By Matt Montgomery
Piedmont resident Sharon Allen listened to a message from God that took her halfway across the world, planting apple trees in Africa.
She told her story to a packed group during the Piedmont Chamber of Commerce luncheon held last Thursday at the George Fina Municipal Building.
Allen went to Africa for the first time in 2005 with an Oklahoma City ministry group. She went three years in a row with the Reaching Souls Ministry.
“The third year I was there I prayed and asked God, ‘How can I help?’” she said. “‘I know that Reaching Souls is helping them to learn what they need to learn to go out, but how can I help?’”
She said the next morning her interpreter came up to her and asked if there are apples in America. Allen explained to him that there are different kinds in America. She said when the interpreter’s eyes got big, she knew that was the answer to her prayers: apples.
She then went on a mission of her own to find a way to bring apples to Africa, where apples are not native to the climate.
She said a local told her they have apples that come from China that cost $1 each. She said the average income is about $1 per day.
She went back to Piedmont to do research on how to bring apples to Africa.
She said a lot of people told her that it wasn’t possible to bring apple trees and plant them in Africa.
They told Allen that there are no such thing as warm climate apple trees.
“I am just that kind of person that doesn’t take ‘no’ for a answer,” she said. “So, I kept going because I thought this is definitely not my thing. I don’t like apples. I won’t really eat one unless you force me. So, God has a sense of humor.”
So, Allen pressed on in her research and eventually found a man who is an expert in warm climate apple trees.
In 2009, Allen went on her first trip to get permits for the apple trees. She got initial ‘no’ answers from the Country of Rwanda. Eventually, she was given permission to plant apple trees in 13 countries on the African continent.
She has also been a part of planting trees in Haiti, Honduras and other places.
Allen and her group started planting so orphans in Africa could have school and clothing and possibly, depending on how well the students do in school, have a scholarship to college.
“God has done a lot of incredible things for the underprivileged to get them out of poverty,” she said. “It gives them an income.”
The average apple orchard in Africa produces about 200 trees. It takes one and half years for an apple tree to bear fruit because there is no cold season. In America, it takes five to seven years, she said.
She said a full, normal crop could yield about 200 apples per tree.