Servant Teams: Rice & Beans, Struggle & Hope

It’s hard to imagine two people being less prepared for their first Rice & Beans experience than Mandee Campos and Yevette Garcia in 2017. New to the Lahash Servant Teams program, they traveled to Dodoma, Tanzania, in January to serve at Grace & Healing Ministry. By the time March rolled around, they were still adjusting to cultural and language differences while figuring out how to cook for themselves.

They had a lot to learn about Rice & Beans Month, and the people at Grace & Healing Ministry would quickly become their teachers. People whose ministry benefits directly from Rice & Beans funds, yes. And also people who participate in some beautifully creative ways.

Mandee and Yevette sat in on a brainstorming meeting at the church focused on finding ways to make Rice & Beans Month more applicable in Dodoma. The church’s commitment to pray for all those participating in the U.S. and around the world was a given. But they wanted to be able to contribute in other ways, too. Most people in the meeting subsisted on meals less hearty than rice and beans already. So they talked about walking farther distances instead of paying for transport. Skipping buying the occasional soda. Stretching already-simple meals just a little bit farther. There was a desire to engage in the sacrifice, not to simply receive.

As March got underway, Mandee and Yevette quickly realized that they enjoyed eating rice and beans when it was cooked by Tanzanians. Eating with the kids at Program Day? Yum! Inviting the Stand With Students scholars over to cook and share a meal together? Delish! But… they cooked most of their rice and beans themselves at their apartment… and it just wasn’t good. Not only that, but they didn’t have access to any print or online resources to connect them to the wider Rice & Beans community or engage in the discipleship aspect. It was a struggle.

“It was humbling in that we couldn’t cook nearly as well as everyone else,” Mandee said, but even more humbling was to see how much her new friends in Tanzania truly, deeply enjoyed simple meals. “They eat very joyfully,” she said. “I realized how high-maintenance I was in not being able to eat the same foods day after day.”

Yevette’s experience took a turn for the better when she got to see the impact of Rice & Beans with her own eyes. Esther Muhagachi, the founder of Grace & Healing Ministry, gave them a tour of the land that was purchased with Rice & Beans funds, and her hope for what it would become was contagious. Yevette and Mandee also had a chance to travel to other Lahash partnerships and see projects underway that were increasing food security for kids for the long term. “It became more personal to me when I actually saw the results of what Rice & Beans is doing. It was really pretty awesome.”

All along the way, they saw their new friends at Grace & Healing Ministry joining in the experience however they could. They didn’t see Rice & Beans Month as an opportunity for westerners to sacrifice so that they could receive the benefit. They saw it as an expression of reciprocal relationship – everyone sacrifices, everyone receives. And that focus is something Mandee and Yevette hope to infuse into the Servant Teams program in as many ways as possible. Creating an atmosphere of shared community, reciprocal relationship, and mutual giving and receiving is at the heart of the gap-year experience Servant Teams is designed to offer.

Along with all of us, Mandee and Yevette are learning a lot about considering the needs of others while at the same time acknowledging our own needs and allowing them to be met. Thankfully, God has given us the gift of our East African brothers and sisters as excellent teachers to help us grow. In giving and receiving, in struggle and hope, we are all in this together!

Applications for upcoming Servant Teams are being accepted now! If you or someone you know might be interested in a gap-year experience focused on equipping missional leaders to serve both locally and globally, visit Servant Teams website to find out more!