December 19, 2012

A Christmas Banquet

In 1974 four Ethiopian men and I flew into Lalibela, Ethiopia, a tiny historic community, to distribute 23,000 Gospels and 500 Bibles to thousands of pilgrims who would arrive to celebrate the birth of Christ on Monday, January 7.

Realizing the difficulty I might face of finding vegetarian food, as well as food free from red-hot peppers, I had hurriedly packed a few cans of peaches, some powdered milk, some almonds, some Little Links, a small box of Grape-Nuts, and four or five one-pound loaves of bread that I had baked on January 1. Perhaps we could buy some food in Lalibela. There was no use taking more bread, for it would become moldy in three or four days, especially in the warm African climate.

Enjoying God’s Blessing
The evening we arrived, Wednesday, January 2, I invited the four men to eat with me. They enjoyed the bread, and we finished one of the loaves, along with some of the other food.

2012 1535 page14The next day the others ate in restaurants. But Pastor Negash Motbainor returned disappointed because he couldn’t find any unspicy vegetarian food. “May I eat some of your food?” he asked.

Of course he could. We usually ate together, each of us consuming three or four thick slices of bread per meal, since there was little else. Besides, we would have felt guilty eating food from the village, for we discovered that the area was affected by famine. In fact, one of our other members asked for some of our bread because of stomach problems, so we shared some with him.

On Friday the pastor flew home to conduct the Communion service. He returned Sunday with some Ethiopian food his wife had prepared, but we still ate some of my bread at noon.

On Monday, Christmas Day (in Ethiopia), I gently refused to share the pastor’s food because that kind of Ethiopian food spoils quickly. He also was reluctant to eat it, so I offered him more of my bread. The rest of my food was nearly gone.

Our Daily Bread
As we sat eating, a strange smile came over the pastor’s face. “What kind of bread is this?” he asked.

I replied that it was ordinary whole-wheat bread.

“When did you make it?” he asked, puzzled.

“Last Tuesday.”

“And it isn’t moldy? It’s not even dry! It’s just as it was Wednesday night.”

Now it was my turn to be puzzled. I hadn’t even thought of it. Then he spoke with a twinge of awe in his voice. “Isn’t this the same loaf you cut from yesterday when we shared your food?”

“Yes, it’s the last loaf.”

“But there was only a half loaf yesterday morning, and there’s just as much today.”

It did seem strange, but I was too engrossed in giving out Bibles to consider the question more, though I did remember the half loaf the morning before.

What Do You Think?
1. When have you felt as though God provided for your temporal needs in an unusual way?

2. If you were to describe the moral of this story in one word, what would it be?

3. Does God always honor us by providing for our material needs? If not, why not?

 4. How likely is it that God uses His people to meet the temporal needs of those around them? Never? Sometimes? Always?


That evening he ate his Ethiopian food, remarking that it was still good, and he ate some of my bread. The next day, Tuesday, his food was gone, so we ate my bread. “Is this that same loaf we ate from Sunday noon? It’s still sweet, moist, and not moldy!” he exclaimed. “Why isn’t it gone?”

“I don’t know,” I replied, and we each ate four slices. It seemed that as we cut there was still the same amount left. But there was too much to do to think about the reason.

We had all the bread we wanted Wednesday morning; it was the only food we had. When we finished, a piece about an inch thick remained. Then we flew to Gondar, where there was plenty of food. I ate the remaining piece for lunch. It was as fresh and sweet as ever, though it was nine days old.

No one has ever had a more blessed Christmas banquet than we had from that loaf of bread: that wonderful loaf preserved by our heavenly Father.

But every loaf is a wonderful loaf. Ellen White wrote: “To the death of Christ we owe even this earthly life. The bread we eat is the purchase of His broken body. . . . Never one, saint or sinner, eats his daily food, but he is nourished by the body and the blood of Christ. The cross of Calvary is stamped on every loaf” (The Desire of Ages, p. 660). 

Carolyn Stuyvesant writes from Yucaipa, California. This article was printed December 20, 2012.