I have been really upset over the shooting at the Westgate Mall in Kenya a few weeks ago. It’s not just the fact that there was more violence in our world – another senseless shooting leaving people dead because of violence.
Certainly these things affected me, but this was more personal because that mall has an important place in my heart.
I had my last meal in Kenya in the food court of that mall. It is one of the top five meals of my life, not because of the food but the deeper meaning of the meal. It was the final meal of my 10-day trip to Africa.
It was one of the first times I was able to slow down as group leader and begin to process what I had experienced. I was having the meal with my best friend, who had experienced all this with me. It had been 10 of the best days of my life.
When we got to the mall, we were told to break up into pairs and each pair was given a bit of money for the meal. My friend, Cole, and I got our cash and quickly realized that it was not going to be enough to buy two separate meals.
Instead, we would need to choose one meal and hope that it would be large enough for both of us. We could either have a snack or split an entrée. We decided to split something.
We found a little place that served fish and chips and ordered the platter. We sat down in the middle of the courtyard, a place that has been in the news frequently lately.
When our order arrived, there were two pieces of fish, some rice, a piece of banana bread and a bottle of water. It was not enough for us both, but somehow the meal for one was made into a meal for two.
It was a “loaves and fishes moment.” I am not sure if Jesus really multiplied the loaves and fishes or if people just learned to share and not be selfish that day. Part of me thinks that they learned to share and found, in sharing life, how abundant life can really become.
Cole and I shared more than fish and chips over lunch. We shared laughter, memories of the experience we had just had, and dreams of future mission and ministry together. It was Eucharist.
And that is what is haunting me right now as I see the pictures and images of that mall after this horrible act of violence.
If only we could get everyone to understand Eucharist. If we could learn to share in the way Jesus Christ called us to in the last meal. His bread, his blood given for us.
We are called to bring everything to the table for one another.
If we were living in a world where the church was demonstrating this and practicing this daily in our own lives, I have to believe that we would have fewer incidents like this one.
What bothers me about the mall shooting is that the violence took place in the same place I experienced salvation though sharing. If we could only learn to live out that lesson, the needless violence would surely, and finally, come to an end.
Griff Martin is co-pastor of University Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, La.