Podcast transcript: When Life Doesn’t Go as Planned. Interview with David Stallings Vanderpool – 2/14/2019
In this episode, Jacklyn is talking with David Stallings Vanderpool, LiveBeyond’s Director of Agriculture, Marketing, and Development. He discusses how agricultural development was the answer to his questions about missions. Community agricultural development is a modern pathway to evangelizing in underdeveloped countries.
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[00:00:01] JVB: Hello, everyone. My name is Jacklyn Vanderpool, and we’re back with another LiveBeyond podcast. And today we’re interviewing my brother, David Vanderpool, who is the Director of Development, Marketing and Agriculture for LiveBeyond. And today we’re going to be talking to him a little bit about his experiences in agriculture and working in Haiti as well as all around the world. So, David, thank you so much for joining us today.
[00:00:25] DSV: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me.
[00:00:27] JVB: We are so excited to get to talk a little bit more about your story and also the effect that you were having in Haiti and all around the world. So, we talked a little bit last week with Dr. Vanderpool, our dad, and just talked a little bit about what our childhood was like working all around the world and getting to experience things from a really, really young age. So, I guess my question for you is how did your childhood influence your decision to go into agriculture and missions?
[00:00:58] DSV: Well, it’s interesting from a very young age, I knew I wanted to go into missions, but I didn’t know how. And growing up with Dad as a doctor, especially a trauma surgeon, it was so much fun and so inspiring and really so eye-opening to able to travel all over the planet, accompanying him as he did his medical missionary work. But medicine never really appealed to me, and I gave it a shot in college and Chemistry 101 quickly changed my mind. But, I was, throughout that whole time, I was a Bible major in my undergrad, and I knew I want to go into missions, and I took lots of missions classes, and I was the most obnoxious student possible. Whatever the opposite of the teacher’s pet is, that was me, because I would ask the most infuriating questions in my stubborn, you know, I-know-everything-adolescent type mind. But the question I asked every single day in every one of my missions classes was, “What does a missionary do every day?” And that’s incredibly conceited of me. And I’m still quite conceited, so whatever, but I never got a straight-forward answer. It was always well, you know, let’s read this textbook and let’s find out. And I’m like, “I’ve read the textbook. I’ve done the homework. I’m asking you because I still don’t know. What does a missionary get up and do?” “Oh, well, they, they plant churches.” “Great. Where do I buy church seed?” That doesn’t make sense to me. Tell me, like give me strategic and tactical steps that you take to accomplish the results you set out to do. I never got an answer. And eventually, I graduated and I still didn’t really have an answer. Dad, the family, our organization was at the time called Mobile Medical Disaster Relief. And, as the name implies, we were – being a disaster relief organization – we responded to the earthquake in Haiti in January of 2010, and I graduated and was living in Haiti, and I was running, more as an admin type, a bunch of medical clinics throughout Port-au-Prince really feeling worthless when it came to the day-to-day operations. Because, I could, like I said, administrate and, you know, make sure the pharmacy was stocked and that the doctors and nurses who are doing the real work, you know, were taking care of and fed and housed and all that, but I wanted to be able to provide a service is well. So, I was living in Port-au-Prince, and I was praying a lot. And I saw the hunger, the true physical hunger of so many of the people there in Haiti, and while I was praying and really meditating on scripture, I came to the point where Jesus told Peter, you know, “Feed my sheep,” and I felt The Lord say that to me. I said, “Alright, God, I’m going to take this literally.” So I went and acquired some degrees in agriculture, and I have never looked back. I feel like I’m finally on the path that the Lord intended for me from the beginning. I just wish I had known this, you know, fifteen, twenty years earlier instead of, you know, so late in the game. But, now that I’m here, I’m, you know, working towards agriculture, agricultural development, because it is such a remarkably impactful field for missions. And it’s not because I care about agriculture. I don’t give a flip about goats or sheep or bees or eggplants or onions or papaya or anything in itself other than it is useful for blessing people. And it’s people that I care about because it is people who have souls that Jesus cares about. And if Jesus cares about them, then we should, too.
