Wednesday, August 29, 2012

rice or bread?

"Maayong hapon," we greeted the taxi driver as we stepped into his cab, giving directions in the Visayan language.  He turned in surprise.  Not many westerners learn this Filipino dialect.  Foreigners usually speak Tagalog, the national language.  "Do you speak Visayan?" he asked. His rapid-fire questions and comments dominated the remainder of our ride.

At one point he asked, "Do your children eat rice? Or bread?" 
"Okay," I thought, "it's a simple cultural question. Will your western kids tolerate eating our traditional staple?"

Amy digs into a plate of rice
I began to answer that yes, our children eat rice, though in all honesty, any one of us would be happy to trade a bowl of rice for a slice of freshly baked bread. My mind swept back momentarily to fondly recall the warm homemade cinnamon bread we had for breakfast, the cheesy homemade pizza from the night before, the pancakes and buttery rolls we eat as often as rice.

The driver interrupted my reverie as he continued his thought, confronting me with the real issue.  "Bread is for the rich. Rice is for the poor."  It was not an accusation. Just a simple fact.

Now I can't get the question out of my head. "Do you eat rice? Or bread?"

Rice is the staple food of over 1/2 of the world's population. In much of Asia, rice is so important that the word is almost synonymous with food. Here in the Philippines (according to a 2006 survey) 68 million out of the 90 million inhabitants live on $2 a day. And they're not spending it on Panera bagels.

So why was I born a bread-eater?

"For who regards you as superior? 
What do you have that you did not receive?" 
1 Cor. 4:7

Not only is 1/2 the world eating rice, but often they don't have enough of it to satisfy. Over one billion people across the world are hungry. Not just peckish. Really hungry. As a result they deal with chronic undernourishment, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, stunted growth, weakness and heightened susceptibility to illness. They live in countries lacking the social safety nets we enjoy in the U.S. like unemployment checks, soup kitchens, and food stamps. There is simply nowhere to turn for help.

But what about those with a far deeper hunger? What about the millions of people who don't know about the Bread of Life? About Christ, who is the only source of nourishment to feed their deepest hunger, their eternal need?

And what about Christians who have tasted this Living Bread, but who, without God's Word in their own language, deal with chronic spiritual undernourishment, stunted growth, weakness and heightened susceptibility to false teaching? They live in countries where there is no pastoral training, no teaching resources, and nowhere to turn for help.

Our early Christian counterparts braved cruel persecution and trial, and in devotion to Christ and to the truth that set them free, gave their lives to bring this Bread of life to those who hungered. I have benefited from their sacrifice. Now what does it mean for me?

"You are already filled; 
you have already become rich..." 
1 Cor. 4:8a  

Bread is for the rich. I am rich. And I am responsible. Responsible before my Maker, from whom I have received every single thing I enjoy. 

I must not be lulled into thinking that my rich American lifestyle is what pleases God. 

 "Have I not wept for those in trouble? 
Has not my soul grieved for the poor?" 
Job 30:25.
I must weep.
I must grieve.
And then I must share some Bread.
 *edited from the archives


Carl G. said...

The rich must live more simply, so that the poor may simply live.
-Charles Birch

Anonymous said...

This is beautiful -- and so true.

Anonymous said...

Arkansas is the 2nd largest rice producer in the U.S. (second to Texas), and 60 percent is exported via the Port Of New Orleans. I much prefer brown rice which is actually less expensive because it is not milled. It sure makes me wonder why rice in impoverished countries is not brown rice, with its considerably more nutrients. ? Hank

us5 said...

good thoughts, Hank - thank you. from what I read, there are three issues with brown rice in Asia:
1. people are used to the white rice - they like the taste better, and it is easier to chew (this matters if you have few good teeth) and digest. (we do see some change in the Philippines - wealthier people seem to be starting to understand the higher nutritional value of brown rice)
2. brown rice takes more time to cook
3. and finally, white rice can be stored longer. some of the good oils containing the nutritional vitamins in the brown rice will go rancid when stored.