Wednesday, July 24, 2013


I am listening to a convicting audio book, More or Less by Jeff Shinabarger. In the chapter on food he describes one January in detail.  Shocked by the ugly wake-up call of the post-Christmas credit card bill, he and his wife decided that they were going to have to cut corners.  They trimmed the budget, and half joking Jeff suggested that they just not buy any groceries for the month.  So they didn't. 

What followed was 9 weeks of rice, box brownies, pancake suppers, and glimpses of the bottom of the freezer and the back of the pantry.  He writes that they gained both a renewed perspective and 7 pounds apiece from their unhealthy diet.  They learned just exactly how far from hunger they were.   

Before we moved abroad, I was a case worker with the mentally ill. It was a fascinating and challenging job.  I thought I had learned something about hunger. But two experiences abroad taught me more.  

When we first moved we made a dumb mistake.  We just did not keep track of our money the way we should have.  We got paid for the whole summer in one lump sum.  Not knowing how much was in our bank account to start with, we didn't realize that we wouldn't be paid again till the middle of September.  Then we proceeded to go on vacation and spend the majority of the money.

I know that we should have known better.  It was remarkably irresponsible.  Nonetheless there we were.  We were one phone call away from all the money we needed. We had resources.  But we decided to tough it out. Call it an experiment.

We had a very limited budget with which we had to feed our family of three for about a month. (Given the exchange rate all those years ago it was something like 3 dollars a day) We decided to the penny how much we could spend on each meal.  The sobering thing was we were still spending four or five times the amount on our daily bread as the local working poor.  


Still we had not begun to understand what it meant to be hungry.  A few years later we met an engaging young professor.  He was at most 4'10"; his soft voice was a bit feminine and his face round and soft.  We didn't think anything of it until his parents came with him to eat dinner with us.  His dad was a robust six feet. My husband and I exchanged baffled glances.  

Later that evening the young man told us his story.  During his middle school and high school days famine struck.  The school provided a thin cornmeal gruel once a day during middle school.  He said that things were improving by high school, and they added a bowl of rice to their diet. He smiled in memory of a kind restaurant owner who would give the boys clear broth outside the back door when they came begging. It was not nearly enough calories for a boy to grow.  So he didn't.

We sat there quietly, listened, sympathized, but when he left I cleared the table with tears in my eyes.  All of this food, left over from dinner was the equivalent of what he ate in a week or even two as a child. 

At the end of each chapter in More or Less, Shinabarger suggests a social experiment.  Something to try to gain more perspective on our material blessings and how we can bless others.  In the chapter on food, he suggests getting together some cans from your pantry, heading down to a local food distribution center, and going inside.  Not dumping the cans in a bin, but walking into a pantry and talking to a worker there about the real food need in your own community.  

I thought that sounded brilliant. Social experiments are a discipline.  A short voluntary plan to give up something to discover something.  What could you try?

Could you fast one meal a week?  Could you pray during that time for the hungry the world over?  Or maybe give the money you would have spent on fast food to your church's food pantry?  Let's see 5 bucks for a burger, soda and fries multiplied by 52 weeks.  That's just over 250 dollars.  How many cans of Campbell's soup or packs of Ramen noodles would that buy?  

Could you volunteer at the local food pantry?  Say one Saturday morning a month?  Touch the hands of the hungry, smiling and forming relationships?  It wouldn't be easy.  Giving to real people is a messy business.

Could you make 5 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?  Put them in Ziploc bags and head downtown.  If you're town is anything like the one where I grew up, a 10 minute walk around downtown in broad daylight will find you 5 people looking for work, food or change.  When you pass them the sandwich, could you offer to say a prayer with them?

It is chance not to be missed.  We're women.  We feed people.  Hungry babies, hungry children, hungry husbands, hungry friends, they are our territory.  If you saw Jesus hungry, nothing would stop you from heading straight to the kitchen to look for food to feed him. There is a mysterious exchange going on in our world. When we offer food to the hungry, we offer a sandwich to our Savior (Matthew 25:31-36). He is hungry and he's right around the corner. What will you do?

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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