Passing on the Gift
American farmer Dan West knew giving refugees a cup of milk a day was not enough. What if he could give them a cow instead? Seventy years after “Heifer for Relief” shipped its first cows to impoverished villagers in post-war Europe, West’s “teach a man to fish” approach has helped lift more than twenty million families around the world out of hunger and poverty.
Today, Heifer International oversees sustainable development projects on five continents, improving education, animal management, accountability, and sanitation. But providing livestock remains the core of its work. From rabbits, goats, and hogs to cows, llamas, and camels, the gift is tailored to the specific village’s climate and culture. Milk, wool, and meat, in addition to combatting hunger, provide an income with which a family can send a child to school or improve their home.
Part of the deal is “passing on the gift,” Heifer’s long-standing policy that the recipient must give away the offspring of that animal to another person in need. In this way, families build community in a cycle of positive change. On average, “passing on the gift” carries on for at least nine generations of animals, and in some places, twenty-two generations can be traced!
Since most animals are now sourced locally in the countries being served, the original Heifer Ranch in Arkansas has become a place where privileged children can learn about the root causes of hunger and poverty, spending a night on dirt floors in the “Global Village” after a frugal meal.
Find out how you can give “a hand up, not a handout” at www.heifer.org.
Who are today’s martyrs? Beginning with the death of Stephen around AD 34, the church has commemorated those who suffered for their faith in Christ. In the Anabaptist tradition, especially, stories of martyrs have shaped church communities through books such as the Hutterian Chronicle (ca. 1665) and Thieleman von Braght’s Martyrs’ Mirror (1685).
The stories of more recent Christian witnesses, however, are often unknown. In response, the Bearing Witness Stories Project – an effort to collect testimonies of Anabaptist believers who suffered for their faith – seeks to remind us what costly discipleship looks like. The project aims to encourage faithfulness to the way of Jesus by building on the spiritual legacy of Martyrs’ Mirror, says John Roth, professor of history and director of Goshen College’s Institute for the Study of Global Anabaptism, which initiated the project. Recently featured stories include a Congolese pastor who forgave the armed men who forced him to dig his own grave, a Ukrainian Mennonite Brethren family dispersed to Soviet labor camps, and a missionary in China forced into hiding during World War II. People throughout the world are invited to share stories on the Bearing Witness Story Project website, www.martyrstories.org.