Front Row from Left to Right: Emily, Selah, Taunie, and Jeff Weimert. Back Row from Left to Right: Byron, Trinity, Josiah, and Avigail Weimert. (Photo: Jeff Weimert)
HOLLYWOOD, Md. (May 24, 2016)—A family of eight is picking up their home in Southern Maryland and moving it to a different continent. Husband and wife Jeff and Emily Weimert with their six children T'aunie, 13, Byron, 12, Josiah, 12, Selah, 10, Trinity, 9, and Avigail, 5, will be moving to the Philippines as missionaries.
The love Jeff and Emily have for the Philippines started when they went for a missionary trip in 2002 and got engaged.
"The Philippines just never left our hearts, we always had that longing to go back," said Emily.
But when they started a family and life kept going, they pushed off the idea and, besides short terms trips to the country, they let their time in the Philippines be something of the past.
A year and a half ago, however, things changed. They heard about aquaponics, a self-sustaining way of growing food, from Jeff's brother.
The aquaponic system starts with fish. The fish grow and fertilize the water and in turn the fertilized water goes up to the plants, which draw the nutrients and grow without using dirt.
"It's highly efficient and it can grow a ton of food," said Jeff.
According to Jeff, an aquaponic system is completely self-sustaining, uses 90 percent less water than a normal garden, runs off of solar power, and is zero cost to the people once it's built. It is built with local materials and takes about two weeks to build and eight to twelve months to become fully established.
The system that Jeff helped to build in the Philippines holds about 200 fish when it fully matured and it produces enough food to feed between 30 and 50 children a day. This is actually a smaller system. One of the larger systems, located in Honduras, is actually a 10,000-gallon system that holds thousands of fish and provides food and income to an orphanage.
After learning about all the good it could do, the Weimerts decided to move to the Philippines permanently through their mission organization Go To Nations.
"We decided that missions have always been in our heart as a family, so we want to go and serve," said Jeff. "If you have the ability to help people, you should." They actually built a two tank aquaponic system of their own in their home. It holds 50 tilapia and grows tomatoes, beans, onions, and lettuce.
"We made it so we could learn and make our mistakes early," said Jeff.
Once they move over, the family will be living in Iloilo, a city in the central western Philippines. Their focus will be on three different areas within their community. The first will be building and teaching the locals how to build aquaponic systems. They will be putting the systems in the hands of schools, churches, and organizations to help break the cycle of poverty. They will also be traveling to other parts of Southeast Asia to do the same.
The second area they will be working in is the Sunshine Center, which tutors children that couldn't afford or have dropped out of school. The center also does feeding programs, ministry, and just provides a place for kids to be kids.
The last place of their focus will be a dump community, a place where people live in heaps of trash and pick through it everyday just to get enough things to sell in order to make money to eat for that day.
The whole family is very excited about the endeavor.
"I really want to help the little children, the orphans, because I was adopted. I want to show the children a family and what love feels like, I just want to let them know that God loves them even in their circumstances," said T'aunie.
"I am really looking forward to it. Sometimes I just lay in my bed and I wish I was there already," said Salah.
"I just want to go, I don't wait to wait anymore," said Trinity.
Before the family arrives to the Philippines, they will be attending two-week aquaponic training in Florida in August then in September they will be leaving for Thailand to go to missionary training for 10.5 weeks. Come November, they will arrive in the Philippines.
So far they have had numerous amounts of individuals and organizations backing them with support in prayer, spreading the word, and helping financially. Their goal is to have 150 people and 10 to 12 churches backing them, and according to Emily, they are halfway there.
If you have any questions about aquaponics or their mission, email Jeff at email@example.com or find them on Facebook at "Cultivating A Harvest." If you would like to donate, visit www.gotonations.org/weimert.
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Jeff Weimert helping to build an aquaponic system in the Philippines. (Photo: Jeff Weimert)