Jan Johnson

Wisbit - February 2016

Three Buck Day

In a class I teach at HIU, Reading for Spiritual Formation, my students do exercises each week to experience the ideas they read about in the Devotional Classics of literature. During the week we study and reflect on the compassionate life, they do A Three Buck Day. The assignment reads

201602wisbitpicPractice this exercise for a full day this week: Instead of eating an American diet ($7/day), eat as most of the world eats ($3/day). Many eat for less. (A proposed plan will be offered by email.) As you do so, pray for that people around the world, especially children, will have enough to eat to provide energy for the work they do, especially manual labor. At the end of the day, thank God that the Spirit empowers us to minister to others.

The students report in a one page journal what they ate and prayed for during Three Buck Day. They reflect on how they related to God in the midst of this. Their grade is not affected by how well the exercise went. I remind them that we learn so much from so-called failure.

A lot of students eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Less coffee is consumed. Breakfast may be a banana. Dinner is often rice and beans (which is what two-thirds of the world eats). Most go to bed hungry. Now and then a student consumes most of their $3.00 for breakfast and has to be very creative for the rest of the day.

Most students put their energy into praying for the hungry persons of the world. Typical responses include:

    This reality made me think about those around the world who eat on less money and often face a greater struggle in getting food and preparing meals. It made me feel blessed, but also stirred in me a sense of responsibility. As the day went on I spent time at various junctures praying for the people of the world who are hungry, especially the children. I asked God to open the paths that often get blocked in food distribution and I sensed throughout the day that God wants me to do more than what I am already doing.

I thought of this exercise because I spoke in South Korea last month. My event planner, Brian Kang, took me to the DMZ (demilitarized zone) between North and South Korea. There we prayed for the people of North Korea, who pull all their farming equipment themselves because they have no farm animals or tractors. North Korea is like Haiti in that there are no trees because the wood is used to heat homes. (It was below zero while I was there.) One of my Korean students spoke of doing charitable work in North Korea where she discovered another reason North Korea has almost no trees. The country people are so hungry that they eat the bark off the trees, which kills the trees and damages their own bodies.

Why do I make the Three Buck Day assignment? Why did I want to see Korea’s DMZ? Jesus said this is the world that God so loves (John 3:16). Love involves action: doing what is best for others. We are God’s hands and feet of love on this planet and we get to partner with God in loving this much-loved world. It begins with awareness so I try to make my white, middle-class self more aware. That awareness usually moves us to action—Spirit-led, if we’re wise. We venture more deeply into what breaks God’s heart.

    Grace and peace,
    Jan Johnson



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