We are about to have a food pantry drive at work for a local church kitchen, and I have been collecting my coupons and watching for the two-for-one or even the ten-for-ten deals that pop up at the stores. I’ve also been thinking about hunger and what it is like to be hungry. I have been very blessed to grow up in a home where I haven’t really been famished, not for more than an hour or so.
But there was a time when I was away from home and experienced just a little of what it must be like to fight the daily gnawing ache.
I was in Ireland, and on a short term missions trip, there for just three months. I fell head over heels in love with the people, with their fiery hearts and stubborn souls. My team was based out of an old mansion in Southern Ireland, quite near the Irish Sea. On a clear day you could stand on the shore, and see Wales across the water in a deep, blue-gray haze.
High stone walls, roses the size of cabbage heads, and hopelessness were all around me. I working in some of the poorest areas, taking Bibles door to door, and also running a youth program Friday night. Saturday was my half free day. Along with the other member of my team, I cleaned the enormous mansion (which was also run as a hostel) and then had half a day to sight-see. Sunday I attended a local church, and then had half a day off to sight-see.
The problem was, the oversight of the mission didn’t feed me or any member of the team from Saturday evening until Monday morning.
For 36 hours, I was on my own, for food.
But I didn’t have money to feed myself. It had been hard enough coming up with the support needed to get me to Ireland, I didn’t have more than a hundred dollars to spare. And top it off, the exchange rate at the time was nearly two dollars to the pound. So, I ,and the rest of the team I was on, went hungry.
We went without eating from Saturday night till Monday morning. I tried to treat it like a fast, but after all the work that I did, I was desperately hungry.
It was a terrible situation to be caught in, and one that I am convinced was not what the oversight committee intended, but it was a painful one all the same.
Until a silver haired gentleman named George and his wife, Noley, overheard what was happening to me. They were members of the church I was attending on Sunday and somehow they heard that I was without food from Saturday evening until Monday morning. From then on, they just “happened” to have more to eat for tea and more food for dinner at their house then they could possibly ever eat. They took me to their house, fed me with such love and matter-of-factness that there was no room for chagrin, and then took me out to see the very best of their country. It was never mentioned that they knew if I didn’t eat with them, I wouldn’t eat. I was doing them a “favor” by getting rid of the extra food that they had which would go bad if someone didn’t eat it. Later on, in addition to Noley and George’s amazing largess (they were on a fixed income I’m certain and didn’t need extra mouths to feed) there was a lady from Northern Ireland, named Ruby who took care of me and the rest of my team.
Ruby made several loaves of bram brack bread, brought a block of sharp cheddar cheese, and left it for us on Saturday night. So Saturday evening we had tea, brambrack, and cheese slices and then on Sunday after church George and Noley fed me tea and dinner.
I was no longer hungry.
Yahweh Yireh had provided for my empty belly through the hearts and hands of His people. I was on the other side of the sea, but He knew right where I was. I was too embarrassed to let anyone really know what my need was, but He made certain the right people found out His daughter was hungry.
Now, I have a chance to be like Noley and George and Ruby, and provide for an empty belly.
Have you ever been hungry? Famished? Ever participated in the 40 Famine or other program to raise awareness about hunger at home and abroad? Tell me about it in the comments. Take this season, from now until Resurrection Sunday, to find a way to fill any empty belly.
I challenge you, Scribes, to be deliberately compassionate about this.
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”