A California couple discovers that building a farm in harmony with nature is a tricky business
by Collin Garbarino
The soil was dead. John and Molly Chester stood amid their dusty, 200-acre farm in Southern California wondering whether they could coax plants from the hard-packed dirt. They dreamed of turning the land into a sustainable farm, but the earth would not give up its bounty without a fight. The documentary The Biggest Little Farm (rated PG for fleeting bad language and scenes of the birth and death of animals) tells the story of the seven years the Chesters spent turning Apricot Lane Farms from a wasteland into a garden.
They spent the first year simply preparing the soil before slowly introducing livestock and fruit trees. Their goal was to create a farm that thrived on the harmony of nature, rather than a farm that exploited nature. But it turns out that growing crops in harmony with nature can be tricky business.
The film’s mantra: Harmony is simple but never easy. Each time the farm took a step forward, nature seemed to push back. Hens attract coyotes, leafy greens attract snails and aphids, and fruit trees attract starlings. Compromising on the vision would be easy—by using chemicals to kill pests, for example—but the film tells us that the easy answer isn’t necessarily the one that restores nature’s balance.
As we watch the Chesters chase their dream, we learn what roles chickens and pigs and sheep play on a farm, but we also learn the importance of worms and bees and coyotes. The farmers learn that harmony doesn’t just happen. It needs guidance.
The documentary makes no reference to faith, but Christian viewers will see nature’s intricacies and be reminded that God designed plants, animals, and earth to be interdependent. The Biggest Little Farm shows a family working within that framework, modeling one method for being good stewards of the land.
Share this article with friends.
Earcylene Beavers and Casi in Foster HBO
Kids in the system
HBO’s Foster is a compelling look at the trauma and challenges of life in U.S. foster care
by Jenny Rough
The U.S. child welfare system is overwhelmed. Over 400,000 kids are in foster care, and child protection agencies field around 4 million calls of abuse or neglect each year. Foster, a new documentary premiering on HBO May 7, offers a view of the situation from Los Angeles County, home to the largest child welfare agency in the country.
The film follows five stories: First there’s Earcylene Beavers, a foster parent for over 27 years, who gathers her children for a prayer each morning before sending them to school. Her story shows how a God-loving home can positively affect a child’s life—yet Beavers doesn’t idealize the foster system. “Once a kid is taken from their parent, if they didn’t have an issue before, they’ve got one now,” she says.
Dasani, 16, witnessed the murder of his mother when he was young. He’s a talented rapper but bounces from group home to group home, struggling to stick to the terms of his probation. Mary, 18, feels the pressure to be a success story as she ages out of the system. She doesn’t want to fall into homelessness or poverty, as many do.
Then there’s Jessica Chandler, a social worker who grew up in foster care—and hated it. “I don’t remember any light,” she says. “I was in eternal darkness.” Now she’s trying to improve the system.
Finally, there’s Raeanne, an unmarried mother who lost custody of her newborn after testing positive for cocaine. To be reunited with her child, she must get clean.
Foster contains some profanity, but only when emotions are raw. The stories highlight the injustice foster kids face: In a biological family, a teenager who has an angry outburst and throws an object would be grounded. But a foster teen might be charged with a crime.
Beavers concludes, “The kids need a lot of love, and the type of love has to be longsuffering.”
American Gospel: Christ Alone dismantles popular ‘prosperity gospel’ teaching
by Sophia Lee
A woman quits her job after hearing her pastor’s prophecy. She falls into financial ruin within two months. Who’s to blame? She is—she probably didn’t have enough faith. A man is born with cerebral palsy, and now as a grown adult, he’s still limping on crutches. Who’s to blame? He is, because God never wants Christians to suffer. At least, that’s the teaching of the “prosperity gospel,” a prevalent theology that the documentary American Gospel: Christ Alone tears down using Scripture and real-life testimonies.
In many ways, American Gospel is like an unflinching, theologically rich sermon. And as with any good sermon, there’s an outpouring of urgency, grief, righteous anger, conviction, and (ultimately) joy.
The film weaves together the voices of pastors, theologians, and average Christians to expose the “satanic” lies and distorted truths within the Word of Faith movement. In one interview, Constance Troutman weeps about how these false teachings deceived her into losing everything. In another, Costi Hinn details the perks he once enjoyed traveling with his uncle, faith-healer Benny Hinn: flying on G-IV private jets, blowing $20,000 per night on fancy hotels, chauffeur service in white Bentleys. At some point, Costi Hinn says, he began having trouble sleeping at night, thinking of the desperate parents of dying children giving their best financial offerings to ministers who used it to fund extravagant lifestyles.
The message is clear: False doctrine is dangerous, and now this American-born gospel is spreading all over the world. But American Gospel doesn’t just highlight the problems—it also presents the solution in the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ: We are sinners who deserve nothing but condemnation, but Christ absorbed all the wrath of God on the cross and imputed His righteousness to us. That should be convicting to all Christians—after all, how often do we place self-glory and earthly comforts above our Lord?