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By Jane Horvath

I have had the opportunity, privilege really, to go on several mission trips. One trip was to a school in Jamaica where we were involved in their ongoing building program. Construction is not my forte. However, we were bringing most of our own food for the trip and cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner for our group was part of our responsibility. Now, cooking for groups was an area of expertise for me!

Part of our planning responsibilities was making menus and gathering as much food and dry goods as we could prior to our trip. I reached out to the director of the food services at the school cafeteria associated with our church with the hope of getting some donations. The director was very helpful, but there was one problem: She wanted to donate a big, industrial-size can of baked beans. I HATE BAKED BEANS. I could not think of any reason why we should bring this giant can of beans. After all, probably many people felt the same way as I did, and it was going to be hot (really hot). Why would anyone want hot beans after working in the heat all day long? Moreover, do we really want people eating beans when we are sharing our bedrooms with up to six people?

Well, guess what? I did end up reluctantly bringing the can of beans. I was not planning on opening the can and cooking them. I figured I would leave them with the missionaries to dispose of as they saw fit — through their stomach or in the garbage. At least I did what I was supposed to do — bring the beans.

As we were unpacking the groceries, the missionary saw the beans and exclaimed, “Those are my favorite beans, and I have not had any in the five years since I have been here.” THAT was the reason I was supposed to bring the beans. Serving can be difficult in America, but it can be even more difficult in another country. Isolation and feeling as if God does not remember who you are can be a lie we hear and believe.

It was obvious God knew the missionary well and used a willing participant (the cafeteria director) and an unwilling participant (me) to bring His gift of love to this missionary. I do not think we ate the beans that week, I cannot remember. But I do remember being thankful that I brought the beans even though I did not want to do it. God knows exactly what can encourage us and often he uses us, willing or not, to encourage others.