Skip to content Skip to cookie consent

Bible studies

Yellow mealie meal

The relationship between lament and praise

Written by Barnabé Anzuruni Msabah 2023

Silver plates in Burundi hold yellow maize kernels and yellow maize flour

Maize kernels and flour in Burundi. Photo: Tom Price/Tearfund

Three smiling Guatemalan women, one heavily pregnant, hold bowls of food in a kitchen with wooden walls.

From: Food and nutrition – Footsteps 119

How to eat well, address malnutrition and reduce food waste

Read Psalm 42

Condry Ziqubu’s song Yellow Mealie Meal was written to remind people how God saved them from starvation and malnutrition when, in the 1980s, yellow maize flour became the staple food for many households across southern Africa. The flour was introduced by governments due to severe droughts and food shortages in the region.

In the song, Condry is heard lamenting, ‘Children are crying, there is no rain,’ then he concludes by calling everyone to pray together: 

Come on everybody let’s get together…
Let’s be down on our knees
We need you Lord, we need you right now
Save the world, save your people!

For nearly five years, yellow mealie meal was one of my staple foods when I lived in a refugee camp in Tanzania. Other foods were soy flour, split peas and sunflower cooking oil. Interestingly, together with a bar of soap we were given, they were all yellow! 

We often lamented and cried out for deliverance from hunger and the monotony of these rations. Eventually, God answered our prayers and the situation improved.

Lament and praise

In the Bible, lament is a common language of praise during suffering.

In Psalm 42:3 the writer cries out, ‘My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”’ Then, after an outpouring of grief, the psalmist concludes: ‘I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God’ (Psalm 42:11).

In the refugee camp, in many ways tears were our ‘daily bread’, and people ridiculed us for holding on to our Christian faith. But lament became for us an act of worship in which we could offer to God our brokenness and our pain.

The Bible teaches us that it is never wrong to cry out to God. God hears us in our distress and welcomes us close: ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11:28).

Create space for God and for ourselves

Reflect

  • What does the writer of Psalm 42 mean by ‘My tears have been my food day and night’?
  • Have there been times when you have felt like this?
  • How does your relationship with God help you when life is difficult?

Written by

Written by  Barnabé Anzuruni Msabah

Based in Kenya, Barnabé Anzuruni Msabah is Tearfund’s Theology and Network Engagement Coordinator for East, Central and Southern Africa.

Share this resource

If you found this resource useful, please share it with others so they can benefit too.

Sign up now to get Footsteps magazine

A free digital and print magazine for community development workers. Covering a diverse range of topics, it is published three times a year.

Sign up now

Cookie preferences

Your privacy and peace of mind are important to us. We are committed to keeping your data safe. We only collect data from people for specific purposes and once that purpose has finished, we won’t hold on to the data.

For further information, including a full list of individual cookies, please see our privacy policy.

  • These cookies are necessary for the website to function and cannot be switched off in our systems.

  • These cookies allow us to measure and improve the performance of our site. All information these cookies collect is anonymous.

  • These allow for a more personalised experience. For example, they can remember the region you are in, as well as your accessibility settings.

  • These cookies help us to make our adverts personalised to you and allow us to measure the effectiveness of our campaigns.