Last Wednesday night we invited our church people to come and eat chili. "Would you come, eat our chili and make a donation? We want to go to Mozambique and we need help to go! It is a poor country and there are many hungry people there. We plan to go into some of the villages to give them food. They are hungry and we will bring packets of rice to give them so they will be able to eat."
The invitation was sent out and the chili, cornbread, plates of vegetables/dip, garlic bread, toppings, and cookies (lots of cookies) came in. The tables were prepared and 5:00 arrived. We were ready for the hungry to come; the ones wanting to eat our chili.
Soon they started to arrive. Greeted at the door by our team leader, Kathy Knight, they found one who offered a huge grin. "Thank you for coming! Bring in your hungry family and feast on our delicious food! We are so thankful you are here."
Couples, families of all sizes, kids, singles, relatives, friends and many more started coming through the door. They were hungry and eager to hear about our trip, to eat and to give money toward this important work.
Kathy got up as they were eating to inform the crowd about what we were planning to do with our ten days in Mozambique. Telling them that we would be ministering to the poor in this impoverished country. That we'd be praying for the AIDS widows in the villages and giving them quilts made by First Lutheran quilters here in Cedar Rapids. That we'll be taking soup to the sick in the hospital and praying for their recovery and gathering women to paint their toes and share with them the hope we have in Christ. Our young men will speak with young men. Our women will gather with women. While sitting in their church we'll rejoice that our church helped pay for their building. We'll dance and sing with joy at the beauty of a shared faith and hope in Christ.
I got up and shared a little story from when I traveled to Mozambique several years ago with another team from Maranatha. I told them how we gave the women little bags with jewelry donated by our friends and family and when they opened the bags they broke out in singing and dancing! It was unreal standing in the midst of these joyful women, ones who are often hungry, who had walked a long distance to meet with us, who had their stomachs filled with rice and dried fish, eaten with their fingers; the same rice and fish we, the team, ate with our fingers. The moment felt like pure worship and it changed me to witness these hungry women so overjoyed with their small gifts.
Our evening at Maranatha was nearly over. The savory chili was mostly gone, a few scoops left in the bottom of the many crock pots, one left half full. But..
As I sat down after telling my little story, another hungry one took me aside. In the hallway she explained that she lived in the neighborhood, had just moved from Texas, and did I know anywhere she and her husband and three grandchildren could find some food? She must have slipped in the door when I was up front and didn't notice that the hungry stood among us.
I looked at her, this grandmother, a tooth missing, wearing an oversized sweater, asking for food. Hungry, trying to provide food for her babies who's mother was in prison...
"Of course," I said! "We have food!" And took her out to the main room and asked the girls to fix her up. A box was found and food was packaged up. All the scoops of leftover chili, corn bread, garlic bread, toppings, vegetables and lots of cookies. "Let's pray!" Kathy joyfully called out, and several gathered around "Elizabeth" and prayed that God would send her the help she needed, the jobs they were applying for, the food they were desperate for and the love she longed for in Him.
I escorted her to my car, stopped by Jim's Foods for a couple of gallons of milk and dropped her off at her house, my work done for the evening.
I couldn't help marveling though. Isn't this just like God? While we were feeding the hungry so we could go to Mozambique to feed the hungry, He sent us a hungry one from our neighborhood to love on and to feed!
Jesus tells us in Matthew 25, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."
Did Jesus show up last Wednesday night to bless us and to show us how satisfying it is to feed the hungry? To show us Himself so we could remember it is He who comes to us in the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison? To remind us that we have all kinds of hunger all around us and that there are many ways to feed that hunger?
Dear God, thank you for sending Elizabeth at just the right time on Wednesday night. I pray that you are taking care of her and that she got the job she was hoping for and that she is keeping her babies nourished. Thank you for letting us be the ones to feed her from the overflow of the bounty you provided for us. Send her back to us on Sunday morning so her soul may be filled with the truth of your unfailing love. Thank you also for providing much needed funds for our mission to Mozambique. Those hungry folks gave so we can go and feed more hungry folks. And as more hungry people in our neighborhood show up, may we continue to show grace, generosity and joyful humility in finding them what they need. After their stomachs are full, they might be open to hearing more about You and we'll be here to share it with them.
Thank you, Maranatha, for your generous contributions for our trip.($4,300!!!) If others are eager to share in the blessing of the hungry in Mozambique, call our church office to find out how to do just that. 319-362-8784 Or leave me a message in the comments. I'll get back to you.