Hello, my name is Hunger. You may know my voice. I am a part of the human experience, sending signals to you to help keep you alive. For many people, I am a helpful reminder to pause and provide their bodies with what they need to thrive.
However, I must admit that I take my role very seriously and when my promptings go unmet, my voice becomes a howling emptiness that consumes all who bear under it. For many others around the world, over 800 million of them, I am the shrill sound of desperation. A wailing siren that fills your ears and a grip that clutches your body painfully—I am need, I am agony, I am dangerous… even fatal.
It can be easy to think of me as impersonal, simply noise in a chaotic world. But that is why I’d like to share a story with you today, the story of a family who was nearly consumed by me. For them, I have been so personal, so real. But this is not just my story to tell…
Hello, my name is Hope. You should know my voice. I am sometimes still and small, and other times, I am fierce and loud. Sometimes, I’m that deep sigh that signals your longing for a promise hidden within your heart. I sometimes speak with indignation if I must because I refuse to let Hunger silence the expectation breathing within you. I am the voice whispering to you that only good things await you. I nudge you further so that you don’t relent. Yes, I am that voice of awakening. The voice of rejoicing. I am Hope.
I know that the voice of Hunger can be boisterous and desperate, but if you listen in, you’ll hear me speak softly, saying: there’s more to come. I am a constant reminder of the great things God has promised you. I am that deep assurance that He will fulfill all that He has spoken over you.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
I am one of God’s promises to you. I keep your eyes on the joy that He sets before you. I help you see far into a greater future…
Hope and I have an important relationship. Hope is the harmony that resolves my dissonance. It is her command that calms my insistent panic. But I will let her speak for herself in this story.
For me, this story begins in Valdilene’s life. I’ve known her since she was a child. The poor rural community she lived in wasn’t an easy place for a child to live. She could barely manage the funds to go to school. The first time she saw electricity, she was ten years old.
Life hadn’t changed too much for her when she became an adult with three children: Jonas, Gabriel and Gabriely. I met them too and made them feel the same pain as their mother. I made Valdilene cry. I could hear her thoughts, and I knew she was used to me—but watching her kids go hungry was too painful for her.
Things got worse when her husband disappeared after saying he was going to the market. Her despair in searching for her children’s father soon became a crushing disappointment when she found out he had simply abandoned them. She was alone, but I’m the kind of feeling that never leaves people. I’m striking their stomachs every hour.
I once heard Valdilene talking about me.
She said: “Hunger is the emptiness and unhopeful feeling that never leaves you. You wake up without knowing what to eat for breakfast, then time passes, and you still have nothing to eat for lunch. Your stomach hurts. The feeling never fades away. You go to bed knowing that the next day won’t be different.”
Hunger, I have known you for as long as you have existed. I have heard your growls and torment that resonates through the bellies and hearts of both young and old. I have seen how many have felt helpless under your grip, but I have always been there as a resistance to your control. It is no different even now. I have witnessed how you have brought pain and disappointment to the lives of Valdilene and her children, but even in their lives, I remain the voice that echoes the voice of God. And His promises are yes and amen….
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)
Oh Hunger, I speak of a reality that is beyond your grip. Jesus is provider of every need. Though Valdilene and her children have known your emptiness, they are about to know the hand of God like they have never known before.
Valdilene’s only income came from government support and some occasional help from a relative. This money, however, could never cover all her expenses. Thankfully, the children could go to school and have a single meal there, every day except on weekends.
Her children were suffering, even without saying a word. Jonas, her older son, often filled his jeans’ pockets with the biscuits he received to bring them home so his mother could also have a meal. The biscuits were almost powder when Jonas arrived home.
But that’s the kind of thing I do with people: I don’t allow them to be too picky.
I could also hear Jonas’ feelings all the time. Being the oldest brother always frustrated him as he tried to help his mother in any way he could. “At least we have the school where we can eat. What about my mom? She has nothing. She’s all I can think about. I know my damaged biscuit isn’t enough for her, but it’s all I have.”
One day I followed Valdilene as she went to a relative’s house to ask for food. Valdilene hates to bother people. She could cope with me alone, but everything was different when she looked at her children. That day, she was sitting on the sidewalk when she saw a woman registering her relative’s daughter to a new centre in the community.
Her eyes were curious. She wished her children could go there too. However, she was too shy to ask them. She was hearing a voice that spoke louder than mine.
Valdilene’s shy eyes met Pastor Izeneuda’s eyes. The pastor saw a woman with three children, whose face was desperately trying to say something. She approached Valdilene and asked if she would like to register her children at the Compassion centre. Valdilene’s response was a hopeful “yes.”
When Jonas, Gabriel and Gabriely started attending the centre, they also started hearing a voice that was louder than mine. There they would have more food than at school—good food, healthy food, because the tutors were always concerned about providing a diverse diet. Suddenly, there was hope.
Oh, though weeping may endure for a night, joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5) For He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. (Psalm 146:7) These are some of the Scriptures I have set before Valdilene and her family. When they were faint, I have been the subtle voice echoing the Lord’s prayer over their hearts: Give us today our daily bread. (Matthew 6:11)
I knew God would order Valdilene’s steps to a place where she could begin to see the reality she never thought possible. It was my voice that beckoned her to the Compassion centre that day. I was side-by-side with Pastor Izeneuda. When Valdilene heard my voice that day, it was through Pastor Izeneuda and immediately she recognized me. I could hear her heart leap for joy.
