Epic Heifer Ranch Trip, Day 5: Service is Joy!

This morning after breakfast, about half of our group chose to do some extra weeding on our own and gave some attention to the Peace Garden here at the Ranch. The head of the CSA noticed and let us pick some blueberries and blackberries as a treat. Yum!

For our morning, we did another round of service learning (work) on the Ranch. Half of our group went with the livestock team to clean out the chicken nurseries. The other half finished weeding the field of squash that was started on Tuesday. Both were hot and dirty jobs, but our new mantra is “service is joy.”

After work we had time to shower, eat lunch, and nap. Then our afternoon was filled with a final class on how Heifer International operates around the world. We learned about the differences between vulnerable, subsistence, and resilient communities, played games, and wrote letters to ourselves that will be sent later in the year.

Following dinner, we had time to hang out. Some played card games, others hiked around the Ranch, and others took naps or talked in smaller groups. We ended the day with highs/lows/god sightings and prayer. Now we’re packing so that we can head to Little Rock in the morning. Goodnight!

Epic Heifer Ranch Trip, Day 4: Global Village and Other Challenges

Today we woke up in the Global Village. It was a cool, misty morning and we woke up early after very little sleep. The slums had the job of cooking breakfast for the entire village, but their fire pit was full of water. Thankfully, Thailand still had coals going, so we journeyed to their home and cooked/are our oatmeal there.

Following breakfast, we had to pack our things and clear out the village. After doing so, we all had chores to help reset the village for next week’s volunteers. Then, when everything was clean and reset, the whole group debriefed our experience in the Global Village. It was hard to keep going through chores and debrief with so little food or sleep — another reminder of reality for so many in the world.

After the Global Village experience was over, we ate lunch in the dining hall, took showers, and got some rest. Then our team did some more intensive team building challenges out at the challenge course. Again, fatigue made everything harder, but there was a rush of energy when things went well on a challenge!

Dinner came next and was followed by a trip off-Ranch to Sonic. Then we had a time for devotional and highs/lows before heading to bed. Tomorrow will be another full day, so we need to catch up on sleep!

Epic Heifer Ranch Trip, Day 3: Service and Entering the Global Village

On Tuesday morning we had our first service (work) hours. We were split into two groups, with one cutting firewood and the other weeding rows of squash. Both jobs were hot and important to the daily needs on the Ranch. We tried to work with the motto “service is joy” in our hearts.

After our morning of work, we got ready to enter the Global Village. This hands on learning experience takes volunteers into a brief poverty simulation where groups are split into families, placed in different global locations with culturally appropriate housing, and given small amounts of resources. The goal of every group is to eat dinner and get some sleep in their housing, using the resources provided and by trading/working with other families.

Our group was divided into Thailand, Zambia, and the urban slums. Thailand featured a wooden house on stilts with breezy bamboo walls. Zambia had a round brick home with a cool concrete floor. The urban slums had a few small metal roofed shacks with uneven rocky dirt floors.

Shortly after we found out our locations and entered the Global Village, the rain started. It was a very wet night, but this didn’t change our goals. We still needed food and sleep, and so the work began. Our youth set to trading, working, problem-solving and cooking. There were a few arguments and struggles, both internally and with students from other church groups, but eventually cooperative meals were cooked at three different locations and we all got something to eat.

Sleep was more difficult. Between the rain, the bugs, the discomfort, the sounds, and even the pain from uneven rocky ground, sleep was elusive. We had lots of time to lie awake thinking about the meals we’d have the next day — and the people for whom hunger is a daily reality. For some of us, that thought made sleep even more difficult.

Epic Heifer Ranch Trip, Day 2 — Learning the Ropes

Today we woke up early and headed to the dining hall for our first meal at the Ranch: a delicious breakfast of grits, sausage, and cinnamon rolls. All the meat served here is also raised here, and many of the fruits and vegetables served in the dining hall are grown at the Ranch as well. Food scraps are recycled into compost for the fields where we’ll be working this week, and they are also weighed to encourage groups to waste less food each day — so the entire experience of a meal here helps us to think about issues of sustainability, health, food waste, and more.

