Fasting is the denial of self to allow us to become more sensitive to God and more passionate towards the things God is passionate towards. And then to act on those things.
Fasting does not change God. Fasting changes us.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”
Recently around a thousand people at my church fasted for a week on rice and beans, just to more closely identify to people who do not have the food options most Americans have.
Most of us are not worried about whether we will eat enough today. In fact, most of us are worried that we will eat too much today.
I know there are hungry people in America, but compared to third world hunger, even hungry Americans have great access to food.
For most third world countries, rice and beans are a delicacy, yet in America, we take these nutritional staples for granted.
Rice and beans may be a step down for us but it is a delicacy in poverty stricken nations.
In Haiti moms have come to rely on a traditional Haitian remedy for hunger pangs: cookies made of dried yellow dirt from the country’s central plateau.
A meal of rice and beans costs nearly $1, but a dirt cake only costs a few cents.
By eating these dirt cakes, patties, Haitian children almost certainly ingest intestinal parasites.
The parasitic worms that were in the dirt will devour up to 25% of the nutrients you eat. Without a 2 cent de-worming pill these parasites will linger in your digestive tract perpetually, thus drastically stunting a Haitian child’s mental and physical development.
When I shared these facts about Haitian mothers and children, our congregation was humbled and broken.
We handed out a starter pack of rice and beans at the end of every service, with a list of things to pray for during the fast and a list of organizations they could support.
At every meal people prayed for those around the world and in our own country who were hungry.
Because rice and beans are a delicacy in poor countries, we were not really sacrificing too much.
But by not eating anything else for a week, it taught many how to simplify. It taught many to be more thankful.
After the fast was over, many realized how much food Americans waste, and how we should and could eat more simply.
Since that week of fasting, grocery bills have been less, because people learned they could still eat well, with a smaller budget.
Since that week, a 20 thousand square foot organic garden was started on our churches property by people who are passionate about people eating healthy food.
It was interesting how children led the way.
One family was going to fast one meal a day, on rice and beans, until their 8 year old son, broke down and told them in tears that if they were really going to be like people who are hungry, they needed to eat rice and beans for all three meals. The family followed his lead.
One woman during the “fast” realized how much she was spending on diet Coke. She decided at the end of the week to stop drinking diet Coke (her husband called it rat poison) and she has used the savings to sponsor another child through Compassion International.
That one week has made our church more compassionate towards the things God is compassionate for.
The definition of compassion is: a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.
That one week taught us that true fasting is always “accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate suffering.”
We are doing a better job of following the words of Mother Teresa, “Live simply so others may simply live.”
I would challenge churches to try this “beans and rice” fast. It will change you and bless you..
This is the information we handed out with the starter pack of rice and beans:
“…and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” Isaiah 58:10
Get the facts about hunger and how it affects children and their families:
>One person in seven battles hunger every day.
>More than 9 million children under age 5 die every year, and malnutrition accounts for more than one-third of these deaths. Most of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
>About 5.6 million deaths of children worldwide are related to under-nutrition. This accounts for 53 percent of the total deaths for children under 5. Worldwide, 161 million preschool children suffer from chronic malnutrition.
>923 million people worldwide are undernourished, and there are more than 9 million deaths related to hunger each year.
WHAT CAN I DO?
>Fast and Pray for those who are hungry (Join us for a 5 day fast of eating rice and beans, while praying for the hungry and discussing ways to solve hunger with family and friends. Let us know about your conversations and how the fast has affected you by posting your experiences on GVCC’s facebook page. Remember, rice and beans are a delicacy in third world countries.)
>Sponsor a child through Compassion International. (Sponsored children and their families are given proper nutrition through education and balanced meals. For more information go to Compassion.com)
>Tithe and get involved with GVCC’s Saturday Morning Café. (GVCC is able to buy groceries for our Saturday morning giveaway for 10 cents on the dollar. Your tithe allows us the buying power to have adequate amounts of food. Plus volunteering in the Café will help you see and understand the face of hunger.)
>Volunteer and help support GVCC’s organic garden. (This garden will help supply the hungry of El Dorado county with nutritious fruits and vegetables. Food that is not often available to the hungry.)
>Be a voice for the voiceless. (Proverbs 31:8 says to be a voice for the voiceless and to speak up for those who cannot be heard. The hungry need more voices to speak up for them.)