“There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.” (Proverbs 23:18)
As she walked home that day, my voice became louder in her heart. This time, she believed her family’s story would change. When I got home with her that evening, for the first time Valdilene’s children heard my voice and it was through their mother. That home was filled with such joyous expectation that even Hunger hushed to listen to my voice.
Hope had spoken to this family, but I know that my presence had affected this family in more ways than one. When I am the voice they have listened to every day for most of their lives, my impact runs deeper than bellies and bones. I leave mental scars on those who have experienced my worst. That was the case with those children. Because hunger was the only thing they knew about food, their relationship with food wasn’t healthy.
They were afraid of me all the time. They were fearful that I could surround them again and drown out Hope’s voice. Because of that, they started eating desperately at the centre. Two plates of food weren’t enough. Three plates. Four plates. Sometimes I saw Gabriely, still a young child, throwing up her food because she had overeaten. She wasn’t hungry—she was just afraid of me.
As he used to do at school, Jonas sometimes filled his pockets with food to bring home to his mother.
Once I heard Gabriel ask his tutor: “Will there be food in Heaven?”
Everybody laughed at what he said, but he wasn’t joking.
The food disorders that the children developed were a concern to the Compassion staff, who focused on re-educating the children and developing in them a healthy relationship with food. They needed to heal from the traumas I left in them.
Even as your grip loosens, Hunger, your memory still elicits fear. But I tell you, you will no longer drown out my voice in the hearts of Valdilene and her children. At the centre, they are beginning to learn more about God’s love and His perfect love casts out every fear. (1 John 4:18)
When Pastor Izeneuda and their tutor Eliane found out that Jonas took food in his pockets to his mom, they comforted him, saying he didn’t need to worry about food. They have provided food for the family every week.
Pastor Izeneuda and the tutors wanted to help the children beyond providing food. They wanted the children to know that I, Hope, had come to stay.
“I want them to be able to go anywhere and not feel embarrassed about themselves. So, we need to help them learn how to behave, to use cutlery properly, to be calm while eating,” Pastor Izeneuda said to the tutors.
“Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:25-34)
Sometimes the Compassion staff found it hard not to give them food when they were crying, but the staff remembered that they were crying not because they were hungry but simply desperate. With time, the children would realize that they would never be swallowed by my howling emptiness again.
Valdilene knew she had found a place to trust and rest. Every time she went to the centre, the tutors and Pastor Izeneuda were ready to support her. Even without saying a single word, Valdilene felt known, seen and loved.
I heard her thinking, “I’m too embarrassed to ask anything. They already do much for us. How can I bother them for more? But I need some help.”
As time went on, she saw that the centre staff would always be there to give support when needed.
“It’s so good to know I don’t have to say anything. They see me; they understand me. The pastor is so sensitive to my feelings. I’m so grateful.”
Valdilene was no longer worried about me. If once I caused pain in her stomach and damaged her heart and life expectations, the Compassion centre introduced her to the voice of Hope. She was not only able to feed her family, but she was able to feed her dreams. Thanks to the centre’s support, she could start working again and improve her family’s life.
The Compassion staff consistently supports them, and the children are no longer desperate for food. I am no longer a howling emptiness in their home. Almost ten years after Pastor Izeneuda and Valdilene’s first meeting, I’m no longer a pain the family needs to cope with.
Despite the changes, I know the scars in those who’ve met me at my worst are not easy to erase. For some, I know I’m unforgettable. I’m not proud of that. In fact, I know that my role is to help them thrive, not to consume their lives. But Hope is a companion who heals me. Hope is a community that soothes me. Hope is the one who should have the final word…
“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.” (Ephesians 1:18)
I may begin as a whisper in your heart. Oh, but I am steadfast. I will stay with you until you hear me. Until you listen. I am the glimmer in the eyes of those who dare to believe in the faithfulness of God. Though Hunger’s voice may be desperate, my voice is the salve that quiets the pangs so that you can see the joy that God has set before you.
Since that unforgettable day when Valdilene visited the centre and heard my voice through Pastor Izeneuda, she opened her heart completely to me and let me go home with her. She offered me to her children and they received me with joy. And the thing about me is this: when I come, I don’t come alone. I come with expectation, redemption, restoration, peace and so much more. These are my friends, who come to perfect God’s plan in your life. This is how Valdilene’s story continues today. Both her and her children no longer live in fear of Hunger, they are free and being transformed daily.
Almost ten years after her first meeting with Pastor Izeneuda, Valdilene and her family continue to see the hope to which God has called them.
I may begin as a whisper in your heart, but if you let me, I will have the final word.
I write to you who read this story, would you consider being like Pastor Izeneuda who carried my voice when Valdilene needed to hear it the most? Would you consider stepping forward and saying “no!” to hunger in the life of another family like Valdilene’s?
Be the voice of hope for children like Jonas and his siblings.
And if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. (Isaiah 58:10)