Encouragement Served Here

Over the weekend, some Lahash staff members along with family and friends gathered on Dan and Erin Holcomb’s back porch for a dinner of Rice & Beans. Meals like this have been commonplace during Rice & Beans Month in the past, but the most recent time before this one was in… March of 2020. Shortly after that last Rice & Beans potluck, the reality of the pandemic not only closed borders and canceled Lahash travel plans to East Africa, but radically altered day-to-day gatherings in all of our lives.

For that reason, gathering around a simple meal of rice, lentils, fruit, and githeri (a dish made from beans and maize that is common in East Africa) felt like a joyful feast. Everyone there had a long history of participating in Rice & Beans Month – in fact, many of the kids there have grown up with it all their lives. Being able to reconnect for this common meal prompted some reflections on what it means to live within the rhythms of simplicity, solidarity, and sharing throughout various seasons of life.

Wherever you are in your Rice & Beans journey, there’s a heaping scoop of encouragement and authenticity waiting for you in these quotes!

Jessica Ebersole:My first year working with Lahash, I started right before Rice & Beans Month. I was very intimidated and wasn’t sure how it would go. It became more tangible for me when I was able to travel with Lahash and meet my sponsored child in Rwanda. I saw that eating rice and beans and giving the funds really does make a difference – because it made a difference in her life. That was so encouraging for me.

Erin Holcomb:In past years, I have dreaded Rice & Beans Month because it felt like a really big sacrifice. It also felt like a really big effort. Over the years I have come to look forward to it. Not because I don’t miss the other things that we usually eat but because, every time, I am so moved by the small amount that I give up and what a big difference it makes in my heart in how much I’m thinking about others.

As we figure out how to navigate it with our kids, we are careful to be intentional but not legalistic. There are no rules, so it’s often on our kids to decide what to do when they are offered things that are not rice and beans. Our kids this year have been choosing to eat rice and beans even when they’ve had a choice of other things, more often than they would have in the past. That has been really cool to see.

Abbe Schilperoort: “It’s been interesting with Rice & Beans this year because we don’t have a kitchen due to our remodel, so meals have been very free form. But one thing we have been intentional about is using cash for our grocery budget. Because of that choice, Lydia (age 4) has remembered every time we’ve had rice and beans to say, “Mom we need to put money into the jar because we ate rice and beans.” That’s the great thing about Rice & Beans – it’s so tangible and it’s so easy to break it down for various age groups in different ways. Our older kids have been doing it for such a long time. But to see Lydia own it and have it translate this way for her – that has felt like a win this year.

Rachel Wilson:Our family has done Rice & Beans Month for many years, but this year we have only eaten one rice and beans meal. One intentional moment to sit down and reflect. It’s just been that kind of year. But the longer I follow Jesus and the longer we participate in something that’s rhythmic, I am more and more in awe of how experiential God is. We can have this one rice and beans meal and it symbolizes to us the bigger picture that we are a part of, even in a year where we haven’t been as intentional as we wanted to be. It still reminds us to be grateful for what we have, and that we are connected to a larger body around the world – especially in Tanzania where our sponsored child lives.

Rice & Beans Month is going to come around every year, and the meaning is still there. I’ve always appreciated there are no rules to make you feel like you either did it or you didn’t do it. We did it! We did one meal, we got to have the conversation, and there is a lot of grace for engagement in whatever way we can and whatever our family has space for.”

There is a lot of wisdom in these words! Rice & Beans Month is different for every participant and it changes every year. We can engage in it through a wide variety of practices, and gain so much from each experience. We might be surprised by what God stirs up in our hearts that is new and different, or we might take comfort in revisiting the same themes and rhythms. Our spirits can be fed in all sorts of ways, and as we are filled we are also helping to provide for vulnerable kids across East Africa. Every meal makes a difference – in our hearts and on their plates!