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A Single Mango...

By Michele Hermansen, 05/10/13, 12:45PM CDT

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I ate a single mango for lunch today, both as an intentional sacrifice and a personal indulgence. Yes, those are opposite concepts. The mango has become for me a symbol of both sufficiency and abundance. It is a manifestation of God’s loving care for us, and the mango reminds me of my responsibility as a steward.

At Easter we celebrate the rebirth that is ours through the resurrection. At this time of year in our part of the world nature provides us with visible signs of rebirth, renewal and the abundance of God’s creation. In contrast, in northern Uganda it is approaching the time of the Hunger Gap – that period when the food from the last harvest is depleted before the new harvest is available. As the food stores are depleted, families decrease the number of meals they eat each week, and gather what they can from nature. Two years ago I was privileged to volunteer in northern Uganda with a Lutheran World Federation team. The Hunger Gap when I was there was expected to be longer than other years because of drought and late crop planting due to the changing weather patterns of global warming. 

And this is where the mango comes in. It is the one food available in abundance at this time of year in northern Uganda. Like the Israelites’ manna, it is a daily gift from God that sustains life through the wilderness of the Hunger Gap. I was fascinated to learn that the fruit of a single mango tree ripens over a period of time, not all at once, so one tree provides sustenance for a relatively long time. 

While mangoes are so abundant and there is little else for impoverished families to eat, the diet becomes tiresome, similar to the Israelites’ objection to their steady diet of manna (Numbers 12). The mango had become the food of last resort to the northern Ugandans. Surely, they thought, their guests deserved better food. Thus, I had been there over a week and hadn’t eaten a single mango. I even bought a huge pail of mangoes from some women along the road, and our caring Ugandan companions distributed them among the staff so my partner and I didn’t have to eat any. They, who had so little materially, gave of their first fruits to us. 

Today I ate only the mango for lunch in honor of the strong and faithful people of northern Uganda, and all the hungry people here and elsewhere. But for me it was also a sweet indulgence. The mango is my reminder that all we have and all we are comes from God who created and sustains us and our world with overflowing love. The small display of mangoes among the abundance of our local grocery store reminds me of the great privilege and responsibility entrusted to us as stewards. I ate the mango, and now as I have received, I give with gratitude.

Good and gracious God, thank you for the gift of the resurrection and your boundless love. Guide us to practice and embrace vibrant stewardship with our hearts, minds, actions and resources. We trust your abundance.  Amen.