Monday, October 15, 2007

Teach a Man to Fish. . .

When I was three and my baby brother Storm lived mostly in the hospital for the six months of his life, my mother's cousin Edith cared for me so that my mother could be with him. I saw her regularly until I was about seven, and then I didn't see her again until I was 17. Aunt Flo, Grandma Herndon, and I attended services at her church one Sunday and the potluck after. And when Edith walked in I recognized her instantly by the swelling of love that filled my heart. I wish I had a picture of Edith to show you. Love radiated from her like warmth from a fireplace. The 300+ pounds of her was hardly a large enough container for her generosity And the 100 years she lived was hardly long enough for the world to be so blessed.

Edith was a member of the Church of the Brethren. As were many of my grandmother's relatives, some were even ministers. There has never been a family funeral that they didn't attend, a time that they didn't support this godless branch of the family, or a single instance of their trying to convert us. I simply cannot imagine any people more loving and kind and gentle.

I tend to feel proprietary about the Church and am never surprised when I hear of something wonderful that they have done. They base their lives on "Continuing the work of Jesus. Peacefully. Simply. Together." They are not interested in doctrine but in making life better for people. They believe that there is enough to go around, and they work to make that happen.

A few years ago, a friend turned me on to Heifer International. I had been contributing to them for about a year when I discovered that they had been founded by The Church of the Brethren. Well, of course. It didn't surprise me, but it did make me feel proud, once again, of this religious side of our family.

Since tomorrow is World Food Day,* what better way to celebrate it than to learn about and perhaps contribute to a non-profit built on the idea that what hungry children need is not milk that is drunk and then gone, but a heifer, which serves as the foundation of a life free of dependence.

Heifer International
Solving the problem of world hunger has been a heartfelt vision of many people, but the sheer magnitude of the problem has overwhelmed the most sincere individuals and corporations who are keen on vision but bereft of finances or logistics. Heifer Project International is the outgrowth of one man with a vision and a practical method of implementation that did not require inordinate financial underwriting. Born a native of Ohio in 1893, Dan West, a life-long Brethren graduated from Manchester College in 1917 and spent the next two years as a conscientious objector during World War I. After working for the Emergency Peace Campaign in 1936 he traveled to Spain in order to serve as a relief worker following the Spanish Civil War. Sitting under an almond tree one day, he also felt the challenge of feeding hungry people as ubiquitous images of poverty and depravation surrounded him daily. Thinking of his own daughters being healthy and well-fed back in the United States, he believed that he must start a process that could bring that same wellness to the children of Spain. But how? He observed that as fast as you give milk to these children they drink it and it is gone, and the cost of importing more milk was economically prohibitive for a war torn nation engrossed in a monumental recovery effort. Then one day an idea came to him. Why not bring cows to Spain and produce the milk here? Why not give each cow to a family with the stipulation that its offspring must be given to another family who would, in turn, give a calf to yet another family? And so on and so on! Somewhat analogous to: 'Little steps climb big mountains.'

The Wikipedia entry has this to add:

Today the organization is known as Heifer International and gives gifts of sheep, rabbits, honeybees, pigs, llamas, water buffalo, chicks, ducks, goats, geese and trees as well as heifers. As of 2006, these animals and plants have been distributed in more than 125 countries around the globe. Each gift perpetuates Heifer's interest in agroecology and sustainability..

If you are at all interested in participating in this wonderful work, go to Heifer Gift Catalogue

The children's book, Beatrice's Goat** tells the true story of a girl who, because of her family's gift of a goat, got to go to school and eventually became a teacher.

*The Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN calls for the day to ensure humanity's freedom from hunger.

** I stole the image from Obviously, you can't Search Inside here.


Tabor said...

I just had a conversation with my husband about how the best energies of Christians should be spent changing peoples lives, not organizing get-togethers and building churches and creating promotional literature.

Deja Pseu said... is a wonderful organization. Heifer, Doctors Without Borders and Habitat for Humanity are the three groups I contribute to regularly.

I'm always glad to hear about people who are using their faith as a springboard to do good in THIS life, rather than being about aking God to help them amass wealth or trying to tell others how to live or looking down on their neighbors.

J at said...

Heifer has a center in Merced, where they teach about what they do...I keep hoping that Maya's girlscout troop will go there as part of their community service, but it's a long drive. :(