A car for one of the “Farms of Hope”
It’s a story that goes back a long way – Hans Stapel, from the German town of Paderborn, was just a young boy when he first met Father Werenfried van Straaten, the legendary “Bacon Priest” and founder of ACN.
It was in the late 1950s. After hearing him speak, and after a moment’s hesitation, he put not just half, but the entire contents of his piggy bank savings into Father Werenfried’s famous “Hat of Millions” which the great man took with him wherever he went begging on behalf of the poor of the world.
Later, Hans Stapel himself became a Franciscan priest and went to Brazil as a missionary. It was there that he encountered Christ in the outcasts and addicts of society and where in 1983 he founded the famous Fazendas da Esperanca, or “Farms of Hope” in response to this calling. They were to be places where young addicts could succeed in finding their way back to a life of dignity and self-respect.
The success rate of over 84% in these Fazendas is achieved without the help of substitute drugs or other medication, and without the help of psychologists. Instead, the young people have to work together in community to support themselves. In this way they come to understand that every individual is important and that without this cooperation the life of the community cannot succeed. Every group has its own particular task, which can vary widely, depending on the actual situation of the Fazenda and on the particular opportunities for work in the area concerned.
Every morning the group gathers together to read a short passage from the Bible. Then a particular phrase is chosen for the group members to reflect on throughout the day. At the same time each person makes one small resolution for the day – often just a small step, such as not to be too loud or not to be aggressive – and little by little things start to change. In the evening, the group comes together again and they share their experiences of the day, saying what problems they have faced or what progress they have made. As Father Hans observes, “We have to give people something more coherent and authentic than drugs, and that is faith in Jesus Christ!”
Today there are Fazendas to be found in no fewer than 10 countries. A few years ago, the very first Fazenda in Guatemala was established, for young men. But there was also a need for a similar place for girls and young women, and so this too was built, close to the first Fazenda. Just as soon as the renovation of the building was complete, the first group of 14 young female addicts moved in. Workshops were built, together with a beautiful chapel and a lovingly designed and tended outside area, with footpaths and lawns and even a little lake with fish in it, even though the region is otherwise very harsh and arid. By now the place has become something of an “oasis” for local people too, and many people from the parish also like to come and share in the lives of these young women and girls. It has developed into a real spiritual centre.
But the one thing the community now lacks is a vehicle. In the beginning, when there were not so many people living and working on the Fazenda, it was possible to make use of public transport or rely on the help of friends. But now, it is no longer possible to manage the almost daily car journeys in this way. What with shopping, doctors’ appointments, visits to banks and other meetings, it is all becoming just too difficult without a car. And so, counting on our generous benefactors, ACN has stepped in to help with 20,000 Euros.