"Love tastes like rice and beans"

One of the unforgettable things we got to do on this last trip to Haiti was have the first ever "Church in the Ben's" service. The Ben's is the area beside the boys' home where the kids play soccer and basketball. It's a cement area the size of a tennis court and a half. On Sunday we held a church service there. All the orphanage kids were present, and I think a few kids from the neighborhood as well. About half way through worship, I heard the gate rattle, and in walked a proud procession of well-dressed Haitians in single file. It was Pastor Gabriel and his congregation from the Ravine. He is the one who hosts the Ravine feeding every week, and the day before we had invited him to come to Church in the Ben's. Pastor Gabriel's congregation had on their Sunday best -- maybe not fancy by American standards, but for the little those people own, they were dressed to the nines.

I had the privilege of preaching the sermon that morning. I preached in English, and Zach interpreted in Creole. The subject was God's love, the greatest and most powerful force in the universe. Pastor Gabriel and his parishioners said many "Amens" throughout the sermon. If you are preaching, you love "amens"! But one "amen" caught my attention. Toward the beginning of the sermon, I was describing love. It went like this:

"Love looks like a caring face and a smile." [From the crowd: "Amen"]

"Love feels like a gentle hand placed in your shoulder to say, 'I care about you.'" ["Amen"]

"Love tastes like a bowl of rice and beans given to you when you are hungry." ["AMEN!"]

That was the loudest "amen" I received throughout the sermon. I wanted to be amused at the irony that the loudest response came at the mention of food -- maybe even more than the mention of Jesus. But my sense of humor gave way to a deeper realization. I had hit a nerve -- hunger. I wanted to say to those people that any of us could be hungry. It is not degrading to be hungry. And any of us who have God's love in our hearts will give any extra food we have to someone who is hungry. Such things are natural for disciples of Jesus.

I also wanted the folks from the Ravine to know that the reason they were receiving rice and beans was not because of an American political or social agenda. It is because God's love has compelled the people of Maison de Lumiere to provide it. (BTW, many of the older orphanage kids participate in the feedings -- not because they have to but because they want to.) As it says in the text I was preaching from, "Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another" (1 Jn 4:11).

In the Ravine, life gets down to its bare essentials -- food, shelter, physical health, and safety. Love means concrete help. When you are hungry, love tastes like rice and beans.

But God's love means more than social action. That morning our team enjoyed praying for many people (we paired up with interpreters). Most of the folks from the Ravine came up to request prayer for one thing or another -- "I have to leave my home, and I don't have anywhere to go"... "I have this growth on my eye"... "Please pray for my children"... "My mother is very sick"...

Church at the Ben's was a special experience. It was unlike any church service I have ever been to. I believe church will return to the Ben's regularly. Some of the older orphanage boys will be preaching there someday. Bill Manassero and I both envision this. The next generation of Haitian leaders is about to mature, and they will be drawing on deep experiences at the Ben's and the Ravine.


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