By Stephen H. Padre
I recently returned from a trip as part of my work for Bread for the World to Zambia. A coworker and I visited development projects funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development to gather stories and real-life examples of our federal government’s work in alleviating hunger and poverty in developing countries. We visited remote villages in eastern Zambia as well as hospital-based programs working in HIV and AIDS in that part of the country and south of Lusaka, the capital.
Zambians gave us a warm welcome everywhere we went. The hospitality and grace we were received with really touched my heart.
We arrived for a visit to one village just before lunch. I wasn’t expecting to eat or be fed by anybody. But unexpectedly, we were led into the biggest and nicest house in the village, which probably belonged to the chief. We were invited in and seated in the main room of the house. We sat and were given a bowl and water to wash our hands in. And then we were given a traditional Zambian meal of nshima – a stiff porridge made from ground maize that’s eaten with a mixture of cooked greens, which in this case was pumpkin leaves. The meal also included pieces of chicken, probably from an animal slaughtered just before our arrival.
Just the provision of the meal to these visitors, two of whom had come from very far away in the United States, was graceful and hospitable enough. But before we ate, one member of the party who had brought us to the village said a table grace. One of the final lines of the prayer was: May the basket where this [food] came from be replenished.
I had never heard that prayer, and those words struck me. A little while later, I realized that it was merely a rephrasing of the line from the Lord’s Prayer: Give us this day our daily bread. It was asking God to provide for us day after day, to give us what we needed now and again tomorrow, and each day after that.
In addition to the meal we were being provided, we asked for more grace – God’s grace. God’s provision for us day after day.
What grace to be received in that village with a hospitable lunch and to have God’s grace put upon all of us eating that lunch. It struck me as well that my coworker and I were there to find out about hunger in that village – who was hungry, who lacked nutrition, who had a need. Yet first the villagers satisfied our hunger. They satisfied our need first. What a surprise. What grace.
My prayer now for that village, for the people we visited in Zambia, and indeed all who hunger, especially as we approach Thanksgiving and think about all that we have been given, is that their baskets would be replenished. God, give all of us this day our daily bread. By your grace, O Lord.
When not in Zambia, Stephen Padre is in Washington, D.C., being the managing editor for Bread, but part of his heart is in Africa all the time.
Photo: Bread works to ensure that every person’s basket is filled. Photo by Shykh Seraj