By Ben Brown
He didn’t grow up on a farm, but Jeff Lee spent much of his childhood on his grandparent’s property. It was there that he learned to work with animals and care for the earth.
“It was part of us growing up. I got the bug doing that,” said Lee.
Jeff and Alicia Lee are CBF field personnel serving in Skopje, Macedonia. Their ministry and mission in Macedonia thrives on hearing the needs of others and caring for God’s creation.
Creativity and sustainability remain a bedrock for the Lees, and these virtues were essential in a risky venture to assist impoverished persons. They started a “cow bank” about five years ago as means to help local farmers, their neighbors, and their families.
The cow bank is thriving, and it is achieving its goal of assisting participants, feeding their families, and creating revenue for farmers.
Lee earned a master’s degree in Environmental Management while studying for his Master of Divinity from Logsdon Theological Seminary at Hardin-Simmons University. For Lee, ministry is about hearing God’s call in sharing life with others in community.
“We met some locals that wanted to do farming, and that’s what we did,” said Lee.
Lee finished his doctorate in 2019 in Environment Management and Social Sustainability from Colorado Technical University. He’s been able to put these tools to use immediately through a grant through the British Embassy in Macedonia, and used these funds to begin a community garden.
“We’re building a greenhouse to house the garden. It’s eight meters by forty meters, a pretty good sized structure. We’ve been working diligently trying to get that constructed so that we can have it open for planting hopefully in the next two weeks,” said Lee.
Many people in Skopje live in a food desert. This means they don’t have regular access to healthy foods. The local markets sell mostly processed foods and sell very little fruits or vegetables.
The community garden allows farmers to produce healthy foods which increases agricultural production, allows locals to feed their own families, and ultimately results in a healthier population and lowered medical costs.
“Agricultural production in Macedonia is behind the curve,” says Lee. “Most production is done on plots that are maybe 500 square meters. That’s it.”
Some families grow their vegetables in small plots and can occasionally sell whatever’s left, but these farmers often engage in harmful practices for the environment. At the end of the harvest, fields are burned. The particles created are extremely damaging and contribute to air pollution.
In 2019 and 2020, the Lees partnered with the United National Development Programme (UNDP) and a non-governmental organization (NGO) to collect over 1,000 tons of agricultural waste.
“The air pollution in Skopje has gotten better. When you have a problem so big, you have to have multiple ways to address the problem and multiple solutions,” says Lee.
Lee’s faith and ministry have inspired his attitude toward creation care, and Lee believes this is the job of every believer.
“We are trying to use the resources that we have to help local people take care of the environment,” said Lee. “Creation also includes the people that live here. We have to help save it, nurture it, take care of it, and cultivate it.”