[00:04:58] JVB: Absolutely.
[00:04:59] DSV: And in working in agriculture and training farmers and improving the outputs, we’re able to feed more people, and if we’re looking at that literally, you know, “Feed my sheep,” I think that’s important. But I think it is the feeding my people physically – the food – that then translates into feed my people – spiritually. I mean, even Jesus knew that if I’m going to really reach my audience, I need to take care of their physical needs first. And so, he fed the five thousand and then he preaches, and so many people come into the Kingdom of the Lord because he met their needs. And that’s what medical missions work is. It is meeting the physical needs of the people, and then we’re able to evangelize. And then we’re able to tell them the gospel, and then they’re able to come to know Jesus. Well, I’m not smart enough to be a doctor, but, dad gum, I can play in the dirt and make some stuff grow. So, that is where my passion for missions has finally coincided with a practical, useful, implementable, method of development that I used simply as a leveraging tool for evangelism.
[00:06:24] JVB: Absolutely. Well, you know, I think it’s one of those things that sometimes we can, in my experiences, in my opinion, I could be so stubborn and say, “This is what I’m going to do for Your Kingdom,” and go and do it. And it’s not pertaining to my gifts and talents or my passions. And so, I’ll be so stubborn and trying to make this work and the Lord is saying, chuckling, “David, I gave you these incredible gifts. If you want to flourish, if you want to thrive and if you want to truly impact My Kingdom, you need to do it with the gifts and the talents that I’ve given you. And so, you know, while you were in college, you may have never expected that you’d be going down into an agricultural route. But, I think it’s just so wonderful that, you know, once you heard from the Lord and once He gave you that direction, that was His perfect timing, and He was leading you exactly into that. And so, the patience and the trust in the Lord and saying, like, “I’m gonna wait until you tell me what it is.” And it’s almost, like, this explosion takes place, like once you’re on the same page with the Lord, just this this huge, huge, you know, bounty comes in, and you see the fruit of that. It’s so incredible. And I, as your sister and your co-worker and your friend, have loved seeing, just, the incredible work that you’re doing. And so, I’m going to ask you the question that you always asked your professors and when you were living in Haiti, you lived there for two years – what was your day to day like? And I know it’s always different. But what was your fairly consistent day-to-day? What did they look like? And how did it impact the Kingdom?
[00:08:00] DSV: I think that’s still an important question, one that I have to constantly remind myself of. And I think you have to break it down into two different sides. What is your overarching strategy? And then, what is your, almost minute-by-minute tactical approach to accomplishing that strategy? So, our strategy is, you know, like my professors told me, to plant churches, to evangelize, to spread the gospel. Okay, well, that is remarkably broad. How do you do that? Well, that the tactics, and I think the tactics that are most effective are somewhat more modern then missions has been throughout the past couple of millennia. Um, and I don’t mean this in a, you-know-we-finally-found-the-answer kind of way. I think maybe culture and society is changing to the point where this is what is more effective now. It might not have been effective, you know, back in, you know, the early church type days, but it’s working most effectively in the twenty-first century, and that is development. Development, like I said, as a means of leveraging the gospel. You know, there’s a lot of statistics on unreached people groups, and I think there is some truth to that. But we’re a fairly saturated society when it comes to “Have you heard about Christianity?” and maybe they haven’t heard enough. Maybe people haven’t heard it very well, but I think in this day and age, it’s less about simply hearing and more about truly knowing. And I love the incredibly cheesy saying, you know, “People don’t care how much you know until I know how much you care,” and I try to apply that to missions. And if we’re going to be effective missionaries, then we need to truly show love to people, and there are a lot of ways to do that. And I’m not very good at the emotional side of love, but I could be, you know, I will, due to my stubbornness and my dedication, be good at the impactful, uh, hands-on tangible side of love. And so, that’s why I think development is important because it is, Christians, you