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United by daily bread

3 July 2013

sharing a meal  

She knelt before me and held out a tiny cooked chicken leg. I didn't speak her language and she didn't speak mine, but her actions were louder than any words. 

She was giving me something that was precious to her. Something that would nourish her, and keep her going for a few more hours on the long journey out of Yei, in what was then Southern Sudan. And yet, she wanted me to have it.

This gracious lady, who had experienced more horror and atrocities in her country than I could begin to imagine, wanted to give me the equivalent of her daily bread for that day. And shockingly, I declined it.

I could blame the early hour (it was 5.30am - not my usual time for a chicken leg), or that I was vegetarian. But the truth is, I just did not want it. I knew all the cultural rules about accepting food - yet I declined.

Fast forward about 15 years and I find myself in Arba Minch in Ethiopia, waking up in the home of Ghenet and her family. I am offered hot and spicy spaghetti for breakfast (again, very early) and a bottle of fizzy drink.

Am I hungry? No. Do I accept this generous offer this time? Yes, I do.

As we eat, Ghenet tells me that a few years ago she was not able to feed her children. She could not afford to send them to school.

She had grown up in generational poverty, expecting to remain the poorest of the poor for ever. Then, through the work of the Tearfund partner in her town - through a process known as the Church and Community Mobilisation Process - she had been able to turn her life around.

She is now a businesswoman, her children go to school, and she can feed them every day.

I reflected on my journey home: how often do I refuse my spiritual food from Christ because I am too busy, or because I simply 'don't want it'?

How often do I miss out on those precious times of fellowship because I feel I am in a difficult situation and out of my comfort zone? How often do I go away empty, when I could be richly full?

My Ethiopian friend was able to offer me the equivalent of 'daily bread' at breakfast time, because she had benefited from a holistic approach to community transformation.

We shared spiritual 'daily bread', too, because we prayed together before I left.

Two women, very different backgrounds, united by God - blessed by eating our daily bread together.

Fiona Michael, Tearfund Wales specialist volunteer manager 


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