by Dr. Bruce Main
February 19th, 2015
"Love is the measure of stature. The more we love, the bigger we become. There is no smaller package in the universe than a man all wrapped up in himself."- William Sloane Coffin
Before leaving for the sub-Saharan country of Malawi, Africa, I made a visit to BJ's Wholesale Club and picked up a case of Nature Valley Roasted Nut Granola Bars. The menu for the ten days would be sparse, so I wanted to prepare for the worst-case scenario. I stuffed 36 individually wrapped bars in my carry-on.
For seven days our little group ate rice and the Malawian staple food, nsima- a kind of bread textured like Play-Doh. I am not complaining. The simple diet met our nutritional needs- and that's more than can be said for many living in sub-Saharan Africa. But I'll be honest, I looked forward to my little granola bars on breaks and in the evenings. Like a little squirrel, I would slip out a bar in the privacy of my room and eat it all by myself.
Our business in Malawi: visiting a number of grassroots ministries to street kids in the capital city of Lilongwe and outlying areas. Seeing the remarkable work of young leaders was invigorating and humbling.
The last night of our tour we were unexpectedly invited to a missionary home for dinner. After a delicious meal, we were sitting around the table enjoying the company of one another. Thrilled to have some American visitors, the missionaries were asking lots of questions in an effort to catch up on the latest American news.
After a few minutes the husband disappeared into the small kitchen. Upon return, he brought a large oven rack filled with the biggest chocolate chip cookies I had ever seen. Huge- about four inches in diameter. And they were loaded with chocolate chips, sticking out of those lightly browned mounds like pebbles on a sand beach. After eating nsima all week, my salivary glands went into overdrive.
"Help yourself," shared our guest.
I did not hesitate, startling everyone with my quick jerking motion.
After I had inhaled my third cookie, one of the Malawian guests softly asked the missionary, "Where did you ever get those chocolate chips? You can't buy them in Malawi."
"Mmm, where did you get'm?" I echoed, my mouth full.
The missionary smiled, "Once every couple of years a friend comes from the United States and he sneaks us a bag of chocolate chips."
One bag every couple of years? Enjoying my chip-laden cookie, I was certain they had poured the whole bag in the batter and that made me think. Generously this couple had shared their whole bag of chocolate chips with us! Instead of sparingly distributing their rare commodity, they lavishly shared them with their guests.
I don't know about you, but if I had one bag of chocolate chips to last me two years, I might store those little gems away like a squirrel with his nuts for the winter, occasionally sharing a few of special occasions. I don't think I would generously heap them upon some unknown guests.
The more I thought about their act of generosity, the more convicted I felt about my own inability to share- or even think of sharing- my Nature Valley Roasted Nut Granola Bars. I know their generosity was not intended to reveal my greed. the missionary couple was not trying to preach a sermon on sacrificial giving, Giving and sharing were simply part of their DNA- part of their very nature. Against the backdrop of their gracious hospitality, I received one of the most important sermons of my life.
I will always remember that act of generosity. chocolate chip cookies have now taken on a kind of sacramental quality for me. Whenever I eat one, I think of that couple who shared with me, a stranger, from their scarcity...not their abundance.
In 1988, Dr. Bruce Main founded UrbanPromise Ministries in Camden, NJ to equip children and youth with the skills necessary for academic achievement, life management, spiritual growth, and Christian leadership. Selected by Christianity Today as one of the country's "“50 Up & Coming Leaders Under 40,"” Bruce speaks nationally and internationally at mission conferences, colleges, churches, and business seminars.
More of Dr. Bruce Main: http://www.urbanpromiseusa.org/