Trust in the Lord with All Thine Heart.
Sister Anna lay on her cot as long as she could. The children must not be wakened. Any slight movement from her could raise their hopes and make it doubly hard for them to wait.
They were waiting on the Lord. He was their only resource now. Every grain of rice, every ounce of cornmeal or flour, even every weevil had been cooked and eaten with thanks. The last had gone the day before yesterday. Yesterday, they had filled their bellies with water and chewed the stems of the grass. The Padre that carried food to the orphanage was two weeks late. He had sent no word.
But at last, the youngest of the children began to cry. They tapped her door and whimpered of their hunger. Sister Anna searched her tiny cubicle for the tenth time. There was not so much as an ant.
She dressed and opened her door. The children had assembled in the hall. The little ones sat on the older ones’ laps, their large eyes full of trust.
“We must pray, my dear ones. Only God knows that we are hungry and have no food. Perhaps He will send manna or a flock of tasty quail for us. But He will send something if we ask.”
The children shifted to their knees and joined hands with each other. Who had taught them to do that? Their dark heads bowed, waiting for her to speak. Anna searched through the memorized prayers she knew. There were none that were right. She prayed from her heart. “Dear Father, we are hungry. The Padre has forgotten us, or he is sick or injured. Please send food before the sun goes down today. We had nothing yesterday. We ask this in the name of the Son, Jesus Christ, amen.”
The children chorused ‘amen.’ The oldest orphan child, Marie, stood up. Hermanos e hermanas, come! We must boil the water so that when the food comes, we are prepared to cook it! Jose’ you build the fires up. Miguel, take some boys to the spout and bring lots of water. Pedro, take Hermana Anna’s butterfly nets and her small rifle and take the little ones to the upper field to catch something to make soup. And all of you take off your dirty clothes so we can wash them. Put on your oldest things so that our best will be clean in time for dinner.”
The children obeyed Marie without question. When they had dispersed to their various assignments, Marie turned to Sister Anna. “Come Sister. We will clean the bedroom and wash the clothes so that when the Lord sends the food to us, we will be clean and ready to receive it.”
“Yes, Marie,” Sister Anna said. But in her heart she thought that it would be nice to be buried in clean clothes. And it would be a shame to leave the orphanage dirty, even if they all starved.
Some of the hunger-weakened children fell asleep in the meadow, but an old farmer passed through the village and saw the older ones hunting. He took the rifle from the children and told his dog to find the rabbits. The dog knew the ways of rabbits and the farmer knew the ways of rifles. By the time the sun was at its zenith, the hunters brought three young rabbits to the orphanage kettles.
A young woman from a village lower down the mountain came to visit her sister. She carried twenty pounds of dry beans strapped to her back. When she got to the orphanage on the edge of town, she called Sister Anna to come out. “Sister, I found that bugs got into my beans and I was about to throw them into the garden. My little girl told me that I should bring them to the hungry children here. I’m sorry to offer you beans that are full of bugs, but you may throw them into your garden if you don’t want them.
Marie overheard and answered the woman. “We already have the water boiling for them. Give them to me and I will wash them before I put them in. We will thank God many times for them.”
The beans and the rabbit meat boiled in the caldrons when the clothing on the line was dry and Sister Anna called the children to put on their clothes. The miracle supper would be ready in an hour. They would not starve that day.
She was interrupted by the rumble and rattle of an old truck. The hungry children roused themselves and gushed from the building in a tide with Sister Anna. The Padre examined the bubbling cauldrons in front of the house.
“Padre, you came!” Sister Anna cried.
The children carried the bags of rice and beans and flour and bushels of carrots and potatoes into the kitchen. A ten-year-old named Sylvia opened a bag of rice and measured four cups each into the caldrons.
The Padre stood close enough to Sister Anna to explain. “I had no money for gasoline after I picked up the foodstuffs. Old Miguel, who usually donates the money for it, is dying. I didn’t know what to do. So I prayed to God using a prayer I made up and I heard an answer in my heart that if I would start up the mountain to you, He would carry me safely. I left town with the yellow fuel light already warning me. I drove all thirty five miles up the steep road with the fuel light on.
“It’s much less expensive to run a truck on faith!” The Padre laughed.
“Yes, as you see, we knew you were coming. Or we knew that someone would come, so we boiled water to be ready when the food arrived. Today our bellies ran on faith, too. We had nothing yesterday, but today we started with prayer and tonight we will feast.
“Come and wash and make ready to receive the Lord’s feast!”