know, I mean Christian development, is Christians demonstrating the love of Jesus through their sacrifice and dedication to the people they are witnessing, witnessing to. And so with agriculture – the tactics, the day-to-day, the work that we did – was I got up and I worked on the demonstration farm teaching local farmers how they could improve their livelihoods through different methods of – of agriculture, of farming, of animal husbandry, of gardening, of crop rotation, of, you know, you name it. And through that education, people were able to have better lives. Now, at the same time, we’re able to make incredibly easy correlations between, “Hey, this’s some delicious bread you’re eating. Let me tell you about the Bread of Life.” Boom! Well, that was easier than having a felt board. But, having the commitment to the people you’re working with, pouring into their lives, developing those relationships and showing them how much you truly care about their mortal life as much as you care about their eternal life, I believe has a bigger impact than simply, you know, preaching on the street corner. Or, you know, having a big tent revival – which has its time and place and can be very effective. But I think if you have the relationship first, then the sermon has a bigger impact. And I believe that developing those relationships through aspects of community development – so agriculture, or medicine, or clean water, or school-type education, or, you know, you name it, then you’re able to have a bigger impact for the Kingdom. And so, to answer your question, the day-to-day type work – it was get up and work towards the program that I was working within – so within agriculture, and so, I would write different education curriculums to teach on the farm that day. I would do extension work where I’d go out into the community and find the local farmers I know and help them with different aspects of their farm, whether it’s identifying pests or, you know, teaching them how to properly prune their fruit trees or post-harvest produce loss mitigation or, you know, a bunch of all their jargon that might not make sense to, you know, the average listener, but something that is incredibly impactful to the day-to-day farmer. And by making that impact in developing those relationships and then speaking into their lives in a spiritual way, making that the latter step, not the first step, people are then more receptive because their hearts have become softened, because they know that you care. And the walls have been torn down because you’ve made friendships and you’ve made impacts into their lives. And so, that’s my tactical approach to accomplishing my strategic goals in missions.
[00:13:46] JVB: So tell me a little bit about some of those relationships that you formed. Tell me about the men and women that you worked with and the success stories that you saw while you were down there.
[00:13:57] DSV: Well, oh my goodness, I’ve worked with so many great men and women all throughout the world, I mean, from Haiti to India to Afghanistan to Ghana, and golly, I love these people to death because farmers truly are the best people. And I’m biased. I don’t care what anyone else says, but also because they’re truly great people. And I’ve worked with a lot of great farmers who have truly matured and risen up and become their community leaders. And I’ve been excited to see that. And so, one of my favorite examples – I’ll give you two from Haiti: Franckil and Harold. They live in different parts of our region. They’ve both become wonderful leaders in their community. Franckil comes from Le Tang, which is a lakeside village, primarily a fishing village. And he has been one of my right-hand men there in Haiti, probably since 2013, and I’ve been blessed to see how he has become more receptive and open-minded. And honestly, it’s one of my most disappointing stories as well, because I poured into Franckil every single day for years. I mean, every day I prayed with him, every day I administered to him. He was a hard individual, not receptive in the beginning, um, angry and quite bitter at life. But he was a hard-working farmer, and he was really dedicated to his family. Well, when I moved away from Haiti in the end of 2015 and you moved down to Haiti in 2016, you were there when he was baptized and I wasn’t. And I’m a little bit bitter about that.
[15:58] JVB: Yeah.
[15:59] DSV: But, the Lord, of course, reminds me of the verse, you know, some people sew, and others water, and others harvest. And I’m so proud of you for the harvest that you brought in. But I feel like the sowing and the preparation of the soil.
[16:15] JVB: It’s a lot harder than the harvest time, that’s for sure.
[16:17] DSV: There’s a lot of sweat that goes into that side of things.
