One of the things I won’t miss as I retire from taking teams across the globe are the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. For the last 25 years, you could count on two things when you went on mission trips with me. The first was that we would share our faith and talk about Jesus. The second thing you could count on is that every day, we would have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with chips and cookies for lunch.
If you took all the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I have eaten in the last 25 years and stacked them on top of each other, you would be lacking oxygen as you neared the top. May I share something with you? I am tired of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. After the first few years, I thought to myself, “I need to mix this thing up a little bit.” So I invented the “Missionary Sandwich.” I will give you the recipe.
First, you take two slices of bread. You spread out a nice thick layer of either creamy or chunky peanut butter on one of the slices (I prefer the chunky). You then take your little bag of potato chips, place it between the palms of your hands and massage the bag gently until the chips are crumbled into tiny pieces. If you press too hard, the bag will explode, and the potato chips will scatter to the wind. My favorite chips are barbecue, but you can use lemon-lime and picante or bacon-flavored. Actually, any flavor, even regular salted, will do.
Next, you take the contents of the bag and sprinkle it evenly over the slice of bread, embedding the chips in the peanut butter. That way, the chips don’t fall out when you are trying to eat your sandwich. Next, you take two cream-filled cookies. (Again, mix up the flavors and styles of cookies. Try vanilla, chocolate, lemon or mint filling, my favorite.) Separate the tops of the cookies from the bottoms and slide the cream filling evenly onto both halves.
Now, position the cookie halves, cream side down, pushing the cream onto the potato chips. This also helps keep the chips from falling out. On the other slice of bread, spread your jelly. Since I am not a big fan of jelly, I skip this step and add an extra layer of peanut butter or, on special occasions, Nutella. Place the two halves together, and you have yourself a missionary sandwich.
I am not sure my math is correct, but with all the different jellies, cookies and chips in the world, I believe you can make 42,893 different types of sandwiches with these few simple ingredients.
I shouldn’t complain about peanut butter and jelly. I wonder if the Israelites felt the same way after eating manna for 40 years. I bet they got a little creative too!
Probably after the first year, someone started producing cookbooks on “101 Ways to Spice up your Manna” or the all-time best-seller, “52 Way to use Leftover Manna.” I wonder if some of the older Israelites sat around in the Promised Land talking about how they missed the good old days when they only had manna on the table and how the younger generation was spoiled with all this milk and honey.
I do feel somewhat guilty complaining about eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches when I had more nutrition in my one sandwich than many of the people I was serving had for the entire week. Not long ago, I came across this quote about world hunger: “There is more fruit in a rich man’s shampoo than in a poor man’s plate.”
The Bible talks a lot about those who are hungry. Seeing someone in need is an opportunity for ministry: “John answered, ‘Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same’” (Luke 3:11).
But the Bible also tells us that hunger is good if we hunger for the right things: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matt. 5:8).
To followers of Jesus, hunger allows us two things. First, it allows us to be Jesus to someone in need. And when we are the ones in need, it allows Jesus to fill us. Whether our hunger is physical or spiritual, we all have a need to be filled.
As I was leaving Hungary, I asked our Hungarian interpreter Elissa Bella if she would she like the leftover jars of peanut butter and jelly from this summer. She was excited to receive them. And with great joy, I gave her my last jars of manna, I mean peanut butter and jelly.
On to the promised land!