How I Know My Job is the Best Job Ever
Reflections on Friendship, inspiring people, and the Cascade Mountains
When I first interviewed with Agros, I was excited to be a part of an organization whose mission is to end generational poverty. I’ve worked in international development for several years with organizations seeking to do this, who often come up short. But Agros seems to have figured out a way to move farmers along a trajectory that both promises bountiful harvest figuratively and provides it physically. This, coupled with establishing and growing relationships through the love that Christ shows us daily, makes me ask myself: "Why would I ever want to work anywhere else?!"
This past July, I was surprised to receive a stack of checks on my desk from Twisp and Winthrop, WA. I looked at the names and didn’t recognize a single one. A check from Community Covenant Church of the Methow Valley sparked my interest: it came with a note that said the checks were a result of the White family's annual Pig Roast. Pig Roast? What was I missing?
One phone call later, I was speaking to Suellen White. I explained to Suellen that I had received a bunch of checks from her area referencing a Pig Roast. “Would you mind telling me what a Pig Roast is and what this has to do with Agros?” She laughed and gave me a brief history:
Suellen and her husband Bill attend Community Covenant Church, which was started by Gene and Janie Westlund in the 1980s as an effort to serve and unite people in the name of Christ. Five years ago, a sermon series called "Hole in the Gospel" spoke about Christians missing responsibilities to truly help and service the poor and inspired the church's mission group to research several nonprofit organizations serving the poor. They landed on Agros as their organization of choice.
After donating for a few years, the Whites, who do a lot of catering, decided that instead of writing a check, they would throw a party and spread the Agros mission to friends, church members, and community members. Any funds raised would be sent to Agros. They have been doing this event every year on 4th of July weekend.
After hearing this amazing story, it took no time to decide that someone needed to go and visit Twisp and these amazing people. After many conversations with Janie, Suellen, and Pastor Jeff Palmberg, my co-worker/friend Guillermo and his son, Guillermo Jr., myself and my two daughters (ages 1 and 2) were on our way to the Methow Valley.
The scenes along the 4-hour drive along the Cascade Mountains took my breath away. And then they took my breath away again when I realized I was driving alongside a mountain with snow piles taller than me and a sign that said “SEVERE SIDE WINDS DRIVE WITH CAUTION.” I crept on at an eerily slow pace for the remainder of my drive, thankful that both girls were sound asleep and couldn’t witness mom’s brief panic attack. As I pulled into Winthrop on the edge of daylight, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Every Western movie I’d ever seen had come to life. On the main road, there was a General Merchandise Store and a Saloon. Seriously, the cutest thing I’d ever seen.
After joining Community Covenant Church for worship the next morning, Guillermo and I had a chance to speak with donors and share more about Agros' mission. It was so fulfilling to talk to those who had heard about Agros from Bill and Suellen and were excited to be involved with an organization that aligned with how they want to serve. I shook so many hands and held so many wonderful conversations with genuinely good people. I was blessed beyond words not even 24 hours into my visit.
Following the service, Bill and Suellen arranged for a lunch meet-and-greet visit at their ranch. We pulled into a lot with chickens and roosters and I thought to myself, “Is that a live chicken strolling the premises? Where’s its cage? Are the owners aware that their chickens are loose?” With Guillermo Jr. and my daughter Greyson having the time of their lives running around the farm and ruining their church clothes, Guillermo Sr. and I sat down with the Whites to hear more of their story.
Bill explained that each year they love doing the Pig Roast. It’s a fantastic way to gather people in the name of love and combine two cherished areas of their life: Christ and service.
Suellen's delicious farm-to-table meal filled my stomach while the conversation filled my heart. Bill and Suellen's son Paul and his wife Jill spoke about having their wedding and reception take place during this year’s Pig Roast and how much it meant to them to share their wedding day with an event that is defined by service and passion for the poor. Janie and Gene spoke about starting Community Covenant Church and how Gene’s vision from God led him to move his family from San Diego to the quiet town of Twisp almost 40 years ago. And Bill and Suellen, while passing my baby girl Addison back and forth, shared why it means so much for them to live in this town and how important community is to them. I couldn’t stop thinking about why Agros was such an obvious connection: for the Whites, community is not a noun. It is a verb. Sharing your home, making connections, worshipping together, breaking bread together, and teaching a child together – this is community.
On my drive home, I couldn’t stop smiling. Part of this was due to Guillermo, who made several stops to take pictures of the Cascade mountains. I admit, I took a few as well. But I also smiled at how unexpectedly delightful my weekend was. Strangers before this weekend seemed like lifelong friends by the end of it. As a staff member who has yet to travel to Central America, this weekend was such a testament to why we do the work we do and use the model that we emphasize: relationships are a key part of our success. The trifecta of families, donors, and staff relationships is what makes Agros a unique organization.
With multiple invites to come back, I am already excited to say that next 4th of July weekend is already booked, as I’ll be spending it with friends and community at the next Pig Roast.
Annual Fund Manager (2016)
Pictured above: Cascade Mountains; Jill & Paul White and Suellen & Bill White