photo courtesy of www.lanciaesmith.com

My daughter Sarah, her husband Steve and our two grand-children Luca (3) and Pax (1 1/2) have just returned to their far-away home after a two week visit in here inWinnipeg.  We’re going to miss them immensely.

The hardest thing about the last few days (since they’ve returned to their home) has been stumbling on discarded toys, bits of dried, abandoned food, misplaced household items, sticky stains – all left behind by the whirlwind of those busy grandlads whose relentless energy left Nance and I happily exhausted at the end of each day.  How we love those boys!  We’re so proud of our kids and the companions they have chosen. And  we love the food-filled gatherings with our new in-laws who have become friends over the many, shared celebrations of the past few years.

Sarah and the lads: Pax and Luca

Recently, Sarah’s imagination (and her maternal concern for her boys health) has been captured by the EAT CLEAN DIET  and so when she came she brought new recipes  and new enthusiasm to our home. As a result, much of our discussions and time together centered around food and the trying of delicious new dishes that combined new mixes of oils, spices, fresh herbs and ripening vegetables pulled from our garden.  I loved taking my grandsons to the garden to pull carrots, pick beans and gather cherry tomatoes.  Luca especially loved the cherry tomatoes. Even in the middle of a furious game of driveway hockey  he would often stop suddenly and run over to the garden returning  to share a handful that he had reverently plucked from the heavy vines. Pax loved the tomatoes as well but would always spit out the skins whose shriveled remains now dot the garden soil and make me laugh every time I see them.

Luca at Tall Grass Prairie Bakery

One morning we decided to take the boys to Tall Grass Prairie Bread Company. Tall Grass is a remarkable bakery owned and operated by dear friends whose reverence for the earth, love of good food and just community has become legendary here in Winnipeg.  Luca was given a tour of the premises and  the opportunity to grind wheat, knead dough and taste the miracle of bread, croissants, cinnamon buns and other delectables that had their origin in organic grains  grown in soil just outside  our fair city.

Luca loves to bake. According to Tabitha-Of-The-Bakery, all children quite naturally love to bake. It was fun to watch his keen interest from where the grain is augured into the stone grinders – to the industrial mixers where dusty flour became gooey dough –  to the kneading table where this little hands worked the soon-to-be treats until he was too tired to continue without the proper reward of tasting some.  Awesome!

Micah and Diana

Now, to add to our bliss…  While Sarah’s family was still with us, our youngest son Micah got engaged!   Next fall he’ll be marrying Diana Pops. Yay!  Some of you will remember her as the young singer/songwriter I took on the tour with me about 6 years ago.  Diana wrote the song Subtle Shiver, which my daughter Sarah sang on our Sons and Daughter’s CD (2006).  Of course, Nance and I are overjoyed.  On the day of the engagement, Micah and his mom conspired to pull off a most memorable proposal. Together they spent the afternoon shopping for fresh strawberries, grapes, Champagne and some fine Chocolate (fair-trade from Ten Thousand Villages) and then scouted out a lovely spot by the river where Micah would propose to Sweet D (Nanci’s nick-name for Diana.)  The following day we celebrated with a picnic at the park which gathered most of the Bell clan, some of the Pop’s clan and several of the Giardino clan (Sarah’s husband’s family.) Diana baked and brought the most amazing chocolate cupcakes to share; richly crowned with buttery icing that melted in your mouth like… well… butter.  Awesome!

photo: Reuters/ Jakob Dall/ Danish Red Cross

When I consider the remarkably rich role that food played in our lives over the last two glorious weeks –  preparing, feasting, laughing, delighting –  it tears me apart to see photos like this.  Food for this Somali mother is not currently about delight and celebration – it’s about desperation and agony.  She has not recently tasted fresh strawberries and Champagne in celebration of her son’s betrothal. She has not licked the corners of her mouth clean of the buttery icing on Sweet D’s cupcakes. She has not recently plucked plump vegetables from the soil of the land on which the family home securely stands. More than likely she has walked for days through hot, inhospitable landscapes just to scratch for enough food to keep her child alive one more day. And quite likely, in rationing for her children, she has excluded herself.  And most likely, several of her close beloved have not survived the recent famine that has ravaged the Horn of Africa.

So how can this be?

Well, it’s complicated.

photo/ Frank Spangler

I’ve recently been in discussion with my friends at the Canadian Foodgrains Bank and have committed to join in their Fast for Change campaign in preparation for World Food Day on October 16. 

Mine will be a rather humble fast. I am simply going to abstain from coffee for the next 6 weeks.  During that time, I’ll use the agony of my unrequited love of coffee (read: headaches) to remind me to pray, stir compassion, and to commit to learn more about the complex of catastrophes and complicities that generate abundance for some and desperation for others.

Each week I’ll post a short blog that reflects about some aspect of insecurity and food aid.  Some of it I’ll write myself and some will be written by others who know much more about this than I.  But I’m hoping many of you will follow along and together  we might be  further transformed by the experience in a way that is good news for others.

I’m inviting you to join me in a Fast for Change.  Please visit the Fast for Change website, read about the campaign and sign on.   There are tools and suggestions on the site that will help give shape to the experience.   Please check it out and then come back to this site and leave a message below encouraging others to do the same.

You’ll find the Fast for Change website by clicking HERE…  

Also, we’ve put up a Fast for Change Radio Player which we’ve loaded with appropriate songs from my catalogue as well as several other artists including Carolyn Arends, Glen Soderholm, Jacob Moon, Bob Bennett, Jon Buller and Jay Calder.  We’ll leave the radio player up until October. Listen to it as often as you like.

Click HERE to listen to Radio


Thanks for indulging me this long post.  I’ll post again (perhaps shorter) mid-next week.  Until then… Happy Fasting 🙂  


P.S.  If you are thinking of making a donation specifically to help East Africa, the Canadian Government will match all donations up until September 16. To donate, click HERE...

Related Blogs in this Series:

Further Reading:

  • Waste Not, Want Not   by Terence Z. Sibanda.  “One third of all food produced is wasted, says a recent report from The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Food is lost at every stage, from initial production, through the supply chain, the retail stage, and finally at the household level…In medium and high income countries about 220 million tonnes of food is lost at the household level. This loss is the equivalent of the total net food produced in Sub Saharan Africa.”
  • A Biblical Perspective on the Problem of Hunger by Walter Brueggemann. The persistence of hunger in a world entirely capable of producing enough food for all, in the end, is an issue of fidelity; a fidelity that issues from a three-way covenant between God, the earth, and its people. For our part, our covenant is to a “love-fueled justice –one that is binding not in the remote, legal sense, but rather in the familial sense.”




6 thoughts on “Week 1 / FAMILY, FOOD, FEAST AND FAMINE

  1. Hi Steve,

    thanks for sending out the mailer about the ‘Fast for Change’. While reading it I was struck with the idea of praying that God’s resources would be distributed equally. I have gone through life knowing, mostly, how very blessed we are to be living in Canada. I, like most people, have moments where I am discontent but this has really given me a kick in the butt to get my head on right. I’m not sure yet what I will be giving up. I want it to be something difficult for me to give up, so I am giving it a lot of thought and prayer. Thank-you for the challenge to pray for those who have less, for our government to contribute more, and for myself to remember how very blessed I am…. even if I don’t have cable. 😉


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