[16:19] JVB: There’s a lot of sweat and tears. There’s a lot of joy in the harvest, but a lot of pain in the sowing. I just love, you know, for me, because again, you moved at the end of 2015, I move down in 2016 and lived there for two years, and you would Skype in every Tuesday. And you know, you would continue to teach the farmers, and I was just the one to, you know, turn on the computer, make sure everything was working right. And I would stay in the room, and, to see that, you know, your impact goes so much farther than just, like, your time there, you know, literally on the land, preparing the land and sowing both, you know, physically and spiritually. And just to see how excited they were to see you every week. And I remember, you know, if our WiFi was down in Haiti, which is practically every week, and I would have to go find them and say, “Guys, I’m so sorry, you know, we’re not gonna have farmer training today.” I mean, they were just disappointed. They were so disappointed because they love you, they look up to you, and I just think it’s so wonderful is, you know, to see the different ways that you can have an impact, you know, obviously being there, it’s such a tangible way to see it. But, David, you’re still having an impact now, you know, even living in Dallas and Skyping in every week and talking to these guys and praying with them and encouraging them, and then also, you know, training them to be better farmers, but better men, better husbands, better fathers, better sons, better neighbors. You know, it’s so much more than just agriculture. And I just I’ve loved to see and witness that for myself and get to be a part of that, even if it’s very distant and, you know, from the back. So, I’ve- I’m proud of you and very encouraged with the work that you’re doing. So, hat’s off to you.
[18:09] DSV: You’re so sweet.
[18:11] JVB: But I know you also want to share that story about Harold, but I wanted to interrupt you real fast for that.
[18:15] DSV: Oh, well, thank you for that. I really appreciate it. Well, yes. And Harold, another just amazing, amazing guy. Um, like I said, comes from a different part of the region and a very different, uh, character. I mean especially contrast with Franckil, Harold is happy and incredibly, just buoyant in his personality. I mean, just always smiling, always bubbly, and he’s really smart when it comes to horticulture. I’m just constantly blown away at just how much of a green thumb he has. I mean, he’s just a natural farmer.
[18:56] JVB: Oh, his house is beautiful. Luscious everywhere!
[19:00] DSV: Not just trees and plants. Well, and so, it was very easy to just turn over more and more responsibility to him because everything he touched thrived. And so, handing him the nursery, I mean, my goodness, we have, I think, forty-seven mango trees that he has propagated over the past couple of months that are just, you know, exploding. And we’ve got, I think twenty-three or -four avocados that are coming up. I have never…in all my years, with all my degrees, I have never successfully propagated an avocado. And, I don’t know if it’s talent or lack of talent or what, but I am, I am bad at avocados. I’ll eat them all day long. But apparently, I can’t, I can’t get them growing from seed. He’s got dozens of them. So, Harold has just been a huge blessing to me because he is able to do things I’m not, but he also takes instructions really well. And so, when I say, “Hey, you know, we’re wanting to really expand our mango orchard. This is how I want I planted. This is the system we’re going to use. This is the irrigation. This is our techniques. These are the grafting methods we’re going to implement. You know, these are the ways we’re going prune in the harvest and the processing and all that.” With Harold, he’s like, “All right, great. Yeah, got it.” And then he goes. And he does it. With a lot of the other farmers that I work with, it is, “Oh, no, that’s not how we do things in Haiti.” And I’m like, “Well, you’re also…” “Yeah, it’s not a full moon, so we can’t transplant bananas.” I’m like, “Okay, guys, let’s watch a YouTube video on the moon and the solar system and see that that’s not important.” So while that is fun in and of itself, it’s also frustrating when I’m like, “Hey, guys, y’all need protein. So, we’re going to plant beans.” “Oh, well, we only have beans in January.” No, no, no, you cannot. “You can have beans throughout the year. If we handle the different variables.” Which we didn’t do, then they know we’re not gonna plant them. “All right, well, this is your job, and I am instructing you to plant beans.” “All right, Well, uh, we’re not gonna do it.” “Okay, you know what? It’s that type of attitude that is limiting your ability to progress. Y’all are having an incredible famine in the area right now. You desperately need nutrition, X, Y and Z. If we want to provide it, we’re gonna have to break your traditional norms and figure out a way to make this possible.” With Harold, he is open minded. And like I’ve said, he’s actually really, really smart and, uh comes to every single ag education training session I put on and just absorbs knowledge. I feel like I can’t feed him fast enough. He’s just this sponge. And it’s been so just reinvigorating for me to be able to work him. He’s also a wonderful spiritual leader. He’s become one of the deacons in our church, and just seeing the way that he not only cares about agriculture but cares about the Kingdom. Oh, my goodness, I just love Harold.
