Bill Hybels has been in Africa all week preparing his Christmas on Location message. Yesterday he sent out an e-news letter about his time there. It included this poignant story.
One night I was invited to have dinner with some of the leaders of a coalition of churches that Willow is partnering with for AIDS orphan care. (You will hear more about this at the weekend service) The fellowship could not have been warmer or the gratefulness for the generosity of Willow higher. When we were serving ourselves at the little buffet dinner set up in a dark corner of this mud-bricked house, I saw a plate of chicken centrally displayed but decided to take a pass for no particular reason. Several of the people around me at the table kept trying to put a piece of chicken on my plate but I kept politely declining saying that I wanted to try the other delightful foods that were so colorfully displayed. When we all finished dinner, the discussion went to how grateful these church leaders are that Willow buys food and school uniforms for over 500 AIDS orphans in the village. That led to a discussion about malnutrition which finally led me to ask the question and the answer would hit me like a Mack truck. "How many times a week do the AIDS orphans eat meat of any kind?" Silence. "Well", I continued, trying to ease the quietness, "How many times a week would you adults eat meat?" Deeper silence. Then one of the leaders said quietly, "Most of us eat meat once a year because that is all we can afford." This time the utter silence was all mine...and it took all of my Dutch self discipline to fight off a major crying spell. The leading adults in the village can only afford to eat meat once a year??? And there was meat on the table tonight??? And I blew it off??? As I was to learn later, these leaders were so honored that the pastor of Willow would visit their problem-wracked town that they all decided this would be the one night of the entire year to splurge and provide one small piece of chicken for everyone at the dinner. I was the only idiot that didn't put that all together until it was too late. Of course when the truth came out I apologized a dozen times and they knew I was sincere, but still....It was a long time before I got to sleep that night.I'm really looking forward to this service. Last year Bill and Lynne did Christmas on Location in South Africa and after that service we raised $600,000 for Africa. I'm hoping that will happen again this year.
Part I and Part II of this series are available to watch at this link. Or, to sign up for the enews mailings go to www.willowcreek.org and go to the third item in the third column under the banners.