Corn is a staple in Iowa. In the summer, acres and acres are covered by stalks as far as the eye can see. The situation is different in Laos. Corn is new there, and the people of Laos are learning how to plant, harvest, and store this new crop. Storage is especially important as Laos is always hot and humid, and bugs destroy crops. Post-harvest losses can reach 30 percent.
The people of Iowa are helping to change that.
Verlyn De Wit, a member of Faith Christian Reformed Church in Sioux Center, had visited Laos previously to deliver wheelchairs. On that trip, they saw that corn was being grown. “We asked our partners in Laos if they had ever considered developing their corn production,” he said. The response was that a Lao Christian businessman had made several trips to Sioux City, Iowa, to learn more about corn production and processing.
On their next trip to Laos, Verlyn and others were able to meet that businessman. He mentioned that a Des Moines-area church was sending storage bins to Laos. “Our church decided to get behind this project,” De Wit said.
The process of taking down grain bins is similar to how they are put up. According to Ron Vandenberg, another member of Faith CRC who has taken down bins, the job can require the help of up to 20 people, depending on the size of the bin. The bins are containerized and trucked to Kansas City, taken by train to either coast, and shipped to Bangkok. From there they are taken by truck to Laos.
Kirby Rogers is a missionary in Laos. He said that the grain bins have had a huge effect on the production of corn, adding that the Sisawang Church in Laos “wants to reach into the lives of the people using business as missions methods.” Church leadership uses a three-pronged approach: spiritual development, community development, and economic development. Rogers said, “The grain bins are a key role in the economic development of the agricultural sector.”