While Chris was at the Witnessing Together event, I had the opportunity to join the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Geneva (http://www.genevalutheran.ch) in their annual congregational retreat that took place at Domaine de Monteret, 1.5km away from the village of St. Cergue on the Jura (where they had the Désalpe on the 1st of October which we didn’t get to see, but that’s a different story).
The retreat starts on September 30 in the afternoon, with people coming after work. We had a lovely potluck dinner and then headed to the opening session, where it was announced that the theme for the retreat was “Food, Mission and Justice”, which was perplexing to me. This is not the kind of theme I would expect for a retreat.
We started off with a group bible study based on passages of the Bible that talk about food (and there are MANY of those!). My group was given the text of Genesis 25:29-34 (Esau sells his birthright for a bowl of stew) and Genesis 27:1-40 (Jacob deceives Isaac), although we mostly focused on the first story. None of us could understand why Esau would trade his all important birthright for a mere bowl of stew. We realized that this was because none of us were ever famished before. One of the group members brought up the example from her country, Africa, where people would sell land (i.e. long term support, birthright) to get food for a month, because they were very hungry and had to find food to survive. At the point of hunger, nothing else matters.
The next morning we had a mission pilgrimage followed by a talk by Peter Prove, the Executive Director of the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, about their Food for Life campaign (the Churches Week of Action is October 10-17th!). We then had group discussions followed by a plenary session on what we talked about in groups during Bible Study and what actions we could take as an individual AND as a community in doing mission for food justice.
The ideas include:
- Making sure to buy fair trade food.
- Eating the stuff we have in our pantries before going out to buy more food.
- Doing a fast and donating the money that would’ve been used to buy food to a food related charity.
- Volunteer at the Soup Kitchen.
- Spread the word in the different organizations we work with.
This theme turned out to be very interesting and a real eye-opener for me. I used to be someone who took food for granted, you see. Back home food would be prepared by our household helper and if I don’t like the food I could always afford to go out to buy food (which will cost me 0.80 to a maximum of 5 francs for a complete meal). When I was in the US, food was also available in abundance, as evident by this photo of me at a restaurant during a dinner with my cousin who lives there:
I have to admit I was horrible when it comes to food. All this changed, however, when I got to Switzerland, especially living in Geneva. I had to start thinking about my food, what I would eat and whether I could afford it, etc.
The retreat was definitely a wake up call to be more responsible with the food I consume (and waste). The fact is if I make some small changes along with a whole lot of other people who also make some small changes in the way they treat food, then together we could make a big change. We could actually achieve food justice — and every person in the world could eat until they are satisfied, and we would still have 12 baskets of bread left!