Half of a Bologna Sandwich, by Brian Bertke, Back2Back US Staff

Since my first trip to Haiti in April, I have been thinking about a boy I met in the garbage dump.

This is the garbage dump community where we served.

A boy who lives in the dump, overlooking the community.

The organization that we are considering a partnership with, Jesus in Haiti, has a feeding program in the dump, and it is often the only meal that the children there will receive for the day.  The sad thing is, I don’t even remember this boy’s name.  However, he has had such a profound impact on my life, in terms of what I am willing to sacrifice so that I might be able to serve others at a higher level.

When we first pulled into the dump, we were surrounded by people who were pushing their way towards our truck, jockeying for position so that they could be first in line to receive a meal.  I must say that I can’t blame their urgency and their pushing and shoving.  If I knew that the only food that I would receive that day was in our truck, I too would be pushing my way up front to receive my meal.  When people are desperate to survive, they will resort to behavior that we might not otherwise condone.

When we got out of the truck, we waited to serve everyone their one bologna sandwich.   We wanted the crowd to calm down and we also wanted to have a chance to meet some of the children and adults that we would serve.  I ended up being with a group of young boys, judging from their size, they were probably seven to nine years old.  We started an impromptu game of “soccer” using a rusty can as a ball.  We weren’t really trying to score goals, but wanted to see who could keep control of the can the longest, seeing who had the better foot skill.  I was at a great disadvantage; these boys were quick and aggressive, attributes that come in handy when you live in a dump.

When we finished our game, it was time to serve lunch.  I felt bad for these boys, they were so thin, and some didn’t even have shoes as they walked on top of broken glass and rusty metal.  As I watched one of the boys that I had met that morning, he was different than some of the older boys at the dump.  He was still meek and kind.  The harsh life that he was subjected to day after day had not yet changed this boy’s heart.  I was truly impressed by him and his gentle nature.

Me with my friend

As he waited patiently for his sandwich, I felt a tremendous amount of compassion for him.  I went over and carefully handed him one of my breakfast bars, not wanting to draw attention from the older boys.  I didn’t want him to be put into any danger for having extra food; he quickly put the bar in his pocket as he gave me a quick hug and a smile.

When it was finally his turn to be served, I handed him his sandwich and that is when my life lesson happened.  My new friend immediately took his sandwich, his only meal of the day, and ripped it in half, offering me the other half.  I was stunned.  How could someone who has nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, be so willing to share the very food that he needs to survive?

As much as I appreciated his offer, I couldn’t deny him his food.  I gave my half back to him, letting him know how much I appreciated his offer.  As I stood there with him, watching him eat, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with his kind gesture.  Here I was, thinking that I was the one there to serve, and instead, he was serving me.  Not by offering me just food for my stomach, but also food for my soul.

I have thought of that young boy a hundred times since I have been home.  I feel God probing my heart, my mind, my willingness to share the possessions that I have.  Possessions that are really God’s that He has graciously given me, but somehow, I have laid claim to them as my own.  I can feel God asking me what I would have done if I was in that little boy’s situation.  Would I have ripped my sandwich in half?  Am I willing to sacrifice more and more of myself, my possessions, and my life for the sake of others?  Do I love God enough to let go of the possessions that I am clutching onto in this world, so that He can fill me up with those things that matter in His world…love, peace, kindness, forgiveness and gentleness?

As Back2Back is praying about Haiti and what role we may have in this desperate country, I have been thinking a lot about my new friend in the dump.  As God continues to expand our ministry into new areas of the world, I know that we can only do this, if we are willing to give more of ourselves.  When I ask God how we can possibly serve more and more of His children, He reminds me that it is up to me.  Am I willing to share my sandwich?

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One Response to “Half of a Bologna Sandwich, by Brian Bertke, Back2Back US Staff”

  1. cathy Says:

    Great story, Brian. Such a great lesson, often I find lessons waiting for me when I think I am going to teach someone else lesson. Interesting huh? Thanks for your vulnerability and openness to what God had for you that day. Thanks for sharing.

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