South County Beat: Local couple plants seeds of change

nightengayles@aol.comApril 19, 2011 

Roger and Brooks Thoman have traveled much of the planet from Central and East Africa to Asia and Latin America.

­The Nipomo couple has globe trotted half way across the world for Appleseed Ministries, their nonprofit. Appleseed “came out of my passion,” six years ago, Roger said, who has done pastoral work for 30 years.

They plant “seeds” by training leaders in those countries to start churches. Thus, the name Appleseed, like Johnny Appleseed, was chosen.

“We give them the type of help that empowers not just the handout,” Roger Thoman said.

This saying comes to mind: “Give someone a fish and it will feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and he’ll be fed for life.”

“Spiritual transformation gives them hope,” Brooks Thoman added.

She tells of how oppressed many African women are.

She has met women in various stages of life, most dealing with extremely difficult living situations, such as repeated rape.

Many women go home hungry, often unable to feed their children.

A Kenyan widow told Brooks Thoman that after her husband died of AIDS, his family took their property and pressured her to marry his brother (a common practice). When she refused, she was put in prison.

The typical food a Kenyan family prepares might be a corn-based porridge called ugali, with some tomatoes and onions. Occasionally, some chicken or beef is added.

After learning that a training center for men had been started to teach woodworking, Brooks Thoman started a training program for women in tailoring.

It was named Dorcas Hands by the Kenyans for the biblical Dorcas, who was known for her charitable good works, making clothes for widows “with her own loving hands.”

A woman named Christine started training at Dorcas Hands two years ago, living in one room of the building.

Her husband had pushed her out for a second wife. HIV positive with a small son, she was “skin and bones, very sickly and would not … look at me, she had so much shame and hopelessness,” Brooks said.

Now Christine has been through training and has her own sewing machine, making clothes and selling them. She is able to provide food, clothing and shelter for herself and her son.

A Congolese woman named Angel hid in the jungles during the Second Congo War of 1998-2003.

She, unlike many women after such horrific experiences, did not take the common fatalistic view of beaten down people (“there’s no help”). She was able to get an education and now gives back.

Angel “has tremendous faith in God” and now provides training to others in agriculture and business skills, encouraging women to be self-sustaining, not having to beg, Brooks Thoman said.

Appleseed had a fundraiser this months called Walk for Women, with participants walking from Morro Rock in Morro Bay to the Cayucos Pier, a first for the organization.

Seventeen people were sponsored, and 12 others walked with them, raising more than $16,000.

The funds will help pay for African women to get desperately needed training.

The Thomans have also sponsored an orphanage in Bikeke, Kenya.

They broke ground in November and are now educating 100 children.

Many African children don’t attend school because they can’t afford to pay for uniforms, books and supplies.

For more information or to donate, visit www.appleseedministry.com or call Roger Thoman at 550-4668.

Gayle Cuddy’s column appears every other week. Anyone with story ideas involving interesting people in the South County can reach her at 489-1026 or nightengayles@aol.com.

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