Y’all, true confessions: I’m pretty sure every Tuesday will be started by the words, “You are in for a treat…” because it’s TRUE. Today you have the pleasure of meeting my dear friend, Bennett, whom I affectionately call Benetron (but calling him by his nickname is entirely up to you – and him – I suppose). I love that ONE meal many moons ago affected the very characteristics that make up who he is at his core. So read on, enjoy and be encouraged.
Rice + Lumpia + Meat + Vegetables.
This is a simple equation for a quintessential Filipino meal. It was served to a group of us when we were visiting a small village as short-term missionaries in the Philippines to help build houses for the poor.
I was 18 at the time, and as I sat there eating this meal, I was quite impressed at the portions: they were generous. In fact, there was enough for seconds. So I obliged. The local villagers who made the meal were kind, warm, and extremely hospitable. We felt very welcome that first night we arrived.
The next day, we were talking to our team leader, Chris, who has been to the Philippines several times before, and he made sure to inform us of something: the size of the meal we had that night was not common for the residents of that village. In fact, it wasn’t even close. The portions that the locals eat made up only a very small size of what we ate, and mostly consisted of just rice. In fact, we found out afterwards that anything we did not eat that night were distributed equally to the villagers that had prepared it, along with their families.
“Rotaryville,” as it’s called, is a community (built by Habitat for Humanity) that has over 200 houses adjacent to Manila, and is set on a hill along Laguna de Bay, the Philippines’ largest freshwater lake. The living conditions of Rotaryville are a stark improvement from where residents formerly dwelled, many coming from “Smokey Mountain,” a trash-filled landfill that thousands of people live in. The environment is deplorable, and we visited there earlier, staring at poverty face to face.
The residents of Rotaryville taught me so much. They were most joyous, thankful, humble, faithful, God-fearing people I have ever encountered. As western culture tells us we should have more, they had substantially less and yet never complained, never showed envy, never expressed bitterness. They knew where they had come from, what they had been delivered out of and brought to, and expressed that gratitude through their actions and words.
This community was used as a witness. To us. Perhaps in my arrogance, I thought before the trip that we as westerners would minister to these “poor people.” Instead, I was taught the real meaning of gratitude, humility, and giving through this simple community of followers.
I think about the images, smells, and people I encountered on that trip, yet it was that meal that encapsulated much of what I Iearned: to be humbly, continually grateful for God’s gifts, and to generously give of myself to others in gratitude. It could be my talents, my time (I heard a quote recently that said “If you’re too busy to help people, you’re too busy…”), finances, or service. Regardless of its form, that spirit of giving should be birthed out of love.
That night, love was served on a bed of rice. No wonder I wanted seconds.
Bennett has worked in Silicon Valley for over 10 years, plunking the keys at various places and spaces. He currently lives in the East Bay, after spending many moons in Santa Cruz. He loves ribs, live music, prayer, and Jamie. You can find him on Facebook here.
Yup – real deal, Holyfield. How did Bennett’s experience of a simple meal change you? Encourage our friend today by filling up the comment section!