Genesis 41, Infrastructure And Helping Displaced People (Or, Meditations on Joseph’s Skillset)

Before you complain, yes, I do know this not my usual topic to write about. But right now, this matters. And maybe, just maybe, you know somebody that can help. Maybe you ARE the somebody that can help. We never know until we try.

The amazing thing about the unfolding crisis of displaced people moving across Europe (apart from the horror of it happening at all), is the upsurge of generosity and willingness to make a difference from everyday people. To the point that it is becoming a logistical nightmare.


But it kind of reminds me of a Bible story, found in Genesis 41. Pharaoh has a weird sort of dream that he can’t understand, and he gets Joseph to interpret it. Basically, Joseph tells him that there would be seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine. Which is important to know because it meant that Joseph could come up with a cunning plan.

Up to this point, Joseph’s dreams and cunning plans hadn’t worked out too well for him. When he was younger, his brothers sold him to slave traders and told his Dad he was dead because he told them about some dreams he’d had that he thought were pretty cool. He’d ended up in prison (no fault of his own), where he’d told two other people what their dreams meant – and been right. They’d said they would tell Pharaoh about him, but sort of forgotten, but the crisis of the unexplained dream had meant Joseph was remembered.

Crises have a way of bringing hidden talents to the surface, if you let them.

But what I find interesting about the story is the solution to the 7 years of plenty, 7 years of famine that Joseph comes up with.

Storehouses in the cities to store 10% of the harvest for each year of plenty. And then people could come and buy from the storehouses when the food ran out.

Think about this. It’s a grassroots solution on a national (and, as it turns out, international, level). The people knew what was coming – and that meant they had to give up the 10% of the harvest. But, they also had to save up during the 7 years of plenty so that they would have something to buy with. Joseph didn’t take all the excess. He could have – Pharaoh gave him the power to pretty much do what he wanted. He took just enough, and helped people keep their self-respect. He made sure that it was a workable system that would keep working throughout the 7 years, and leave them in a place where they could just carry on as normal once the 14 years were up.

In fact, after the 14 years, overall the country was in a better place. Because they used the 7 years of plenty wisely.

It’s a good model for dealing with the challenges faced in helping the displaced people making their way across Europe.

Because we have the plenty already. We have people fighting with each other to get the plenty to the people that need it. (Seriously, people are offering advice, and airing frustrations and things can get downright nasty.)

What we need to do is what Joseph did: Build storage in the cities so when people needed it, they had somewhere to come. Build storage so people can bring their plenty.

Make a system that works, and will keep on working. Grassroots isn’t everybody doing their own thing – it’s all the little bits working together to hold each other up.

Do I know how to do this? No.

But I am willing to learn. I am willing to try.

Because seven years is a long time.

And we need lots of storehouses.

I am not looking for donations of stuff. I am trying to build infrastructure – networks, skills, that sort of thing. Also, find storage in Europe where it will be helpful. If you are involved in logistics, marketing, fundraising, law, distribution, warehousing, software design, planning, or anything else that may be useful, please get in touch. Also, please spread the word. We need infrastructure as much as we need aid. For the moment the email address is

This is an international effort.


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