As a young man of 20, I was struck by the fact that during most of Jesus’ ministry He was essentially a homeless vagrant. He had no residence and basically lived day to day depending on God and the generosity of others to meet His needs. "Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." (Matt. 8:20) I was amazed at his faith. Jesus often didn’t know where He was to sleep that night or where His next meal was coming from. I wrestled with that idea. I’ve always had a place to sleep and a predictable source of food. My family was never rich but we never wanted for the basics either.
Fast forward six years. It is July, 1976. It is the middle of winter in southern Chile. Think Forks, WA only wetter. I am now married with a three week old baby girl. To accommodate our new situation, I had spent the previous four months building a small, lean-to type home behind our church. It had two rooms and roof. I spent all of our money building it and getting it ready for move-in. In addition to our mission work, I did part-time work fixing things, and I figured I could get money for food from this.
I will pause here to describe the economic situation in Chile at the time. Inflation was running about 30% a month, and most people got paid at the end of the month. Since money devalued so quickly, everyone purchased staples immediately. Within a day or two, everything was spent and there would be no more money until the next payday. I would have to wait 30 days to get paid for any work that I had done.
Consequently, I and my family moved into our new home with no money and no food. The situation looked pretty bleak, made worse by dark, rainy, windy days. I don’t understand it but I wasn’t worried. I truly believed in my heart that God would provide. I felt absolutely assured of it. I’d never felt that strongly before, nor since. However, I realized that I didn’t know where my next meal was coming from. I thought about Luke 12:22-31 where Jesus said not to worry and described the ravens and lilies of the field. I just knew that God would provide. My poor wife, who was nursing a three-week-old baby girl, did not share my optimism. She was being realistic and panicking. I can remember her sitting in the room holding the baby, looking at the empty shelf, and sobbing.
That evening, some of our local friends came by. One gave us a 10 pound bag of flour. Another gave us rosehip jelly. Another gave us a bag of dried beans that were about six years old. Understand that these were people in need in their own right. Nonetheless, we were very appreciative of what they brought us. We could make bread! Oops! We need yeast. Nope. Yeast was five cents. We didn’t have cents. So we ate unleavened bread. The complaining Israelites called it the “bread of affliction.” I understand why. Pretty tasteless. The irony is that we had rosehip jelly. It is the most delicious jelly I’ve ever had.
Next came the dried beans. (We did have a bottle of propane for cooking.) We soaked the beans overnight. They wouldn’t cook. We tried many variations. Finally, we took the same beans and dropped them one by one into a pan of boiling water, and the shell would crack. Six hours later we could eat them. And so it went for the next three weeks. We lived on unleavened bread, beans and jelly, and a couple of dinner invitations from others who weren’t quite as poor as we were. Each day I would look for and find work, but payment would be at the end of the month.
And my wife would cry. I would try to comfort and encourage her. I would try to share my unshakable confidence that God would provide for us. Each day I was hopeful that some new circumstance might change things for us. And each day ended, though we were hopeful, without any change at all.
This went on for three weeks.It was the end of the month and people began to pay me. Suddenly we had $70! We could buy flour, meat, cheese, milk, vegetables, AND yeast. I don’t think I ever felt so wealthy in my life. The trial was over. God provided. Now, we would face new challenges.
But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. (1 Tim. 6:8)
I know what it is be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content... (Phil. 4:12)