“But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” 1 John 3:17-18
Gayla’s choosing of the African Proverb for this week’s devotion of, “An empty stomach has no ears to hear with”, at least for me, could not have come at a more appropriate time. Having just returned from Amor’s Women of Strength trip to South Africa I saw firsthand the plight of hunger in the faces of many African people of all ages.
My first encounter with hunger in S.A. came through the eyes of the 260 plus children who had shown up for lunch and then our outreach program at the Ikageng Center in Soweto. Many of them came hungry and waited upwards of 6 hours in hopes of sharing in a small meal that we provided. The Ikageng Center is run by a dynamic Women of Strength nicknamed "Mom Carol”. She also with God’s help, provides daily food to orphans and helpless children who come to the center. Mom Carol also includes in her daily feeding several other precious children who just show up in the company of many other young people who have become outcasts in their culture because of contracting HIV.
Many of these children live in child-headed households, where their oldest sibling takes on the role of parent and does their best to look after their younger brothers and sisters. Others live with grandparents who struggle just to get by on the small pension provided them by their government. Women of Strength ladies and myself were able work along side Carol, to provide a number of meals to number of these children mentioned above. It was in this context that we shared Jesus’ love for them through Bible stories, singing and making crafts. In addition to the meal and lesson(s), we shared Christ’s love by playing creative games, making crafts, and even painting nails of the young girls. What a blessing it was to be a part of this on going program and experience the love and laughter of these children as we did.
My next encounter with hunger broke my heart even more. Scott Congdon told us about some cheese balls he had purchased for a snack had to be thrown away because ants had gotten all through the container that the cheese balls were stored in. One of the workers at The Farm who had learned of Scott’s disposal of these cheese balls quickly searched through the trash to retrieve them. He wanted them to be able to provide a special treat for his children at the end of his long work day. I saw hunger on display each day on the way to our 5 home builds as we passed the city dump. Looking out over the dump you could see dozens of children sifting through garbage looking for scraps of food. When they did mange to find some they would hold it up like it was treasure and share it with their families. When you come face to face with hunger it hurts. It is real and it is not right.
It was never God’s plan for people to go hungry. The gospel is never offered as a replacement for the basic needs of survival. Jesus longs to feed his following crowd’s deeper spiritual food but He also never over looked their physical hunger.
One of the stories I shared at the WOS outreach was the feeding of the five thousand. This story reminded me that there is a relationship between the hunger of the body and the hunger of the soul. As the precious preschoolers munched on fish crackers and listened intently to Jesus’ story about feeding the people I was vividly reminded of the importance of feeding their stomachs so I could fill their hearts with the knowledge of God’s love for each one of them. The story also makes the point that whether young or old Jesus can use you to provide food for the hungry. The miracle of the feeding of the 5000 all started with a little boy who was willing to share what little food he had, his lunch.
Amor’s Women of Strength also saw on display the same miracle at the Ikegeng Center when we purchased enough food for 100 children it was somehow multiplied into enough food to feed 260+ children. "I was hungry," said Jesus, "and you gave me food" (Matthew 25:35). Families are you ready to share a meal to take care of the hungry right around you in your own community? Lord, please open our eyes to the needs of the poor globally and help us do something about it in our own corner of the world.