I feel like everyone’s grandmother. Whenever someone comes over, the standard question I ask is, “Have you eaten?” I don’t know why I have this seemingly inborn need to know if someone is alright, if they are hungry, if I can do something. My mother was the same, she always made sure everyone had something to eat. I think she must have had this tendency passed on to her from her mother, my grandmother. I remember at our family gatherings, as a small child sitting around the table, my grandmother fussed over everyone, making sure everyone had what they needed. She always lamented that the pots were too small to feed her large family.
Now this mantle has fallen on me and, try as I might, I am unable to shake it.
We Don’t Really Need It
Often when we say we “need” something, we really don’t need it. We may be more comfortable with it, but it really isn’t a need. My husband (the ultimate non-shopper) says, “You can’t wear more than 1 pair of shoes at a time.” To date, I’ve not been able to win that argument (please message me if you have something I can use when I’m out shoe shopping with him next time).
In the past 33 years, I’ve been blessed to see hundreds, thousands, maybe tens of thousands of hungry people fed here in Africa. I’ve not yet tired of handing out plates of food to those beautiful extended hands. When someone is truly hungry, that plate of food speaks more of the love of God to them than thousands of hours of the best preaching on planet earth.
Matthew 25:31-40 NLT vs. 35 “For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.”
The Pots Were Too Small
Here in Africa, most hospitals do not feed their patients. In Burundi where we live, where more than 50% of the population is food insecure, the situation is especially desperate in the local hospitals. It’s for this reason we bring food to patients in one of the local hospitals every month. Reaching out and feeding the sick translates into feeling better faster as patients need to eat well to recover properly. As happy as I am to go feed every month, I know that we won’t be able to feed all of the patients. The pots were too small, we won’t ever have enough for everyone.
We prepare food at church and while I waited for the food to cook, my eyes caught a glimpse of two very large pots that looked familiar. Upon further inspection I recognized them as cooking pots that I had bought in 1997. At that time, we fed 1,500 displaced children daily in refugee camps during a time of unrest in the country. My heart sank when I learned that the church cleaning team was using them to wash chairs. Soon, however, it was time to go and my mindset changed from what I saw at the church to the task at hand: feeding the sick in hospital.
As we handed out a cooked meal, soap, and sugar, I spent time visiting with a man, Yakobo. He had been hospitalized for over two months after being hit by a car. He was transported from his village to the capital where we live to get help. Help was delayed due to a lack of funds for a much-needed surgery to treat multiple fractures in his right arm and both legs.
We first met last month just a short while after his accident. When I met him, his situation moved me to tears. I began writing email appeals, spreading his news everywhere in an attempt to find help for this dear soul. His hospital bill was over $500.00, expensive for this particular hospital and this part of the world. Neither I nor the church had money to pay for this bill on top of everything else on our plates. While we waited for God to answer our prayers, I sent food to him and his caretaker weekly. I struggled to keep myself positive. How was he going to get the attention he needed?
Just a few days ago, while fighting worry over his situation, I was messaged online by an anonymous local donor who wanted to help. They requested his name and where he was located, which I supplied. On Friday, when we delivered his food, we found Yakobo smiling. He had undergone his first of 3 surgeries. I chastised myself for being surprised at this answer to our prayers. God heard and answered in a way we weren’t expecting.
More critical needs came to my attention today and, together with the team, we did our best to address what we could. We visited another patient that we had prayed for and assisted over the previous two months: a small child who had an advanced case of tuberculosis and malnutrition. Two months ago when we initially encountered the child, I fought my own feelings about what could be done for her in such a state. Her stomach was distended due to severe malnutrition and she cried constantly as severely malnourished children do. Today, while still in poor condition, she was markedly better and eating. We stopped to give thanks to the Lord for more answered prayers.
As we were nearing the end of the outreach, the painful reality of how little it seemed we accomplished that morning hit me. Driving home, the usual chatter going on in the car, I prayed, “Let us do more.” My mind then returned to the big pots at the church and I smiled remembering how many times from 1987 until now God has come through to help us feed the hungry. Where will the money come from? I don’t know. I’m on a “need to know” basis only but there’s one thing I know:
The pots were too small today, but we can fix that.