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A Fishy Tale

Some years ago, my wife, Lesley, and I were passing through the U.S. on a journey of faith after pastoring a church in the UK. The Lord had told us both independently to give away what He had built through us and wait in faith for the next chapter of our lives. This meant giving up a church that we had planted and led, a fair-trade business, and oversight of an international worship training academy.

In our mid-fifties, we gave almost everything away and decided to head for Australia to visit family and wait for God’s direction.

That’s when longtime friends Paul Milligan, now CEO of Andrew Wommack Ministries (AWM) and his wife, Patsy, invited us to the U.S. to “hang out” with them in the interim. This act of kindness led us to encounter Andrew and Jamie Wommack at an informal cookout one night. At this gathering, Andrew asked what we were doing in the States, and after listening approvingly to our tale of faith, he exclaimed: “Man, that’s awesome! You guys really are living by faith,” followed shortly after by the unexpected request, “Will you go to Karamoja for me?”

Karamoja is the region between Uganda and Kenya and is famous for its cross-border tribal conflicts. AWM had recently started discipling pastors there, and Andrew wanted to assess what the practical needs of the people were and to know how well the ministry was discipling people using the Discipleship Evangelism program. To say we were surprised at his request is an understatement. I was just grateful I knew where Karamoja was!

To make a long (miracle-filled) story short, I made the journey, carrying out a fact-finding mission for Andrew. Consequently, I was employed to start DEMO—Discipleship Evangelism Missional Outreach. Essentially, our mission is to “give people the Word and teach them to fish.” DEMO shows the love of Christ by helping in practical ways and teaching people useful skills that will enable them to be effective “fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19).

Our goal is to make disciples using the Discipleship Evangelism program, which is freely available to download in multiple languages at our DEMO page and is having a huge global impact. However, teaching people to “fish”—to become self-sustaining—is the greater challenge. This has required expertise that we did not possess, so we have partnered with those who do. We discovered the greatest need in Karamoja was for clean water. And after many challenges, we drilled ten boreholes in two regions there.

However, we realized that even with access to water, the Karamoja environment is not conducive to growing plants in some locations. This set me to thinking, Our ministry headquarters in Colorado is similar to the Karamoja environment in various ways. Growing plants in Woodland Park, Colorado—located at nearly 9,000 feet—could also be challenging. We need somehow to create a good environment within a poor one!

I did some research and came upon aquaponics—a process using fish and their waste in enclosed, independent systems to grow organic food and conserve water.

I spoke with Andrew and asked if I could use an old cabin on the Charis Bible College Woodland Park property to experiment and learn more. Andrew agreed, and a partner generously funded us.

Our aquaponics research unit at 9000 ft in Woodland Park, Colorado

In no time, we were raising fish and growing healthy, organic plants in our Woodland Park research unit. However, there is much complexity surrounding aquaponics, and every environment is different as you would see from the pictures below.

Organic Swiss chard grown in our aquaponics unit in Woodland Park, Colorado

Because of this, I concluded that we needed to set our aquaponics venture aside and focus on discipling the people of Karamoja.

But in God’s perfect timing, He sent our son, Matt, to help with the aquaponics project! Miraculously, in 2017—after twenty years away from the Lord—Matt left the UK and enrolled at Charis Woodland Park. In the two years leading up to his graduation, he volunteered and adopted the aquaponics project as his own. In the process, Matt has conducted many experiments to simplify things and broaden the project to include sustainable living technologies.

Matt Rowe (far right) talking to partners in our aquaponics unit in Woodland Park, Colorado

Our aquaponics research continues, and using social media platforms, DEMO intends this year to provide free online training videos to teach others all we have learned thus far.

Mark Rowe (far left) talking to partners in the aquaponics unit in Woodland Park, Colorado

Visit our aquaponics Facebook page for more information on the amazing work AWM partners are enabling us to do, and be sure to subscribe for updates.

To find out more about DEMO, visit awmi.net/about-us/demo.