In a recent trip to the Dominican Republic, I visited the Most Reverend Julio Cesar Corniel, Bishop of Puerto Plata (and a wonderfully warm man), in order to inaugurate our largest tilapia project to date. It was truly an auspicious occasion, where NGOs, church, local and foreign governments and individuals came together to celebrate this truly magnificent project – the Rio Baqui Tilapia Project. It was a multi-faceted endeavor, for besides the tilapia ponds, Food For The Poor had constructed homes, completed a large water project, brought in electricity to the area and built a large community/skills training center.
During the ceremony, Bishop Corniel expressed his plans to have this project be of support to many other self-sustainable initiatives in many of the surrounding communities, as he commented that there was still much work to be done. As if to prove his point, a spokesperson for another neighboring community spoke and expressed her joy that the citizens of that area would now have clean water to drink. At the same time, she held up a 20oz. plastic bottle that once contained Coca-Cola for all to see. I looked and saw a liquid in it that was light brown, contaminated, filled with pieces of dirt, leaves and debris. She said, “This is the water that our people are forced to use to bathe, wash our clothes and cook. This is the water that we are forced to drink and to give to our children to drink.” The bishop was correct – we have much work to be done.
I have always wondered what Jesus meant when he said, “…if you have faith in me, you will do the same things that I am doing. You will do even greater things, now that I am going back to the Father.” (John 14:12) This project helped me to better understand His words. In the well-known feeding miracles of the New Testament, Jesus feeds 5,000 and 4,000 of his followers on separate occasions – miracles that have achieved a high degree of fame. At Rio Baqui, we have 29 large ponds that are each capable of producing 7,500 adult fish (of approx. 1 lb. weight) every 4 – 6 months. If you do the math, we are talking about a possibility of more than half a million fish per year. Here we have the miracle of the 500,000!!! This modern-day miracle does have much similarity to those performed by Jesus two centuries ago: Jesus gave thanks to the Father and blessed the food. Likewise we give thanks to God realizing that without His blessings and grace none of this would be possible. The donors, Food For The Poor, the church, other organizations, the missionaries and the poor, all come together in order to fulfill His will. God continues to perform great miracles through His people!