I can still taste the lovely salty flavor as I write: I had eggs and pastrami for breakfast today, or baed wa basterma بيض و بسطرمة in Arabic. It proved to be a trigger for me to begin calling those I love, so I started with my sister-in-law in Egypt. I munched on my meal while catching up with her news.
Food has a way of taking us places.
The America I grew up in, in relation to food, was nothing like the one I live in today. I don’t remember any “ethnic” restaurants growing up or such foods in the grocery. I can still remember how amazing it was when my Training Union teacher on Sunday evening at church brought “foods from the Bible” for us to taste. They were exotic things like figs, dates and nuts.
Now I can pick up some wonderful Egyptian pastrami at my “local” Arabic food store! Life has changed.
What does food have to do with life on mission?
I could easily say EVERYTHING! However, I’ll try to be more precise, as I think about my own mission story.
As much as we would like to think that you can eat any kind of food in America, and food around the world is the same, that’s just not true. One of the first things a person, who commits to serving among another people group, must realize is that they will have to eat different kinds of food. Yes, that even goes for those serving in England!
Being willing to try new foods is a mark of a committed Christian.
They don’t tell you that in books, but I think it’s true. Food is the universal language of love, and just like we commit to learning another language in reaching the nations, we must commit to eating the food shared.
Just as you may be surprised, years later, that you can actually speak that complicated language, you will also be surprised that you crave that wonderful dish you first turned your nose up to at the beginning of your service.
I have several dishes that were hard to eat. In West Africa, it was bush rat and snails. In Lebanon, it was kibbe naiya (raw ground lamb with spices). Yet, with few exceptions, I ate pretty much everything offered over the years.
Food can serve as a trigger for our prayers.
Now, when I see plantains in the grocery or fix groundnut stew for my boys, my mind not only goes back to those I loved in West Africa, but I’m able to pray for them too. I can’t tell you how many Facebook posts have been of a dish I’ve made from a country where I’ve lived and is followed by a prayer for that land and her people.
We get to know others through their food.
Food relaxes people. Eating allows walls to come down and conversation to flow. Sharing a meal with others teaches us, not only what they enjoy eating, but gives us opportunities to ask questions. When I seek to understand how a certain dish is prepared or what spices are used, I am no longer the person with all the answers. I’m purposefully showing that I’m on the same level as the person with whom I’m eating.
Food opens doors for the gospel.
Jesus did some of his greatest preaching in the presence of food. Think, the Sermon on the Mount, the visit to Simon’s house, the Passover in the Upper Room, cooking fish by the sea.
No matter what we eat, we have an opportunity to share about the One who called himself “The Bread of Life.”
What food are you craving today? What food are you trying for the sake of the gospel? We serve a God of the details. Don’t neglect the importance of a cup of cold water when he’s involved.
Grace and Peace