FIVE LOAVES AND TWO FISHES
He replied, “You give them something to eat.” They answered, “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish – unless you we go and buy food for all this crowd.” Luke 9:13
You do not need to look around the world for very long before you feel as if you only have five loaves and two fishes to offer a crowd of 5,000 hungry people. There is poverty. There are widows. There are orphans. There is violence. What can I do with my little five loaves and two fishes? And, if I’m honest, I know that those five loaves and two fishes are not even mine to offer. The work of others, the gifts of others, and the willingness of others may be all that I have to offer. And yet the command remains in front of me, “You give them something to eat.”
This return trip to Honduras reminds me of how little I have to offer. In my first trip, I had already understood that I would never know – on this side of heaven – the impact of stepping into the lives of those I would encounter. Now that I have chosen to intentionally step back into their lives – now what? What can I do? There are still hungry (spiritually as well as physically) people all over the world; how can I help with that? The children that I have met still have much less access to resources than me or my neighbors. The children at the orphanage still often wear improperly fitting shoes and sleep in beds that we would never rest in. The children at the school still must go home where there is the possibility that their father or mother could be taken away by violence. So what can I do in such a short time?
The fact that I was quickly remembered by many of the students and teachers at Jubilee Center International made me question my purpose all the more. These children are loved, yet need so much. The people of the community of La Era still struggle with significant unemployment. The nation of Honduras remains dubbed “the most violent country in the world.” So what can I do? I know in my heart that I do not plan to return to Honduras this year. So now I will be saying “Adios” to the children rather than “Hasta pronto” (See you soon); so what can I give while I am here? Can I make a transformational impact in just a few short days? Is that even why I am here? Am I here for them, or am I here for me? Or am I here for God?
What can I give? I can give the same thing that the disciples gave when Jesus saw the great need of the masses; I can give all that I have. I can take photos of Nancy who is quick to invite other friends into the picture. I can ask Alexa how she is doing and how she received a scrape on her arm. I can tell Jose, who does not speak, that I like his picture when he shows it to me. I can grab Band-Aids for the girl who scraped her hands and knees during a game. I can ask Deisi if she is alright when I see that she is crying. I can laugh when the boy offers me advice on how to be a better soccer goalie. I can give hugs – and receive them.
There are a number of layers to the story of the 5,000 being fed. Jesus gave thanks and blessed what was available. The disciples doubted how they could feed the hungry, but they obeyed Jesus anyway. And then there are those who received. Mark 6:42 tells us “They all ate and were satisfied.” We don’t often give attention to the crowd in our reading of this story, but it bears examination. The people ate and were satisfied. When Jesus blessed what was given to them, they were satisfied. Does it tell us that the crowd was never hungry again? No. Does it tell us that the crowd was never lacking for food again? No. But in that moment, they were satisfied. Their need was met, blessed by Jesus.
Alexa and Nancy, the sweethearts who pulled me around the playground during my first visit, gave me many smiles and hugs today. Recognizing the language barrier, they would sometimes just look and smile. They were satisfied. Satisfied because I have chosen to offer all that I have in obedience to Christ’s command. And not only have I offered it but Jesus has blessed it. They have not asked me to take them home, even though my heart knows that I would. They have not asked me to make the problems go away. They have not asked me to “fix” Honduras or the world. They are satisfied to receive the love and attention that I am willing to give them because it is given in obedience and blessed by the presence of Jesus.
In return, my faith is strengthened in the knowledge that God can do more than I ever imagined. That is enough for today. Tomorrow will bring another opportunity to serve, to receive, and for the work to be blessed. The disciples witnessed the miraculous blessing of Jesus feeding the hungry, but that was not the last time they would need him. We always need him. That very night, after the feeding of 5,000, Jesus found the disciples straining at the oars of a boat in the middle of a storm. Jesus once again stepped in, walking on water, and calmed the storm. That assures me. I was prompted to come to Honduras initially and it was truly evident that the obedience was blessed beyond expectation. Returning to Honduras is also an act of obedience, and again it has been blessed beyond measure. Why? Because Jesus, the very Bread of Life, shows up to feed those who are hungry for him. Jesus, the one who calms the storm, shows up to bring peace. It is the work that Christ does that meets the need. He is the Bread of Life and the Living Water. What else could I need?