Heartbroken for the Hungry
(Inside: Helping the hungry in our world)
Who does your heart break for?
We sat out in a field, away from the city, away from the village homes. Banana trees were across the dirt road standing tall and full. A small tent had been set up for the ‘guests’ that day. We were there to preach the Gospel and to put on a Christian concert for the village people. A large speaker system blasted festive African music from the speakers and people were dancing in the grass. There were six of us, the few light skinned people among a sea of beautiful colors. About 200 Rwandan men, women and children had come to see us. The group was made up of mostly children and some adults; beautiful children with not more than a dozen elderly people in the group.
As we made our way to the tented area they couldn’t keep their eyes off of us, and we were just as eager to see and meet them. It wasn’t often that light skinned people visited their village – let alone Americans. They were naturally curious. We didn’t speak the same language, still we tried to communicate by introducing ourselves to them and asking their names. Everyone wanted to shake our hands and everyone had a smile ready for us. They were welcoming and eager for our arrival.
I sat next to two elderly women under the tent. They had been singled out of the large group of people to come and join the ‘guests’ to rest and get out of the sun for a bit. We smiled at each other and shook hands, introducing ourselves. These women were clearly two of the oldest members of the group; if I had to guess, I would say they were in their 70’s. But age can be deceiving in a country where life is so incredibly difficult every single day.
As I looked around at the people who had formed a circle around the tent, it didn’t feel any different than any other event I would attend at home. The kids were energetic, playing with each other, the mothers were tending to their babies and trying to keep tabs on their kids, and the adults were straining to hear and see what was happening in the center of the circle.
Soon the music was silenced, and the singing and dancing paused. The pastor got up to speak to the crowd through the help of an interpreter.
As the pastor preached, I began to look more carefully around the crowd. I saw that some of the children’s clothes were ripped, and many of them had dirty clothes on. Well… they lived in a village I told myself. There wasn’t running water, and clean clothes are probably not their first priority as they struggle to survive.
They Are Hungry
At first I didn’t notice it, but then I realized that all of the children I saw were malnourished. They didn’t lie listless, they didn’t act as if they were starving, but their little bellies stuck out just a little bit. They had food… just not enough and not much more than white rice. They had water… just not always clean.
And then my attention turned to the elderly women I was sitting with. They wore many layers of clothing over their frail bodies. Their clothes weren’t clean either, but at least they had enough to keep them warm. But I realized that they too were malnourished.
I was heartbroken. What could I do? My resources were limited, I didn’t have enough of anything with me to make a difference, even though my heart longed to bring every one of those people home and cook nutritious, healthy food for them. I wanted to give them a safe place to sleep, and clean clothes to wear and the chance to experience a hot shower.
My heart broke as I considered how my own children live and how these Rwandan children would never know that kind of abundance. They would probably never even have ‘just enough’.
I turned my attention again to the mamas. I thought about how they must ache to provide enough for their children. How they must long for a better life for their sons and daughters. Their dreams for their children are not different than mine. We all want our children to have an education, to experience joy and happiness and to have their daily needs met – like food, shelter, and safety. They long to provide well for their kids, just like I do. Only their choices are more limited; their resources are very small.
My Personal Heartbreak
Rwanda was the place where I was personally confronted with extreme poverty, but I don’t think it is necessary to travel outside of the U.S. to see what I saw that day. There are children in your city and in mine that don’t have enough to eat. There are children who go to school every day in the United States with ripped or dirty clothes on, and who live in places that aren’t always safe for them. And there are mamas in OUR cities whose hearts are breaking because they don’t know how they will be able to provide food for their children tomorrow. I can’t imagine that kind of despair. But we need to try.
“Since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:11
Compared to the people I met that day, I am one of the wealthiest people in the world; so are most of us. We are rich in so many ways. We all have access to quality health care, we have access to clean water and healthy food. Jobs are available for us. Education is free to all children in the U.S.. Our homes are safe and warm. I could go on and on…. What about the rest of the people in our world? How about the people of Rwanda, or India, or Mexico, or Minneapolis or Detroit, or Houston?Active Love is Evidence of Salvation Click To Tweet
Are you heartbroken for these hungry people as if they were your own children? As if you were sitting among them witnessing their poverty one on one? There are things we can do, dear friend. WE CAN HELP. God has commanded us to help.
“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” 1 John 3:17
- I encourage you to expose yourself (and your children) to hunger and poverty in your town and in the world. We are more likely to be moved about something if we witness it. Take a day and volunteer at the local food shelf in your community. Spend time serving at a soup kitchen. Take a missions trip to an impoverished country. Go to the places where people are hungry and looking for help. Talk with them. Get to know their stories. You will see that they are not so different from you. Many, many families in America are one paycheck or one job loss away from being hungry.
- Commit yourself (and your children) to helping the hungry financially or with your time. Research places internationally and locally that are already working to fight hunger, and join them in their work. I have listed several resources at the end of this post to begin your search.
- Ask God to break your heart for what breaks His. Ask Him to help you see others as He sees them and to love others as He loves them.
Act in Love
Even though 200 eyes were watching my every move that day in Rwanda, I couldn’t stop myself. I had to do something… even something very small. There were granola bars in my bag; somehow I had to get them to these elderly women that I sat next to. I wanted to do so much more, but that’s all I could think to do in the moment. I reached down, and carefully pulled the bars out of my bag, quickly and discretely put the bars in the hands of the women.
They didn’t waste a moment, not even really looking at what I had given them they quickly tucked it into their coats, saving it for later. They knew I couldn’t help everyone, just grateful for what I had given them. The best news is one of those women accepted Jesus as her Savior that day in the field. I don’t know her name or her story. I pray that she felt the love of Jesus that day though my small gift and look forward to the day I will see her again in Heaven, when we will speak the same language and we will worship our Savior together.
“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35
I pray that you are heartbroken for the hungry just as I was that day. Take a risk. Intentionally expose yourself to the things that break HIS heart. Open yourself up so that your heart can be broken just as God’s heart is broken.
Here’s just a few ways to get involved… and there are many more if you just search them out and begin to see the need as Jesus sees it.
Ways to Get Involved
Helps provide fresh fruit and vegetables to food pantries nation wide through gardening programs and cash donations.
Adopt a child from an impoverished country for as little as $35 a month. Or purchase gifts such as chickens, fresh water, or goats for a family to help sustain them long term. Or, give a one time contribution to help out.
Dontate food, money or time helping feed the people in your community.
You can provide lunch for a child throughout the summer for just $25. This program is in the Twin Cities. There are others around the country – look for one online in your community.
Volunteer to pack meals or donate money to purchase the food that will feed hungry children around the world.
Help grow nutritious food for inner city families in the Minneapolis area.
A Minnesota ministry that provides food on the weekends and over the summer for school aged kids who get free lunches at school and wouldn’t otherwise have much to eat weekends and summers. Volunteer to pack bags of food, deliver the bags to the schools or get your church or neighborhood to sponsor whole schools.
Look on the web: There’s no shortage of places to serve or to donate to in your area. If you are looking for someplace local, just google “food pantries near me” and you will get a list.
Ask your church: Are they currently involved in a program that you could join? Is there a missionary helping hungry children that you could support?
Ask your friends: Are there places they are serving that you could look into?
Check out our whole series, “Being the Hands & Feet of Jesus.”
Let’s be doers of the word and not just hearers only (James 1:22)!