The hot breeze swirled dust particles around me as I gathered sticks for a fire. I wished I could blame the tears filling my eyes on the stinging dirt flung into them. I didn't want to exhibit weakness, but I could not hide it any longer. The long drought in our country was evidenced by the parched, cracked ground that I walked on. Even the wood seemed to be baked, dry and brittle to the touch. As I bent to gather the few sticks I would need to cook our last meal, a tear plopped off of my nose onto the ground. It made a single wet spot in the entire dry wasteland, and swiftly dried in the beaming sun. The land around me used to be so fertile, producing plenteous harvests. Now, children cried from the hunger that gripped their bellies. Neighbors fought as the tension rose. How would they survive?
"Madam," a voice called.
I turned to see a bearded stranger, dressed in tattered clothes. I couldn't help but notice that he looked weary and hot.
"Yes?" I said, bracing myself to hurry away if he seemed threatening. His accent was unfamiliar, but his eyes only looked tired, not predatory.
"Fetch me some water, please," he requested.
I turned to go fulfill this common courtesy, but his voice halted me in my tracks.
"Please, can you also bring me some bread?" he asked. At this, the strain of the last few days boiled over.
"Sir, I am a widow. I barely survive when things are going well. Now, I am destitute. I am preparing to use my last particles of meal and last drops of oil to fix a meal for my son and I before we die. Surely you wouldn't ask for the last bites of a widow and a child." The tears were pricking my eyes again, but I was too exhausted to let them fall.
"Madam, the Lord God of Israel has sent me to you. Feed me first, and your meal and oil will not run out until it rains again," the man proclaimed with assurance.
I shrugged and shuffled toward home. How could I resist the Lord? But what if this man wasn't of God? What if he simply knew how to sound official? I waffled in my mind as I neared our small hut. As hungry as we were now, one less meal wouldn't make much difference. And what if he was really a man of God? Maybe this was the miracle I had been hoping for!
I ducked through the doorway of our hut and looked around. My son lay listlessly on his mat in the corner. He had stopped playing outside, spending more time at home. He did not have the energy to be a boy anymore. My heart broke at the sight of his scrawny white face. He has lost so much weight in the past months.
I turned away and began making the bread, still struggling with the decision I had been asked to make. Did I trust that God had sent this man as His way to take care of us, or were we being robbed of our last joy in life? Was God really a merciful God, or a stern tyrant who had turned His back on our nation and our people? My tears fell hard now. My son was dying before my eyes. How could I think of giving away his last mouthful of food? And yet, how could I not?
As the bread finished baking, I dipped water into a jug for the man. I pulled the bread from the fire as the doorway was filled by a dark shape. The man had followed me to our humble home, making my decision for me. Courtesy said that as a guest in my home, I had to feed him. I thrust the food at him and turned away. Maybe there were just a few grains of meal in the bottom of my barrel that I could scrape up for my son. I couldn't just sit and let him die.
I peered into the barrel and gasped. In the bottom, there was still the same amount of meal that I had seen there earlier. Immediately, I recalled the man's words. "Your meal and oil will not run out..."
"Sir, what is your name?" I asked, my tone sharp in surprise.
"I am Elijah, servant of the most High God," he replied. God had indeed provided.
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