In June I traveled with six youth and seven adults to the Heifer International Ranch in Perryville, Arkansas to experience life in the Global Village. Heifer Project is a development organization that sends animals to impoverished families in the U.S. and around the world, equips them with training, and expects them to pass the blessing by giving offspring from their animal to another family. This process embodies the biblical call to Abram in which God tells him he is blessed to be a blessing for others (Gen. 12:2).
As we entered the village, we worked through challenge activities that taught lessons about cooperation and communication, about the importance of each individual and of the community together, and about the value of sharing versus self-satisfaction and stealing. Together with a group from Louisiana, we were divided into four “countries,” to live in huts and shanties similar to those found around the world. Some lived in urban slums with virtually no resources. Others lived in a circular hut like those found in Zambia. It was pretty high class because it had a concrete floor, which kept it (ever so slightly) cooler. Our group was in an elevated bamboo hut like those found in Thailand, while the last group (the fewest in number) lived in a cement block house with mattresses and a wood stove.
Each group had a set of resources (rice, onions, eggs, spices, oil, pots, matches, etc.) and instruction for how to make dinner. Adults were to play the part of elders or 2 year olds with very limited capacity to help. The youth had to take the lead. Zambia had control over all the firewood. Guatemala had control over cooking water. Some had more food than others, and we had to figure out a way to survive by trading. Our trainers impressed upon us that there was more than enough food in the global village to feed everyone, but it was up to us to figure out how.
After several rounds of trading, it was clear that our group (Thailand) had more than enough resources to make our dinner for the evening. Just as we were beginning to build the fire, an emissary from the slums (the group with the fewest resources) came to ask if our groups could eat together. With all the trading, they had not been able to acquire enough food to feed their group, and we seemed to have more than enough. Our youth thought about it, considered the seeming abundance we had and our perception of the scarcity of their resources, and concluded that we could bring them our leftovers, but we should not commit to eating together because there might not be enough. The emissary returned to the slums empty-handed.
As we cooked dinner, our group continued to ruminate on our decision, justifying ourselves for going it alone because our perception of the rules was that each country was to trade so we would have enough to feed ourselves. If the slums did not have enough, that was their problem, not ours. They must not have worked hard enough to achieve their objective.
When a contingent of our youth went to Guatemala to trade for more cooking water, they found that the urban slum dwellers and the group from Zambia had joined the Guatemalans to share all their resources in a great feast. But no one had invited our group. When we decided to go it alone, the other groups decided to share, and suddenly the tables were turned, we had fewer resources, we were left out, no one invited us to the party!
It took quite a while for our group to work through our grief and anger at being left out. In the end, we decided to finish cooking our meal (which we had already started) and take it as a peace offering up the hill to the other groups. Our decision was not easy and came after several rounds of objections. In the end all four groups ate together and we discovered that there was indeed more than enough for everyone.
There are 6.8 billion people in the world. It would seem logical that there would be no way to feed all 6.8 billion. That’s a lot of mouths, and a lot of food! We carry around a scarcity mentality that says that there simply cannot be enough for all, which justifies a desire to hoard and control resources to make sure our group has enough. We don’t mind sharing leftovers, but we want to be fed first.
In truth there are more than enough grains (not including meat or vegetables, just grains) to feed every person on earth, all 6.8 billion of them, a 3000 calorie per day diet. Humans only require 2000 calories a day to meet our nutritional requirements. The question we were left with is, in a world where there is more than enough, why is anyone hungry?
“God said, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food’” (Gen. 1:29). Jesus said, “I came that you may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). God said to Abram: “I will bless you…so that you may be a blessing” (Gen. 12:2).