A Crazy Man, Fish and the God Who Provides

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Dave and Cheryl Jereb provide food, skills training and the gospel message to their community through Fish for Life. Photo courtesy of Cheryl Jereb

History is full of missionaries who found success by blending in with the local culture. TEAM missionary Dave Jereb found it while building a reputation as a crazy, old, white guy.

Dave and his wife, Cheryl, came to Zimbabwe two years ago with a vision to provide sustainable food sources and job training for needy communities through aquaponics, a self-contained system for growing produce and fish.

Aquaponics is a closed system of farming that requires fewer resources than traditional methods. Photo by TEAM

Aquaponics is a closed system of farming that requires fewer resources than traditional methods. Photo by TEAM

 

The fish live in tanks, and the nutrient-rich water is piped into plant beds where crops grow hydroponically. The plant roots cleanse the water, which is then pumped back into the fish tanks. Within a few months, fresh vegetables are ready for harvest, and a little while longer, fish are ready to fry.

Last year, Dave built the first, experimental, aquaponics unit and hired Zimbabwean pastor and gardener Joshua Masunga to help tend the system and educate the community. The small team calls the project “Fish for Life.”

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Signs of growth. Photo courtesy of Cheryl Jereb

 

After sharing the fruits of a successful harvest with their neighbors, the Jerebs and Masunga began to put more focus on their large-scale project: an aquaponics system to feed patients and workers at the local mission hospital.

The Jerebs asked TEAM to list Fish for Life in the Wish List to raise funds for the endeavor, as people learned about the project, they jumped on board. By May 2015, a greenhouse to warm the water in the tanks had been built, and Dave, Masunga and a team of American volunteers got to work on the actual aquaponics unit.

The hospital unit’s size and location made it much more visible to the community than the previous unit, which had sat in the Jerebs’ front yard. It also drew much more skepticism.

“The general consensus of the community is that Dave must be a crazy … old white guy who doesn’t know how to grow anything,” Cheryl wrote in July. “Who would ever grow plants in just water and stone?”

Despite the locals’ uncertainty, donors helped Fish for Life buy solar panels to power the system and add employment hours for maintaining the system. After months of hard work, the hospital kitchen received its first harvest of tomatoes in October, and somehow, the old, white guy didn’t seem so delusional after all.

With the proof of a successful harvest, the community’s curiosity is growing even more than it has the past two years. And with that curiosity has come God-given opportunities to build relationships.

“It is exciting that they are coming to us,” Dave said. “These relationships are open doors to talking about how the Lord is their provider. When they visit and see how plants can grow in just water and stones, they see how it can only be of God that these ‘impossible’ things can happen.”

Dave educates local students on aquaponics. Photo courtesy of Cheryl Jereb

Dave educates students from a local high school on aquaponics.Photo courtesy of Cheryl Jereb

 

In recent months, Fish for Life has begun taking its “crazy” message of God’s provision to area high schools, with the dream of setting up smaller units and teaching students a sustainable way to feed their families. One partnership is already in the works.

“The excitement was very contagious and such an encouragement to see the Lord’s plan for Zimbabwe’s youth,” the Jerebs wrote after taking nearly 100 students on a tour of the greenhouse. “His perfect provisions will bring HOPE to this land.”

This Christmas, you can be a part of spreading hope through Fish for Life and many other ministries around the world. TEAM’s Wish List is full of projects that tangibly show God’s radical provision and love to those in need, presenting missionaries with the perfect opportunity to point people to him. Check out the TEAM Wish List today.

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About the author

Bethany DuVal
Bethany DuVal

Bethany DuVal is a copywriter and editor who served with two mission agencies in Texas before settling at TEAM. She has a passion for equipping Christian missionaries, telling the stories of how God uses them and showing the church how they can do both.

8 Comments

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  • Excellent work on reporting this Bethany! It is so encouraging and I found myself laughing out loud about the ‘crazy white guy’. The Jereb’s work is another inspiring example of how TEAM missionaries engage the community for the Gospel.

  • Thank you, Colleen! It always amazes me to see how creative God is in reaching us with the gospel. It’s certainly a privilege to get to share that with others.

  • Thanks, Bethany, for this great report on the work Dave is doing in Zimbabwe. I was out at the Karanda Mission Hospital a few years ago when Dave was just getting started. He told us all about his “Fish for Life” dream and I was captured by his vision. Now it has become a reality and I really appreciate your sharing this story. Blessings.

  • Wow, Greg! That must be awesome for you to have seen the ministry grow from the ground up like that–and who knows what it will grow into in years to come? It is really such a gift to be a part of these things, even from afar.

  • We’ve been there! It’s awesome! Our son and daughter in law are working at Karanda for a year. What Dave is doing there is just amazing! God is so good! He created our minds to be creative and it’s great to watch that creativity in action.

  • Thank you Bethany, for writing about my dad & mom’s friend! My parents went to Zimbabwe and met them there!
    ( They are christian.) And,I’m making an article about aquaponics too! (I’m only 9 years old.)

    • That’s awesome, Matthew! The Jerebs are a great couple. Are they the ones who got you interested in aquaponics?

  • Good day.

    My name is Norman and l am really interested in aquaponics and l have been looking for people in Zimbabwe who have had first hand experience with the system. I think done well , it could solve a lot of our (Yes l am Zimbabwean) food issues in Zimbabwe. Is there a way you can connect me with either Dave or Cheryl. If you could send me an email to the address provided l can then give you my contact number. I am based in Nairobi Kenya.

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