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Lenten Reflections: How Can We Do More for Poor and Hungry People?
On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays during Lent, we offer reflections from Bread staff and others who faithfully work to end hunger.
Lectionary readings (from the Revised Common Lectionary):
Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
Come with me to a poor urban neighborhood in Dar es Salam, Tanzania. We are heading up an uneven, broken stairway. We carry food along this Via Dolorosa — such small penance on our part!
This is our second-to-last day in Africa, and after all the walking of the past ten days, my troubled foot requires the cane I brought with me. My fellow pilgrims help me up these stairs. It is African hot.
We are taking this food to two families for their graciousness in allowing a bunch of well-meaning U.S. Christians to learn from them the way of the cross.
We are only visiting one family because the other family has had a death. A 4-year-old under-nourished little boy died last night in Dar es Salam. He died because his body could not endure chicken pox. Chicken pox is a deadly disease along this way.
As we reach the first house a woman’s sharp and painful wailing dissects us and great grief wraps itself around our legs, our minds, and our hearts. We stop outside her door. We suffer with her. We pray. We furtively look into each other’s eyes as we leave the food that we brought for this family on this way of sorrow.
By the time we get to the second house we realize our catalog of questions has shattered along this Via Dolorosa. We have inhaled enough of the poverty to make our chests hurt; we have ingested enough of the sorrow, and we have grown heavy with our knowing. We have already learned enough. We are more than a little numb.
I stand at one end of a small, narrow hall that opens on both sides. Multiple households live here. Sixteen (Or did she say 18?) people call this space: Home.
We give what now looks like not enough to the mother of the second household, and she thanks us profusely.
I need to you to see this woman. I need you to see her children. We must all do more! Please, carry this story beyond the borders of this page! Please know that we must not only continue with the dollars that funds USAID, Feed the Future, and the 1,000 Days Movement. We must be bold enough, we must be inspired enough to see the gospel as it is preached along this way of suffering: we must ask to have it increased! For the hope of the resurrection, we must ask!
Inez Torres Davis participated in an ecumenical delegation of church leaders in a trip to Africa sponsored by Bread for the World last October. She works with the Women of the ELCA as their Director for Justice.
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