Ministry center celebrates opening of Global Village


SHARPSBURG -- Laura Combs eyed the thatched roof and the mud walls of the small structure beneath the trees.

She stepped inside the doorway of the hut and found the floors were the same as the ground outside -- damp dirt.

As she unrolled a straw mat that had been leaning near the doorway, Laura decided it would not make for a good night's sleep.

"It doesn't look very comfortable," she said.

Laura, 9, and her family had traveled from their home in Staunton, Va., to the grand opening of a Heifer Global Village at Shepherd's Spring Outdoor Ministry Center near Sharpsburg. Around 300 people attended the event.


Shepherd's Spring is a retreat and summer camp owned and operated by the Mid-Atlantic District Church of the Brethren. The center teamed with Heifer International -- which provides animals and training to impoverished families around the world in an effort to create sustainable communities -- to build the Global Village.

"It's a learning center about homes from around the world," said Ann Cornell, administrator of Shepherd's Spring. "People can come here and learn how other people live, and learn about how the choices we make impact other people's lives. They learn that food is not evenly distributed, and they learn it by experiencing it."

Global Village occupies about five acres of Shepherd's Spring's 220-acre campus. Structures are situated along a winding mulch path and represent homes from different areas of the world, including Mozambique, Guatemala, and Appalachia in the United States. Cornell said the village will feature seven homes upon completion of the project. Two of the sites remain under construction.

"We hope to have the project completed in one to two years," she said. "It depends on financing."

Laura Combs' mother, Anita, said the village was a "wonderful learning opportunity" for her children.

"They noticed that these homes had no washing machines, no (toilets). They don't have the basic things we take for granted," Anita Combs said. "It puts things in perspective and reminds us that God put us all here and we all have a responsibility to share."

Cornell said the Global Village will host several programs, including a 24-hour experience called Global Gateway.

"We will divide people into groups and assign them to homes from different countries. We'll distribute food unevenly, and leave them to beg, borrow or steal to get what they need," she said. "They really learn what the problems are."

Deborah Keene, senior director of Heifer Learning Centers, said Heifer International and the Church of the Brethren have a history steeped in partnership with one another.

"We have long, long roots that go all the way back to Dan West, the founder of Heifer International," Keene said. "The history makes Shepherd's Spring the perfect place for this partnership to play out."

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