I really don’t have time for much personal reflection or posting these days, but since I’m contributing to my work blog right now, I thought I’d at least share what I wrote there. (You’re welcome to visit there, but since I prefer to keep my work and personal life separate, I’d prefer it if you’d leave your comments here instead.)

I remember the first time I met Steve Bell. He’d visited the Foodgrains Bank office as a guest of his old friend Stu Clark. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen Steve (I’d been to several of his concerts), but it was the first time I’d shaken his hand or sat around a table chatting with him.

My first impression of Steve was “he is a man of humility”. Although he’d gained success in the world of music, was well recognized across Canada and beyond, and had won JUNO awards for his music, he did not carry himself with the air of a “celebrity”. His down-to-earth style and easy sense of humour made it quickly evident why so many people are drawn to his stories and songs. I knew, almost from the very first moment I met him, that we would become friends.

My second impression of Steve was “he is a deep thinker and an eager learner”. In our first conversation, it was clear that Steve wanted to engage. His visit to the Foodgrains Bank was not simply to shake a few hands or exchange pleasantries. He wanted to learn. He asked lots of questions about things like “food security” and “food justice”. His heart had been touched by the many people in the world living with hunger, and he wanted to know how he could get involved.

Over the next two years, a relationship began to develop between Steve Bell and the Foodgrains Bank. Periodically, we would sit down over lunch or coffee, and each time we did, his questions would reflect his ongoing learning and his desire to gain a deeper understanding of the many root causes of hunger. During that time, Steve was generous with his music, sharing songs for a few multi-media presentations. Last June, he addressed the board of directors, sharing some of his thoughts on how the Foodgrains Bank could grow and engage more and more Canadians in the fight against hunger.

Yesterday, we sat down with Steve and his wife Nanci to plan the newest and most exciting venture in the ongoing relationship. (This was the first time I’d had a chance to meet Nanci, and let me just say I knew almost as soon as I met her, that we would quickly become friends too. Nanci has a comfortable smile that draws you in and makes you feel that you have found a safe place.)

In January, Steve and Nanci and myself (Heather Plett) will travel to Ethiopia to visit a few of the projects supported by the Foodgrains Bank. A camera crew will follow Steve as he meets with people, visits their farms and villages, and learns about their lives and the challenges of living with hunger. In addition, one of Steve’s songs will be recorded for the production of a music video.

It’s hard to describe how exciting this project is for me. For one thing, I fell in love with Africa the first time I visited 2 years ago and I look forward to sharing that with Steve and Nanci. For another thing, I think the development of the resulting videos will be an exciting venture both for the Foodgrains Bank and for Steve. The combination of music and video will create a powerful opportunity for communicating the stories of the people who live with the reality of hunger.

Beyond that, though, it is exciting to travel with people who have deep and thoughtful hearts – people who know how important it is in our walk with God that we not only share generously with those who are hungry, but we get involved in their lives. Jesus paints a powerful picture when he shares the bread at the Last Supper, and that vision of sharing food around a common table is an important part of the work that we do.

Ending hunger is about so much more than sharing food. It’s about building relationships and partnering with those who are hungry. It’s about grappling with the causes of hunger and learning about how we can help change some of those circumstances. It’s also about being willing to make sacrifices and changes in our own lives so that there will be more balance in a world that seems so horribly out of balance. Steve and Nanci are willing to take some risks, ask some thoughtful questions, and get involved. We could hardly ask for better ambassadors or partners in the journey.

To learn more about the projects we will visit in Ethiopia, click here and here. To learn more about Steve Bell, visit Signpost Music.

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