I had the privilege of co-leading a group of high school students to Kenya this year. None of us are particularly qualified to "do missions", but God was able to use our obedience to follow His calling and go to Kenya. While we were there it was brought to our attention that one of the microeconomic ventures of the church that we were partnering with was not doing well. The church had built a small pond in order to buy small fish and raise them. The community we were located in had a large demand for fish, so there was a decent amount of money to be made if they were successful.
The pastors were having two issues in particular. One, the food for the Catfish was very expensive and two, they couldn't seem to keep the fish alive long enough to resell them at a good weight. God was working in conversation throughout the week through the way our trip leader Steve, a representative of Life in Abundance, was learning about our lives and what we did for a living. I had shared that I helped manage a small business and Matt, one of our students, had mentioned that he worked for a pet store (something that did not really exist in Kenya). Steve was able to then ask us if we would happen to know how to better help with this Catfish raising venture that they called a Seed Project. What he didn't know was both of us had relatives that had raised fish either for a living or in their backyards at a larger and more successful way than the Seed Project could hope for! God was able to use some of our fish knowledge which could have been considered trivial to transform a community.
How did God use that knowledge? First, of all we were able to share that Catfish will eat literally anything. This became extremely significant because the greatest cost for them up until this point was buying the food to raise the fish. The food would often cost four times the amount than the baby fish themselves. Secondly, we were able to share that fish need some moving water to get oxygen into the water. We had realized that the fish were attempting to be raised in a concrete ditch that was full of still water. Matt was able to take his fish tank knowledge and explain that a small air pump would provide them with the circulation that the fish needed to survive. (I am sure we have all had a situation were we accidentally killed a goldfish because we left it in the bag too long.)
So we are pretty awesome right? We went in there an fixed everything... No! It was truly humbling to see how God orchestrated the unqualified to transform and pushed the obedient to build-up.
For those of us that like the more tangible results, I would like to give you the economic implications for the community learning these few facts about catfish and how that can bring their Seed Project to succeed. A small living Catfish costs about $2. The food they were previously feeding that Catfish would cost about $8, then they would sell that Catfish on the market for about $12. That is not bad. They would make about $2 of profit, potentially multiplying their success. What they can now do is buy a small living Catfish for $2, feed it the scraps of animals they don't eat, vegetable waste, or whatever scraps they happen to have totaling $0 for food to raise the Catfish, and still sell the mature fish for $12. Without having to pay for food they now can make about $10 per fish sold.
I know many of you are thinking, "Wow that is great, they can go to chipotle and get guac", but it is some much more than being able to get what should already be included in the sale price. In the community, many people would be able to live well enough for less than $1 a day. Meaning that the sale of one fish no longer feeds a family for 2 days, but now could feed a family for nearly a week and a half.
But maybe more importantly, the church can now provide families more easily with a goat (this is something that the church is already doing as another project). Goats are around $35. The significance here is not that the church can now be more capable of giving, but it actually creates a situation where the family that has been given a goat no longer is dependent on the church for food. Goats are essentially a form of a job. Once you have 2 goats, they become an income stream because of how quickly they can reproduce, about every 5 month with 1-3 offspring.
If you have not done the math already, this means that with the cost of food for the fish eliminated, the church can now create a community that is fed 400% faster. That is incredible! Only God could use experience about fish to be that impactful.
Finally I want to wrap-up with Jonah 3:3. It says that Jonah obeyed and went. It doesn't say that he went because he really wanted to, or because he had the best skillset for the kind of work that Nineveh needed help with, or the Jonah had a passion fo these people (it was quite the opposite in fact). It was simply that he did one thing, and that was to obey the word of the Lord and go.