To hear the different expectations of SIFAT were humorous to say the least. No one was exactly sure what we were going to be doing so there were numerous rumors circulating campus regarding everything from what to pack to what we were going to be doing. The time finally came for us to begin our trek to Lineville, Alabama (where SIFAT is located). Upon arriving, Nate, one of the staff at SIFAT, gave us an introduction to the organization. He explained that SIFAT is an acronym for Servants in Faith and Technology and was founded over 30 years ago by Ken and Sarah Corson. Their mission is to teach people appropriate technology. One example of how they apply this is the fuel efficient cook stove. Around the world, woman and children are dying of smoke inhalation, so the fuel efficient stove was developed to decrease the amount of smoke produced while using far less wood than a normal fire. It is made out of very simplistic materials that you can find almost anywhere in the world. This was encouraging and eye opening for me, because I never realized that something so simple as a more efficient way to cook food and heat homes had the potential to save so many lives.
After the orientation into SIFAT, we began our hike to the Global Village, the Global Village consists of a conglomeration of various houses replicated from around the world. There was a stick hut from Nigeria, a bamboo house from the Philippines, and many more. Upon arriving at the Global Village, we had to go through “customs.” This process consisted of getting all of the few belongings, except for one extra article of clothing and our sleeping bag, taken away. The purpose of this was to give us a better understanding of how people around the world live. After customs, we each chose a shelter to spend the night in and then that evening we were given portions of beans, potatoes, and rice to cook over a fire as our dinner.
That night in the global village was what some would call extreme camping. Seven other girls and myself were piled into a rather drafty mud hut from Nigeria. At first, I was skeptical if we would all fit comfortably, but when it is raining and cold outside sleeping in tight corridors quickly becomes appealing. Getting ready for bed that night consisted of two steps: rolling out our sleeping bags and then unceremoniously flopping in them. We were allowed to keep our headlamps so I’m sure it would have been comical to watch our lights bobbing all around as we pulled off our shoes and tried not kick anyone’s head while we cocooned ourselves in our sleeping bags.
In the morning we were all stiff and cold as we trudged out of the Global Village with the promise of showers and hot meals awaiting us. For me, it seemed almost anticlimactic that after a night of experiencing how millions of people around the world live I was back in “civilization”. Within twenty minutes, we had access to clean clothes and a full stomach. What we all went through that night is life for many people. While Americans put such an emphasis on the future, these people around the world are simply trying to make it to their next meal. The future is something almost irrelevant and the goal in life is often just daily survival.
Something Nate brought up is how when people are destitute, they are extremely dependent on God for their daily needs. This caused me to realize in my own life how little faith I have. Surrounded by technology, good food, and a warm bed I have never had to really rely on Christ the way some have. I was convicted how I often put God in a box and limit Him to only the things that I think He will do. I have the privilege of serving the creator of the universe yet I continue to rationalize in my mind what God will do with His power as if I have control over it.
Wednesday consisted of learning about water purification systems and other appropriate technology. It was the slums experience, however, that left the biggest mark on me. For two hours that night, all of the Impact students were divided into family groups and then placed into a replication of Bolivian slums. When we first arrived in the slums, we were greeted by the local drunkard and prominent landlord, all played by SIFAT staff and students. Tikki torches were positioned all around the slums and their eerie light bounced off the dilapidated buildings. We then began looking for ways to make money in order to provide food and shelter for our families. Even though we all knew this was only a simulation of what life in the slums was like, the way we went into survival mode was almost uncanny. Through this experience, I caught a glimpse of the hopelessness and depression million of people every day have to live with. This is not something that they choose; it is just the way it is. Being in their shoes, even for that short time, not only gave us a greater heart for the people but also a glimpse into our selfish and flawed selves.
SIFAT is something that must be experienced. There is only so much that I can express in words, but I hope I have given you a glimpse of what we experienced and what SIFAT is all about.
IMPACT 360 Class of 2011