[22:23] JVB: He truly is an incredible man. I mean…
[22:25] DSV: He truly is.
[22:26] JVB: I remember, you know, I was there the day that he accepted Jesus. I was there when he got baptized. I was his, you know, got to see his daughter when she was born, and I was actually, I was the one who took him home when he found out that his daughter had died. And so, I, you know, went into the house with him and, and, you know, I had to actually confirm, you know, that his nine-month-old daughter had died. And, you know, it’s one of those things, where, I mean, you can agree to this, like life is hard down there and…
[23:01] DSV: Oh, my goodness, yes…
[23:02] JVB: It’s hard to, for us. I can’t even imagine how hard it is for the Haitians. And, you know, those are hard days. But getting to, you know, to weep alongside his family, getting to just, you know, just watch him rely on the Lord. His joy wasn’t stolen. His passion wasn’t stolen. And it was, you know, it was in those moments when you think, “Okay, I’m going to go be a missionary, and I’m going to go live in Haiti, and, you know, I’m going to tell people about Jesus and it’s going to be so great.” Harold has without a doubt taught me more about Jesus than I think I have ever been able to teach others about the Lord, like, while being down there. And so, I agree with you.
[23:44] DSV: I have to agree with that.
[44:45] JVB: He’s an incredible man. He loves the Lord. He loves his family. He is passionate about the work that he’s doing. He loves people so well. He’s so sacrificial. He is an absolutely incredible, incredible man. And so, I have loved having him there, especially working for us, and watching him, you know, impact others. And I actually got a picture, a text message the other day. A video or a picture, actually, and our new Spiritual Life director, Lane, had taken the deacons on Thanksgiving, and they went and did beans and rice evangelism up in Jacasse.
[24:27] DSV: Isn’t that awesome?
[24:29] JVB: I was. And, of course, you know, for, you know, right in the middle is Harold, and he spoke, and he was giving out food. And I was just, like, yes, like, this is the transformation that we are wanting to see in Haiti. This is, you know, it’s not, you know, it’s not our work, it’s the Lord’s work, first and foremost. But it’s so exciting when, you know, we get to come in and train and then just say, “OK, like, it’s up to you now, like, I want to watch you do it,” and watch them take ownership over it and to see the way that they thrive in that they are the ones that are making the difference in their community. So exciting, so excited to see. And you can see it in both Franckil and Harold. So, so wonderful. So incredibly wonderful.
[25:12] Well, and like you were saying, you know, when, when Harold’s daughter passed, and you were there for him and you drove him home and you mourned alongside of him – that goes back to you had a relationship with him. And because of the relationship, that was possible through the development work that LiveBeyond was doing, you were then able to minister to him. And then you were able to minister to his family. And then, you were able to minister to his neighborhood! It all comes down to building relationships.
[25:43] JVB: Yeah. Absolutely.
[25:44] DSV: And, there are so many ways to do it. Development is not the only way. I just think it’s a very effective way.
[25:51] JVB: Absolutely, absolutely. You know, what I’ve loved so much is you know, we have team members come down, once a month, sometimes twice a month. And we’ve had people who come down year after year after year, and so they, they know Harold, you know, they know so many of our workers. They’ve been to their houses, and so, you know, there were so many times, I mean, countless times, when I would take people, we’d visit Harold, you know, we’d be doing beans and rice evangelism in his village, and we’d go see his mom. She’s been, you know, sick and his family – his dad passed away. He was really, really sick. And we’d go check on him and, um, you know, we would go to Harold. And Harold would tell his story about his daughter and about how he literally accepted Jesus and then within, you know, about six months. He had so many hardships, he had so many hardships.
[26:44] DSV: That’s right.
