over time, the family has helped develop a research farm which includes training as well as nutritional information for a select group of natives to learn from and share with others.
The project, known as Faith Agriculture - or FAAGRIC for short, is located on a piece of acquired ground that has been well publicized through television and radio broadcasts.
He stressed at the opening ceremony over a year ago, that the project is for the people and that he would help as he could to "allow the people to eat for a lifetime."
The DeRoos family has shared in the excitement with the Nigerians watching their seeds flourish into fresh vegetables.
The family has made adjustments in their own lives - from the comforts of their home in Iowa - to mirror the lives of the Nigerians.
They have survived the months of drought and the months of heavy rains that are so common in the African country. They have, too, acquired a taste for new foods and learned to deal with shortages of electricity and fresh water. They have adjusted to a new style of shopping which includes long walking distances and fresh open markets.
As serious as they take their work, there is also time for humor. They share a few of the things they have learned during their first term as full-time missionaries:
* We have learned that it is possible for four generations to live in the same house at the same time and think nothing of it.
* Missionaries and ants are an interesting pair. When a missionary finds ants in his toothbrush: a) during the first four months of service they throw away the toothbrush; b) during the next four months of service the toothbrush is rinsed well before using; c) after eight months of service they brush their teeth and floss out the ants. (This could be a little exaggeration!)
* In the tropics, spiders, ants, lizards, roaches and rodents are everywhere. With that in mind, always, always make sure your mosquito net is tucked in well after you get in bed.
* A cracked ping-pong ball after taped with clear box tape will last for another 10 to 20 games.
* Contrary to popular belief, they know it is possible for teenagers to survive without telephones, TV or video games and they find wonderful imaginative ways to entertain themselves. (The DeRoos family has stored up some of their most memorable times during their two hours of evening electricity.)
"During this time we have not only grown closer together as a family, but we have certainly grown closer to Christ," they shared.
The adventure has not been new for Les and Catherine. When he was a student at Bible College in Missouri, he served as a missionary in 1982 and 1983 in Haiti and India. Catherine was born in Nigeria where her missionary-parents were serving; the family visited there in June. Until she was 10, the family served overseas. After the couple married, they served in India, with hopes of serving as full-time missionaries but due to conflicts, they returned to the United States and began raising a family.
The family has been not only in Iowa but in Missouri sharing time with family and friends since arriving in the United States earlier this summer. They keep those at home well-informed of their work - if you can call it that - through monthly newsletters. They have been appreciative of all the support and prayers that have come their way. Many individuals have even asked about possibilities of short-term teams coming to help in Nigeria. The family is grateful for the interest and look forward to having teams and individuals visit in the future.
When the DeRoos' left Nigeria early this summer, it was the middle of the growing season. They are anxious to return to see how well their friends listened to lectures presented on agriculture and learn of their harvest.
"Things were growing very well (when we left) but needed careful attention," the family shared.
The family has kept in close and regular contact through email and phone with those that are "holding down the fort" in Nigeria.
Sharing in a new culture is the greatest reward for the family. "It is a difficult adjustment, especially for the kids - the time zones, the culture the life style, the sites, the climate. But we are all in awe of God's goodness and we are excited God has given us this unique opportunity and has helped prepare our family."