Rob and Leslee Oudman
“¿Doña Leslee, hizo gallo pinto hoy?”, “Doña Leslee, did you make rice and beans today?”, asks Magdiel confidently partway through the lunch hour. As Leslee puts it in her constantly improving Spanish, “I’m willing to share, but you always have to ask”. She scoops a heaping three portions of the traditional gallo pinto, but with bacon, onto a plate and Magdiel walks gleefully back to where he, Franklin, and Marcelo are eating lunch. This sort of sharing has become commonplace over the years that Rob and Leslee have made the La Semilla base their part-time home. Indeed, Leslee has become something of a legend thanks to the smoothies, cakes, cookies, breads, and delicious lunches that she willingly shares with whomever may be present at the La Semilla base.
Rob and Leslee Oudman are from Taber, Alberta. In Taber they farm a couple thousand acres of potatoes, beans, canola, and grain with their daughter Alison and son-in-law Michael. Rob’s farming roots grow deep. He grew up in Taber farming cattle with his family, and has been learning ever since what it takes to be a successful farmer. The family’s heart for Christian ministry has deep roots as well. Working closely with their home church in Taber—a congregation of the Evangelical Free Church of Canada—Rob and Leslee led youth groups on short-term mission trips to Mexico for many years. They also took their two daughters, Alison and Rebecca, on many different service trips to Latin America—including to Mexico, Peru, and Bolivia. Rob has long been a member of the missions committee at their home church, and when the Oudman family travelled they did it both to serve others and to investigate possible missions connections for their church in Taber. Over the years, the Oudmans felt more and more called to serve God through international missions.
In 2009 Rob received an email from La Semilla’s director Wally Wiebe in which Wally explained his vision for La Semilla and invited any Christian with a heart for mission and agriculture to join him and his family in their work in Nicaragua. Rob and Leslee felt that the email, which had been sent to dozens of people, was meant just for them. Indeed, Rob had been praying to find a mission that worked in agriculture, because he knew that the many farmers in his congregation at home would resonate with exactly such a mission.
Since their first visit to Nicaragua in 2010, Rob and Leslee have increasingly devoted themselves to serving in Nicaragua with La Semilla Ministries. Over the years they have led four missions teams from Canada. Rob’s official role here is director which means he leads the day to day activities and takes the lead, along with Wally, in developing La Semilla’s vision and mission here in Nicaragua.
Rob especially enjoys the time he gets to devote to working in our shop here at the base. Agriculture in
Nicaragua—especially basic grains such as beans, corn, and sorghum—are done with surprisingly little help from technological innovation. Rob has a vision in which our ministry can empower farmers through making steps toward mechanization. As our first steps in this direction, the ministry purchased two aporreadoras, or thrasher machines, in 2013 to assist in harvest. Over the past couple of years Rob has built a four-row, no-till seeder (mostly with parts brought in via suitcase from Canada!), a small romplona, or cultivator, and a disc. It is a joy for Rob to share with Magdiel and others, his vast knowledge of farm equipment as they work alongside him in the manufacture and operation of our farm implements. Indeed, as Rob welds and grinds and cuts it takes him right back to two decades ago when he had just begun farming on his own land in Taber and spent much time in the shop modifying and building sprayers, cultivators, and seeders. With the small producers that La Semilla works with even small implementations of technology can result in precious time and energy saved. Rob’s dream as he does this work is that small growers will be able to harness their God-given ability to use technology to become more successful farmers.
In addition, Rob has a profound understanding of the biblical vocation of stewarding the earth that God gave to all His people in Genesis, but especially to farmers. In Alberta, the North Paddock Farm (the Oudman family operation) is a conventional, yet sustainable farm. Here in Nicaragua Rob strives to make our ag programs sustainable. This can be an immense challenge. Nicaraguan small-scale agriculture has traditionally struggled to maintain soil fertility, avoid erosion, conserve water, and use agrochemicals wisely. Rob’s vision is that growers working with La Semilla will learn to use no-till techniques, incorporate crop rotation into their farm management, and use agrochemicals appropriately and safely. For Rob, and thus for La Semilla, supporting our producers in improving in these areas helps them restore their relationship with the land—God’s creation—to what God intends it to be.
Rob continually proves to be an invaluable member of the La Semilla Ministries team. His exemplary
relationship with God produces in him the wonderful fruits of positivity, optimism even in the face of hardships and injustice, a passion for God’s work, and an invigorating level of energy. Rob daily encourages and inspires the rest of the team to serve God.
We thank God for Rob and Leslee’s commitment to La Semilla Ministries. Pray that they will continue to see God’s will for their lives as they struggle to make their home in two places—both here in Nicaragua and at the family farm in Taber, Alberta. Pray that God will continue to encourage both Rob and Leslee in the work that they do here, and that they will be confident in trusting that their work is indeed in the service of God’s Kingdom.