[26:45] JVB: And what I loved was getting to step back. And people would just flock to him and say, you know, “I lost my child,” or, you know, “I had a miscarriage,” or, “We’ve had trouble having children,” and they’re comforting each other and, you know, they’re having to, to talk through a translator, or it’s just an embrace. And just for me to get to step back and see, our team members are so invested here, and they are truly, truly comforting one another. And they may not speak the same language; they have very different lifestyles. And yet here they are, coming together and comforting one another and experiencing a depth of pain that so many people do not understand and getting to share that with one another. And so, you know, for me, it’s just there’s, there’s so many times that I’m just like, “Yes, like this, Lord, this is what Your Kingdom looks like, you know.”
[27:45] DSV: Exactly.
[27:46] JVB: May not be the same language, but…
[27:47] DSV: That is what the Kingdom is supposed to look like.
[27:49] JVB: But this, this is it. You know, when you get to stand back and be like, “This is what it is going to look like when Jesus comes back,” and there are no more tears, there no more, there’s no more pain, you know. But it’s just it’s so fun to get to step back and see that. And so, I love, I love our staff. I love our team members who come down on teams, and I love the different stories that we get to see of, “Okay, Lord, like, yes, we’re moving the Kingdom forward, we’re making progress where we’re pushing back the kingdom of darkness and were advancing the Kingdom of Heaven and we’re one, one step closer to Jesus coming back. Um…
[28:26] DSV: Amen.
[28:27] JVB: Absolutely.
[28:28] DSV: Well, and to me, that’s what, you know, kind of one of the ways the Beatitudes is truly made relevant in this in this world. As you know, “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.” That’s what happened there in Harold’s neighborhood, when the American team members are there expressing their grief alongside of him and they are giving comfort. So many times, I know, I, I think, you know, all the Beatitudes, all those things that Jesus talked about. Well, that’s what will happen, right? And, you know, in the new, in the new Jerusalem. Not necessarily that’s what’s gonna happen now, or, if it is what happens now, then it’s going to be a spiritual comfort from God to us. Well, the Kingdom is supposed to be a community of like-minded Christians, gathering together and implementing and living out all the things that Jesus promised. We are going to be doing greater things than even He did, so, let’s be at it, let’s be doing that. Let’s be comforting our fellow mourners, and let’s be sharing in, you know, this life together, and that’s one of the beautiful things about LiveBeyond is the opportunity for Americans to come down on these mission trips and get to be a part of a church beyond their borders.
[29:49] JVB: Absolutely, because I mean, yeah, the Bride of Christ, the church, it’s, it’s not a building, you know, it’s all of us.
[29:58] DSV: Exactly.
[29:59] JVB: And so to get to go to Haiti and to see a Bride that looks so different than you, who has a lifestyle who is so different than you and has a different language than you and get to, to look in their eyes and see Jesus and say, you know, “I am, I am serving Jesus.” And I, I want all of us to be challenged to say, “OK, the Lord said, we’re going to do even better things than what Jesus did. So, let’s look at what Jesus did. And let’s challenge ourselves to, to do that and then be challenged by the Lord to do even more.” And so, David, thank you so much for taking time out of your incredibly busy day to talk with me. I’m so grateful. This has been so fun.
[30:42] DSV: Thank you so much.
[30:43] JVB: Love catching up with my brother. But guys, if you want to learn more, please go and check out LiveBeyond.org. If you’re interested in signing up for a team, it doesn’t matter if your medical, if you’re a teacher, if you work in construction, if you are a student – we take any, any sorts of gifts and talents that you have. And we really want to come and implement that in Haiti and see the transformation for the Kingdom of God. So, if you are interested in our teams, please go to LiveBeyond.org, and you can register for a mission. All of our dates are there for 2019. We also have internships. So, if you are interested in that, please, please go check it out. We would love to have you come down to Haiti. David, again, thank you so much for joining us today and we’ll hopefully be having you on the podcast against soon.
[31:32] DSV: Well, thank you so much. Really appreciate it. Lord bless you today.
[31:35] JVB: You too.
Learn more about how to get involved with LiveBeyond through agriculture.
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Give to LiveBeyond’s Agriculture Program here.
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