Blog by field director, Lauren Putty.
Hunger: A strong desire for something; A very great need for food.
It’s pouring raining as we drive up the ridiculously windy roads of Entoto Mountain. The uneven ground begins filling with puddles. We park at the top and even as the rain continues to fall, the boys come running. Today is the day Mesfin, director of Endihnew Hope, has promised the first Bible study for a handful of teenage boys in addition to his feeding program. Ordinary Hero team members identified these boys the previous week and their hunger for the Bible, so they were able to provide new Bibles and inspire Mesfin towards this Bible study. We slide open the van and way more than a handful jump in to get out of the rain. I look back from the front seat and see about twenty children piled in the van giggling to themselves as rain drips off their face. In the mix are the teenage boys Mesfin handpicked for the bible study, clinching their Bibles with the same goofy smiles. The rain comes to a halt and we scoot the extra boys out so that just the chosen five are left.
I’m in flip flops and a long skirt trying to figure out how I’m going to trek through the mud and hating myself for yet again forgetting to acknowledge that it rains everyday here.
The seven of us hop out of the van, slide through the mud, and settle into a small shack. The atmosphere consisted of a bed, a few benches, sunlit lighting through the window, and rain hitting the tin roof. It was one of those TIA moments. One of those moments your spirit says to your heart, “This is why you’re here.” One of those moments your heart bubbles over with all the things Jesus promises: peace, joy, love…
Mesfin opened by stating that we weren’t here to force a certain religion or theology on anyone, but that we were here to study the teachings of Jesus and learn to be a light in an otherwise dark world. The boys were hungry, feeding off everything Mesfin was telling them.
Mesfin allowed me to share my story with the boys and then allow one of them to respond to mine, while also sharing their own story. One boy raised his hand to speak. The previous week I had spent 11+ hours with this particular boy in hospital visits for his beautiful little sister who has a number of heart defects. He had barely said two words that entire day so I was shocked when his hand shot up, and even more shocked when his voice came out strong and bold. He didn’t say much, but what he did say was that he had fallen away from God because a lot of boys his age were doing the same. He said that starting today, he was re-inspired to pursue God and that he was excited about starting fresh by attending church the following Sunday. I watched him gain strength and confidence, as he was fed spiritually.
The highlight of our time together was having the boys briefly share about their week. I think it’s instinctive and dangerous for us as Americans to think that these children living on less than us live sad, difficult lives consisting of no toys and scarce food. It’s because most of the time, our instinct as human beings is to focus on the physical and material things of a person rather than the spirit a person. These boy’s responses expanded my thinking and deeply inspired me as they all said that they had fantastic weeks. Most of them would add that it was fantastic because they read the Bible, learned more about God, and were very happy about that. These are boys that are way behind in school, boys that are orphans, boys with sick sisters, but their spirits are strong. They aren’t sad like we expect them to be, because their bellies are full of the hope of Christ. The last boy said that he actually had never really heard about God and didn’t know what the gospel was, so he was excited to learn as well. All five boys that day came hungry and left full.
We all get hungry. You skip breakfast and by lunch you’re mind is on food. You workout at the gym and your next thought is ‘cheese pizza’. We were designed as humans to feel physical hunger and satisfy this feeling with food.
Whether you acknowledge it or not, every day we hold spiritual hunger as well. We crave growth, acceptance, love, hope, forgiveness, community. These are things that we receive as ‘food’ through communion with God and feeding from God’s Word and promises. We’re able to consume hope, swallow forgiveness, fill ourselves with love.
There are people all over the world eating three meals a day, rarely experiencing physical hunger, but they are spiritually starving. There are people who are spiritually filling themselves daily, but lack physical food to sustain them into their calling.
Like Jesus, we are called to meet both. Jesus fed the thousands, and he discipled the crowds. He dispersed fish and He dispersed hope. We as people, as Christians, as ministries, must do both as well. Our job is to bridge the gap so that everyone is experiencing fullness. Full bellies. Full spirits. Full lives.