I’m currently reading a book called, Empty Promises by Pete Wilson. I expected it to be a quick-read and thought I’d breeze through it in a week or so. Not so. This book is wrecking me…in a good way.

I will write a review on the book next week (if I finish it by then), but today I wanted to share a story from it that I can’t get off my mind.

Pete shared about an experience he had with a mission team from his church in Kolkata, India. This was the area their church was working in to build a school and feeding center.

One particular dwelling we walked up to was even more ragged than the average shack in the slum. It was actually just a series of ripped sheets that had been taped together and propped up by six or seven rickety-looking sticks. The family who lived there invited us in. They were cooking something in a pot over the fire. I sat there with my team of three or four and a translator packed into this tiny makeshift tent with the husband, wife, and three children who called it home. A makeshift bed in the corner consisted of a throwaway piece of plywood covered with several layers of muddy, frazzled blankets. In the corners of the tent were small piles of dingy-looking clothes- not enough to pack for a weekend getaway for my three boys, but all the clothes they owned.

The father made approximately fifty cents a day on the days he could manage the physically demanding work available, and the mother made less than fifty cents a day working as a maid for a wealthy family, walking two hours there and back.

He noted how well behaved the children were.

In an attempt to get small talk going in what was a bit of an awkward situation, someone in the group asked what was cooking over the fire. The husband, noticeably disturbed, went into a lengthy conversation with the translator. Eventually the translator said, “The father says they’re eating dirt cookies tonight.” I quickly responded with, “What’s that?” She explained to me that these “dirt cookies” were literally what they sounded like- dirt mixed with a little oil. She went on to explain that while they had little nutritional value, these dirt cookies would temporarily dull the family’s hunger pains.

The most amazing part of the story isn’t the details of the poverty this family lived in. Later, Pete went on to explain that this family was the only Christian family in this slum. The way they interacted and showed love to one another was very different from the others living in their same situation. He writes, “Despite working so hard for next to nothing and having to eat dirt to simply stay alive, that family had a contagious, undeniable sense of calm about them. It truly surpassed all understanding.”

I’ve been thinking about this family ever since I read this story last week.

I think about all the things I “need” throughout my day or week. The missing ingredients I’m running to the store to buy or the feeling of having “nothing” to eat when my cabinets are half-filled with food that I just don’t feel like eating.

I think about the sense of helplessness I feel when I lose sight of my purpose for a day or two, and wonder if this family has ever felt like their life has purpose.

How do you have hope in a hopeless situation?
How do you have joy when life is empty?
How do you have peace when you’re eating dirt for dinner?

and most of all…
How do you teach your children all of these things?

By being centered in Jesus.

He is our hope when life is hopeless.
He is our joy when life is empty.
He is our peace when all there is to eat is dirt.

We will never find peace in money or things.
We will only find true peace in Jesus Christ.


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