Written by Shawn Plummer
Seems like just moments ago we were adjusting to this new normal and a “cancelled” Easter. But the new life, the blossoms, and the later sunsets tell me it’s spring again. It’s really been a year!
I’ve had more time to reflect on how Jesus’ death and resurrection are core to Food for the Hungry (FH)’s work of ending poverty, one community at a time. And you know what I’ve realized? The cross not only tells me to love the poor, it tells me how to love them by walking alongside them.
And by acknowledging that I am also among the poor.
At FH, we talk about poverty as a result of broken relationships. Broken relationships with others, with ourselves, with creation, and with God. This means poverty isn’t only material, it’s also mental, emotional, environmental, and spiritual. We all experience forms of poverty in our lives, no matter what our bank account looks like!
Through Easter, my spiritual poverty has come to light. I am starving for the body and blood of Christ. We all are. We need Christ for salvation from a life of emptiness. Seeing the poverty in my own life helps me serve sacrificially from a place of love and humility instead of pride. It helps me enter into the suffering of others. And then love them. This is exactly how FH strives to serve.
A few months ago, a woman named Grace moved me with her story. Grace lives in a FH partner community in Bukiende, Uganda.
Grace’s family was struggling. Her daughter was diagnosed with cancer. Sadly, even though doctors tried to save her through a complex surgery, Grace’s daughter passed away. She said, “I was emotionally tortured. Some people in the village started talking of witchcraft.”
When FH began walking alongside Grace’s community, she felt the love and support of the staff who came to walk with her in her suffering. “Due to constant visits by FH staff to pray with us, we are encouraged.”
FH’s child sponsorship program laid the foundation of support Grace and her husband, Augustine, needed to walk through cancer with their daughter and ensured their other children were able to stay in school. “I have never seen any organization coming to support needy families like mine,” said Grace. “I feel good when FH staff come to check on my children, carrying letters from their sponsors to them. It gives me hope that my children will have a bright future.”
I’m inspired and humbled by the work of our overseas staff and by you, our donors. Together, you all serve communities on a practical level, and also enter into life’s hard places to bring emotional and spiritual support. By loving them you’re loving Christ. “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matt 25:40).
I recently watched the film A Hidden Life. It’s based on a true story about an Austrian man taking a stand against the Nazi regime despite backlash and discrimination from his community and the government. A central theme in the movie is suffering for your convictions. In one scene, a painter paints images of Christ on the walls of a church and says,
“I paint all this suffering, yet I don’t suffer myself. I make a living out of it. What we do is just create sympathy. We create admirers. We don't create followers. … I paint their comfortable Christ, with a halo over his head. How can I show what I haven't lived? Someday I might have the courage to venture, not yet. Someday I'll... I'll paint the true Christ.”
I was so convicted by this quote! And it began to open up deep questions. What does it mean to suffer with Christ, to be a follower not just an admirer?
Maybe it starts by following his example. To show his love for us, Christ became human. Perhaps for me to serve the poor, I need to confess my own poverty and count myself among “the poor.”
This Easter season, let’s acknowledge the ways we experience the brokenness of poverty in our own lives and receive the healing and wholeness offered in the cross. Let’s join together in hope to follow Christ’s example of self-sacrificing love.
In doing so, we may just paint the true Christ on the canvas of the world.