So I’ve returned from leading my first mission trip. We left July 22nd for the Heifer International Farm in Perryville, Arkansas. The day started with me getting to the church around my normal time, 8 A.M., to try and finalize some things such as print out curriculum and such. The kids started showing up around 9:30 as I had asked. We, Jana Howell my Youth Sponsor and co-leader, loaded the van/trailer with their suitcases, pillows, backpacks, etc. and then went into the church for our commissioning by the congregation. I had never experienced this kind of presentation of a mission trip before. We did not do this while I was growing up at FCC Des Moines. It was a very powerful experience to have the church give their support in unison and also pray for the mission trip. It will be something I remember and use later in my ministerial career. After a pitstop to get some last minute things and fill up on gas, we were on our way by noon.
The first, and thankfully only, problem occurred when we were relatively close to the farm. We got flagged down by a passing car who told us that our trailer was open. So Jana pulled the van over and I went out and checked. God must have been looking over us because the trailer doors were open, but we only lost three sleeping bags. I figured this out when we got to the ranch. Once we got settled in, Jana made a trip to the local Walmart, seeing as there was no other store, and bought three sleeping bags, a towel (mine was with my sleeping bag), and a lock for the trailer. While she was there, I started our devotional in the lodge. We embarked on a look at prayer, including different types of prayer and why we pray. Throughout the week we did intercessory prayer, confession, popcorn prayer, and old fashioned prayer in the round. I believe that the most powerful day we had was the last day we did prayer, Wednesday night, when we went off on our own and did an intercessory prayer.
The week itself was a success. The group split boys and girls and each “took” two classes, both about food systems. We learned how to make a pizza all naturally, and how to make tortillas by hand. Within each of these classes we learned that the US eats 1/3 of all of the food of the world, but has less than 5 percent of the population. Mind blower. The kids also got to do cool things like milk a goat, meet a camel, and make all natural cheese. Fun times. We also did more service type things such as painting fence posts, gardening (picking peas and shucking them), building a portable rabbit holder, cleaning the animal stalls, etc.
The highlight of the week was probably the Global Village Experience. The farm had an area where they had 8 different houses that were supposed to be from different countries ranging from Appalachia to refugees who had no country. We were given a tour to start where we talked about each home, the country, and food related problems. At one point our host, Adrienne, told the group that it was found that the world produced double the amount of food necessary to feed all humans, but still about 1/6 of the worlds people go hungry. She asked the question, “If there is enough food for all, why aren’t all fed?” an interesting question for sure. After our tour we went back to the meeting center and got divided into homes. I was the “leader” for the refugees while Jana was the “leader” for the Thai home. I put leader in quotation marks because we were supposed to choose between being a 2 year old, which Jana chose, or an old senile elder, which I chose. This was to ensure that the kids led the experience and got the most out of it. Each group was given a basket of supplies, except for my group because refugees don’t have a thing. We also could not talk to the rest of the groups, though we could talk to each other, because refugees are in a different country where they might not know the language. Some groups were also given a person who had a disability, in my group one girl had a broken arm. Each group had a person who was pregnant as well (the baby was a water balloon). To keep the baby alive, one group was given milk, but all groups had to have some milk by the next morning. After the preliminaries, the groups were sent off to their respected homes.
Being an old senile man, I sometimes did random things…like run away, attack intruders, and I accidentally killed our baby by tossing it in the air and it subsequently exploding in my hands. Needless to say I was a handful for my group. They eventually put me on a leash! Because we were refugees we did not have any supplies like food. What happened was that through non-verbal communication, the refugees were able to convince the Thais to give us some food. It was an enjoyable potato, onion, and squash soup. After the sun went down, the refugees returned to their home and TRIED to sleep. It was a struggle sleeping on the hard planks and heat. It was easy though compared to another group that got attacked by fire ants! In the morning my group missed breakfast, so we went hungry. We also had to do chores for the farm; one part of my group watered and planted an okra garden while the other part cleared the pathway around the entire village. When we got back to the meeting place after the experience, we were tired. I will say that lunch was probably the most delicious roast beef I’ve ever had.
I had a wonderful experience at the Heifer International Farm. It was educational as well as a good chance for me to come closer to the kids whom I will be ministering to. The prayer study went great and I hope that the kids had as good as time as I did. Hopefully, they learned more than I did!