After breakfast, our group walked across the Ranch to a special building where they lead team-building exercises. As we played games and worked our way through various challenges we also learned more about the values and core principles of Heifer International.

The afternoon brought a special food class called “Just Dough It” in which our team made pizza from scratch. They ground wheat and made their own crust, crushed tomatoes and picked herbs for homemade sauce, and milked a goat to make goat cheese. Then, while the pizzas baked, we learned about the differences between industrial agriculture and local small-scale agriculture, the benefits of CSAs, and other issues affecting our food supply chain in the US and abroad. The lessons were powerful and the pizza was delicious!

After dinner tonight we stayed in our cabin for some much needed downtime. We watched a movie, played games, snacked, and laughed before heading to bed early. Tomorrow will be a big day (and a hot day), so we need our rest. We’ll check in again tomorrow!

Epic Heifer Ranch Trip, Day One

Today, after worship and a potluck lunch, our team of 23 youth and adults piled into two vans and a luggage vehicle and began our journey to Perryville, Arkansas.

The trip went smoothly and we made excellent time, arriving at the Heifer Ranch at 9 pm. A Heifer volunteer met us and showed us to our lodge, where we then unloaded the vehicles and started moving into our rooms.

There was a tiny bit of time for card games and such, but we’re headed to bed so that we can be up bright and early for breakfast and our full orientation to the ranch.

Tomorrow’s post will have many more pictures and stories to tell. See you then!

Chi Rho Mission Trip, Work Day #4

Today our only work was an evening shift in the community garden, but the temperature hit 100° — so the rest of the day we found ways to hang out in air conditioning. First we ate breakfast, and then headed out for a morning matinee showing of Spider Man. It was a really fun movie to watch as a group!

After the movie, we headed to a different location of the pizza restaurant we visited earlier this week (it was so good that everyone wanted to go again). The pizza was delicious and gave us the energy to run by one of the outlet stores. After we mostly window shopped, we went by the church for a quick nap during the hottest part of the day.

At the community garden, we broke into groups. One group dug potatoes, and the other group picked kale. Then, after a water break, the kale group started weeding the melon patch. By the time we were done, all the weeds were gone and we could see all the melons that had been hiding underneath. 

Before we left the garden, we spent some time bringing in today’s harvest and talking with the garden organizers about how they got started. We’re feeling rather inspired after seeing how much a church and wider community can do to provide healthy food for their neighbors!

Tonight we’re showering, cleaning, and packing for tomorrow’s drive home. It has been a truly great mission trip and we’re grateful  for all we’ve seen, experienced, learned, and done!


Chi Rho Mission Trip, Work Day #3

Today the first part of our day was free, so we slept in a little. Then we had breakfast at a fancy donut place.  It was excellent, with very creative donut flavors. 

After breakfast, we spent a couple of hours at the Des Moines Art Center. This free museum is tucked away in a neighborhood and hosts a delightfully broad collection of modern and contemporary art. We had a good time examining and pondering pieces from artists including Picasso and Warhol.

After the museum, we went to Joppa – an organization that seeks to build relationships with individuals experiencing homelessness so that they can gradually move into temporary and then permanent housing. Joppa’ work falls into five categories: outreach, housing, after care, education, and advocacy. They are currently working on developing a new housing area that will contain 50 tiny houses — this will be a neighborhood of temporary housing for homeless individuals who are transitioning to permanent housing.

While at Joppa, we packed toiletry bags in preparation for their annual homeless census. Once we’d packed about 100 bags, we wrote special notes of encouragement for each person who will receive a bag. Then we re-packed dog food and cat food into smaller bags so that it can be taken to people living outdoors who have pets with them.

After Joppa, we drove to Highland Park Christian Church, another Disciples church in Des Moines. There we helped serve food at their weekly community meal. This meal gives mostly older residents the opportunity to socialize, get out of the heat (many have no air conditioning), and eat a healthy meal. We had fun and also got to eat the meal before taking a tour of the church with Rev. Kara Courtney.

Now we’re chilling out at WDMCC before showers and bedtime. Looking forward to tomorrow: our final day of work.