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A CBU International Service Project volunteer surveys the meager meal of rice and beans, meant to feed her whole group. The poverty meal reminded students about the plight of the hungry.
A CBU International Service Project volunteer surveys the meager meal of rice and beans, meant to feed her whole group. The poverty meal reminded students about the plight of the hungry.

Intensive Training Weekend teaches CBU volunteers to depend on each other

RIVERSIDE (Feb. 6, 2014)--The group of California Baptist University students, faculty and staff members entered Innovators Auditorium in single file Feb. 1 for dinner. What they found wasn’t what they expected.

Across the front of the room, there were four tables set with tablecloths, plates and silverware. Students sat in upholstered chairs and were served their meals, complete with bread and dessert, by uniformed waiters.

The second group sat in plastic chairs in a circle—no table and a stack of Styrofoam bowls on the floor. The designated leader left the room to retrieve their meal—rice mixed with chicken—and then passed the bowl to others in the circle.

The last group sat on the floor with no bowls and no eating utensils. They ate the rice and beans they were given and then were allowed to beg for food from others in the room.

“I wonder how they decided who would eat where,” mused one student to another. “How did they decide who would be rich and who would be poor?”

For Aubrey MacMillan, a CBU junior participating in an International Service Project (ISP) team, the poverty meal experience was the most sobering.

“I was categorized as a middle class citizen, and I received one small scoop of rice and shredded chicken for my meal,” she said. “At the time, I was tired and hungry, but I became that much more thankful for the meal because of the reminder of so many less fortunate.”

The meal was part of Intensive Training Weekend designed to help prepare volunteers for the summer’s assignments in various U.S. and overseas service opportunities. This summer, about 400 students and team leaders will work in 47 teams to serve in 17 countries.

“Research shows that community and responsibility are the top two concerns that our students have,” said Kristen White, director of global mobilization. “CBU provides extensive ministry and cross-cultural training for students serving in the U.S. and overseas. Also, our faculty and staff leaders seek to connect with and invest in students to challenge them to take their next step in engaging the world.”

On Friday afternoon, students moved into classrooms and lecture halls where they took part in the training and even spent two nights in sleeping bags. In addition to the poverty meal, they experienced simulations such as worship in “house church” settings, visiting a world market, learning to prayerwalk and a variety of other scenarios.

“We were there to support one another,” MacMillan said. “This was an important thing to realize as it made us all aware of exactly how much we will need to lean on each other in any situation.”