Willis Youth Join the CIA: Christians in Action
Unlike the covert governmental agency, the Willis UMC CIA does nothing in secret. “Our youth are calling themselves Christians in Action and they are living out that name in many ways ranging from mission trips to service projects to remodeling the youth building,” says youth director Briana McCord.
Youth visited Heifer Ranch in Perryville, Arkansas this summer -- one of four locations for Heifer International's learning centers. Heifer International is a non-profit organization working to end hunger by helping those in impoverished countries to become self-sustaining, both with a source of food and an income. After 65 years, Heifer International is most commonly known for donations of livestock and produce with the expectations of recipients paying it forward. Adds Briana, “If you receive a cow, you are expected to share its calf with someone else.”
Willis students particularly enjoyed Heifer International's learning centers that provide hands-on experiences and engaging classes such as the “Global Village” that simulates the living environment of various countries. “Our youth participated in the Alternative Break Program by spending 5 nights and 6 days of service. During that time, we helped with livestock management, ranch maintenance, and garden tending, team building exercises, and learning how many people and steps go into the food we eat every day.”
Perhaps the most memorable part of the mission trip was the challenge put forth to the students the night they spent in the Global Village. Their dilemma to solve: "There are enough resources on the earth to feed 12 billion people, there are 7.5 billion people on the planet, so why don't all have enough?"
Unique Life Experience
Students were then divided into families belonging to one of seven homes:
Guatemala, Zambia, Tibet, Thailand, Appalachia, an urban slum, or a refugee camp – all with different resources, difficulties, and medical conditions. The families had to barter with each other in order to gain firewood, water, and food. Adults were present to make sure everyone was safe, but all decisions and actions were made by the youth.
Notes Briana, “This experience was intense and mind opening. The youth became frustrated with each other, failed to communicate, and almost were not able to fix their dinner. They were shocked at the level of difficulty that it took to do anything. The communication barrier had to completely break down, before they were able to recognize that it would take all of them working together for them to have dinner. It was hot, they were sleeping on hard ground or wood, and they had to do a great deal of physical labor in order to get what they needed.”
The next morning, the youth were considerably more grateful for their real family and were suddenly aware of how close to home poverty really is. “The concept of hunger and exhaustion were no longer something that happened halfway across the world, they had experienced a bit of it firsthand. They were then given a visual picture of population distribution, spending, the concept of a standard of living, and relative wealth.
“We brainstormed solutions and left with a challenge: everyone came up with one thing that they want to do to try and make a difference in one of these difficulties at home so the FUMC Willis youth proposed to raise $5,000 dollars to donate the Heifer Gift Ark. The Heifer Gift Ark consists of 2 camels, 2 pigs, 2 cows, 2 trios of rabbits, 2 donkeys, 2 beehives, 2 sheep, 2 llamas/ alpacas, 2 flocks of geese, 2 goats, 2 oxen, 2 flocks of chicks, 2 trios of ducks, 2 trios of guinea pigs, and 2 water buffalo which are distributed all over the world to aid families in becoming self-sustaining.”
The youth group is now focused on raising this money by having a Fall Festival in October. “Keep your eyes out for the C.I.A. Youth Group,” says Briana. “”They are not named Christians in Action just because it sounds nice, they are truly in action to make a difference.”