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Fasting, Ham Sandwiches, and a Gift

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Editor’s Note: Overseas Lay Missioner Rhonda Eckerman, who serves on the U.S.-Mexico border, reflects on a moment she will never forget during a time of fasting. 

In the spring of 2021, I participated in a fast entitled “Fast for More Compassion from the People of the United States for the Migrants Coming to the Southern Borders.” The fast started with a few participants but, as word got out, grew to over a hundred. Several participants were from other countries and all were united in a common goal. Each person chose the day or days of the week they would fast and pray. I chose every Wednesday, as this is the day of the week I work at the Migrant Center. I was inspired throughout these weeks of people’s devotion and reflections, but on one particular Wednesday, I was truly humbled.  

The day started at 5 a.m. at the Migrant Center located across the border in Agua Prieta, Mexico. I started bright and early thinking, of course, only of food. As luck would have it, I was tasked with making sandwiches for the migrants. Thinking mostly of my growling stomach, I was happy to be busy. The recipe is pretty basic – two slices of bread, one slice of ham, a slice of cheese, and mayo on both sides. 

But as I stood there at the kitchen counter making sandwich after sandwich, I began thinking about God’s sense of humor. Of all the tasks I could be doing today, making sandwiches was perfect for a person who cannot stop thinking about food.  Many sandwiches later, my thoughts continued to focus on food, wishing I could eat just one of those ham sandwiches. I began to feel sorry for myself. It was then that I looked up to see a sad sight.

Two volunteers escorted a young man into the center.  He was pale, weak, and carrying one of those ham sandwiches, which was completely untouched. But he was not just carrying the sandwich, he was holding it with both hands as if it was the best gift he had ever been given.  

We learned he had a difficult journey in the Arizona desert and had not eaten in seven days. Despite his unimaginable hunger, he was too weak to be able to tackle the sandwich. I watched as volunteers ministered to his needs, providing love, compassion, and oatmeal to nourish him. Hours later I was relieved to observe a different person, standing on his own and talking to fellow migrants.  

I will never forget the sight of that man holding the sandwich or the fact that with a little compassion, you can change a life.

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Rhonda is a Returned Missioner who served on the U.S.-Mexico border. As she prepared for her time on mission, she often reflected on the verse where Jesus says "I thirst" (John 19:28). Her first encounter with this verse was upon reading about Mother Teresa, who had such zeal about these two simple words. Focusing on the thirst of Jesus helps Rhonda draw nearer to Christ and love more deeply.