Today’s post from Jenn Schultz Simmons, who works as a pastor at a church in Springfield, Mo. Jenn gives us a personal look at Heifer International and how her family chose to keep their loved one’s spirit of giving alive. Her poignant words remind all of us that our lives create ripples of change, and that our generosity lives on long after we are gone.
My mother walked up the stairs and said, “Heifer, I want to invite our family and friends to give animals in Sean’s memory.” When my brother died very suddenly at at 27 after suffering a head injury and severe trauma we searched for the best way to invite our family and friends to celebrate his life. Years ago he put the heart donation sticker on his drivers license. He wanted to be an organ donor. So, when we had to decide how we wanted to honor and celebrate the life of my brother, giving flocks of chicks, ducks, rabbits, and cows was a perfect fit.
Over the years, I have had the privilege to see the work of Heifer International first hand. In Nicaragua, I had the opportunity to meet families that received pigs, trees, plants, and chickens from Heifer International. The pig farmer, a mother of three kids, was so proud of her pig and the way she had changed the lives of those living in their village. Her children had the opportunity to go school all because of a pig. After receiving lessons about how to care for their pig, they were asked to teach others in their community. I met their pig as she was about to give birth to the next generation of pigs and impact a whole new family.
While serving at Webster Groves Christian Church, I had the honor of getting to take youth and adults to the Heifer Ranch in Perryville, AR. Everyday we signed up for new classes and chores. Some of us learned about bees, others milked goats, while some cut down trees. One night we stayed in the global village representing many different countries and situations. There was a refugee camp, an urban setting, and various economic experiences in numerous countries. Some youth had to sleep on the hard floor while others had a bed. Each youth was given some resources and then had to decide how to share their resources for the night so that they could eat. The overall experience at the Ranch gave the youth and adults hands on experience to begin to understand how animals really can change the lives of people and impact communities.
When I first saw the work of Heifer, I asked my family members to buy me chickens for the holidays. At first my brother thought it was silly to ask for a flock of chicks for people in another country (I mean how do you put that in a Christmas box?), but over time, and with many stories of the difference those chickens made in people’s lives, he began to love it. Now over the years, we have given flocks of chicks, ducks, and trees as Christmas gifts in our family.
We decided to ask our friends and family to celebrate Sean’s life by giving to Heifer. We realized giving animals through Heifer to families all over the world so that others might have new life was another way to honor my brother’s decision to give new life to others via organ donation. Now, in celebration of my brother, chickens, pigs, and heifers will impact new families and communities all over the world.