For those of us from the West, our knee-jerk reaction to hearing about this is to want to fix it. Amber and I feel that exact way. Surely there is something we can do. We've got money, contacts, influence, and most importantly, a strong belief that we can work to make life better, work to make the earth more like heaven. But the reasons the Ik are hungry now are complex. It's not just that the land didn't give them enough food. It's not a simple failure of the environment. No, it's the result of numerous factors working together. For example, the Ik have become dependent on free food distributions that have been going on every year since 1980 when the Red Cross helicoptered food in during a famine. Because of that dependency, they have forgotten how to budget the food they manage to acquire through farming, hunting, and gathering. They can't grow more food than they currently do because they don't have tractors or oxen. If they had oxen, the neighboring tribes would steal them and maybe kill someone in the process. They can't gather wild foods as far and wide as they used to because of the same threat of being shot by bandits. And they can't hunt and trap as much as they used to because they are no longer nomadic, so the wildlife is being decimated by overhunting.
Because of these and other factors, we feel that immediate food relief is not the best option right now, especially since people are not dying of hunger. Instead of widespread food relief, what we want to do now is simply coexist with our Ik neighbors, try to identify more with them, try to take their condition upon us so that we know how better to pray and to do acts of kindness on an individual, relational basis (rather than a large-scale tribal basis). To that end, we are going to do a Hunger Week, from June 1-8.
Hunger week will be a week during which we lower ourselves into a state of hunger, a state in which Ik people dwell in more often than not. Our plan is to eat one meal a day: dinner. And that dinner will consist of cooked maize-meal and beans of some sort. We will eat sufficient portions of that each evening. And we will allow ourselves meager snacks if we are to the point our health is in decline. But the idea is that we will experience that pervasive emptiness that comes with reduced eating. The hunger (ɲeƙ in Ik) the Ik experience is not that annoying yet exciting twinge we feel after our morning coffee or an hour before our lunch break, that feeling we quickly and habitually quell with calories. Rather, this hunger is just an emptiness. If you've ever fasted, you know what I mean. So for seven days we are going to eat one meal per day. Our goal is not to fast or to test our endurance or to assuage any guilt. Our goal is to identify with our neighbors so we can better understand them (better understand why they talk about hunger so much!) and better know how to pray for them.
We invite you to join us for Hunger Week. Don't feel you have to for our sake, but if it's something you feel led to do, you are welcome. We suggest you eat only one meal a day, and if you really want to be like the Ik, eat something like cornbread and beans for the single meal all week. See how you feel empty. See how your body gets weak and your mind gets clearer. See how much you think and dream about food. And then, at the end of the week, thank God you can go back to your abundance of food and breathe a prayer for those who can't. And be blessed in the process.