Saturday, March 6, 2010

My Rice-and-Bean Fast for Haiti

On Thursday night, I was given the opportunity to fast for 2.5 days. While fasting, I was to pray for the people of Haiti. The menu – ½ cup of rice and ½ cup of beans – for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Nothing more. The fast was to end Sunday at noon. It is 10:15 p.m. on Saturday night, and I made it 50 hours.
While I did this, I kept this small journal. I’d like to share it with you. Please read it prayerfully and consider giving whatever you can to the people of Haiti. Here’s a link if you don’t know where to start:
Thank you.

Day One, Friday

7:15 a.m. My stomach is grumbling during my devotions. I see images in my mind of children with grumbling stomachs. I will wait for breakfast while I think about and pray for the people whose stomachs grumble with no relief in sight.

8:55 a.m. – Eating my first course of Vigo “completely seasoned, easy to prepare Black Beans & Rice” (and the package also says authentic Cuban recipe). Topped it with red wine vinegar. Actually, with Starbucks coffee, it’s tasty, even for breakfast. But then I start wondering … the seasoning offerings and the Starbucks are definitely not available in Haiti. Does this take away from the full experience?

3:17 p.m. – REALLY struggling now. Want so badly to stop this fasting. I had rice and beans for lunch, and I never thought it would be this difficult to stay focused. How do people do this, when food is scarce? It affects your mind, your mood, your alertness. Hunger is uncomfortable and painful. I am really hating this.

4:12 p.m. – HUNGER. IS. PAINFUL. I’m so sick.

Day Two, Saturday

8:33 a.m. – Last night I gave in and ate 8 gummy candies. Then I felt guilty and even sicker than I do with just the rice and beans. As I put Neil to bed and he went to sleep in my arms, I looked at his beautiful face, so full and healthy. He does not know what it means to be hungry. My stomach was hurting so badly, and I thought, “This is how someone’s baby feels right now in Haiti.” I cried, not just for the children who are hungry but also for their parents, who must feel so frustrated and heartbroken that their babies have nothing to eat. What a terrible thing this is. What a horrible predicament. I prayed so fervently for the children, while Neil’s breath puffed from his mouth and as he slept, totally unaware of the plight of others his age.

2 p.m. – Just ate my lunch of rice and beans. My head hurts. My stomach is raw. My concentration is off. My mood is grumpy. I’m sleepy. I don’t know how people exist like this. And it’s only been a day-and-a-half! Praying for God to help workers rebuild infrastructure so that the food can get to the people. It is so amazing how this is clarifying the situation in my mind.

5:20 p.m. – Woke from a three-hour nap. The lack of food made me so tired that I couldn’t keep my eyes open. What has surprised me, probably the most about this experience, is my cavalier attitude of the past towards people in famine. I would see photos on the news of people receiving rice and think, “Well now they have something to eat. I could survive on rice! It wouldn’t be completely nutritional, but it would be enough to live on.” How horrible of me. Only someone in a country like America, where there is plenty on top of plenty, could possibly think like that. I’m ashamed at my past calloused thinking. This experience, though short-lived, has given me such an incredible window into what happens to the body and mind. And I’ve only been doing this a day-and-a-half! What if we were without food for days, weeks, months? When we see photos of emaciated people and children with protruding stomachs, we are looking at suffering, plain and simple.

6:09 p.m. – I would give anything for an apple on my kitchen counter right now. I thought when this started, “I’ll probably crave pizza or a Big Mac.” Wrong. I crave sweet, juicy fruit. Even a glass of milk feels like a luxury. Why don’t I eat it? People tell me I’m not accomplishing anything by doing this. Here’s what I’m accomplishing: I’m learning how other people feel, experiencing something at the same time that they are. Though we are thousands of miles apart, every time my stomach grumbles, I hear their stomachs grumbling. Every time my head hurts, I know someone in Haiti has that symptom, too. Every time I feel like I want to cry for hunger, I think of the babies who are crying to their mothers, “I’m hungry, Mommy. I’m hungry.” And I think of the helpless moms, who can do nothing but try to shush and quiet them, as they themselves battle these same physical symptoms.
God, bring the resources to these people. Help rescue agencies build the infrastructure to get there. Rescue them! Help them! They are dying. They are dying.

10:06 p.m. – I broke my fast about 30 minutes ago. Came downstairs after putting Neil to bed, and I was dizzy. My head was pounding, and I was so nauseated. I opened up a small yogurt and weighed whether to stop fasting. I decided … I have to stop. I feel much better after eating that, plus an apple and a 4-inch pizza.

I made it 50 hours.

But my heart aches, knowing that while I can choose to stop eating like this, hundreds of thousands of people in Haiti are still on this rancid diet … if they are lucky to have food at all.

How do people live in these conditions?

Not only that, they’re in tents. They don’t even have a home. I have all of the trappings of American life around me.

Tonight, Neil and I went to Wal-Mart to pick up some milk and other sundries. I looked around me at all of the food, all of the people mindlessly throwing it into their baskets. Until Thursday night, when I started this fast, I was one of them. I will never go into a grocery store again with that attitude.

We have so much. They have so little. And the little they had was taken from them in one terrible moment.

No, I haven’t traveled there. I haven’t seen the tragedy with my own eyes. I really have no idea – NONE – about what they are experiencing. I can’t even fathom it.

But this was an amazing opportunity for me to try to get a tiny peek into what their bodies feel like. And with that physical discomfort, I get another look into their emotions. What if, on top of all of this, my child was dead? Or what if I were dead and my child was wandering a street, with his hand out, asking people for food, looking for shelter and protection with no one to help him? The idea of that alone just breaks me in half.

We can’t forget them.

We mustn’t forget them.


Pray for Haiti.

1 comment:

  1. Heidi, you're an amazing woman and certainly a child of God!!!! "Thank you", "Thank you" so much for sharing your heart wrenching but enlightening fasting experience! I believe this was a call from God for you to go through this journey and share his message that Haiti still needs our prayers and help, even more now that the spotlight is off them. My husband is from Haiti and has family and friends who call asking for financial help of any kind... One aunt who worked in a hospital that fully collapsed is presumed dead leaving 3 children. Surviving family members are reluctant to take them in because they themselves have little or nothing to eat and no decent place to live... Like you with your son Neil, I too cannot fathom my 8 year old son Matthew suffering from hunger, or left alone to beg for food and in possible danger of being a victim of the evil that preys on innocent children. Thank you again for sharing your experience with all of us who dare to care! God bless!