Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Getting out of your comfort zone (4)

It’s so great remembering those early years in Swaziland, that I’ll remain with this topic once again. There’s an old missionary’s prayer: Lord, I’ll eat the food if You’ll keep it down! Shortly after I came to Swaziland I went on home visitation. The Swazis absolutely love sour porridge (porridge made of maize meal and then made sour, usually by soaking the meal in tartaric acid overnight before cooking it). On that specific day I was introduced to sour porridge, but this porridge was made sour by cooking it with rhubarb! O boy! It stayed in. But up to this day I can still not say that I like sour porridge.
One year we had another Easter conference. When we arrived, the smell of a slaughtered ox hung heavily in the air. The congregation members had bought an ox , slaughtered it and for the entire weekend we ate this meat. All in all it wasn’t bad. But for the first night they decided to cook, what is for them the best part of the cow – the intestines, including the stomach! Perhaps it would not have been so bad if we hadn’t seen how this was being prepared. A wheelbarrow with water stood close by the huge pot in which the meat would be cooked. The intestines were cut with a knife into smaller pieces and most of the digested food was then thrown onto the grass. A piece of the meat was then dragged (not washed) through the water and thrown into the pot. As the process continued, the water turned greener and so did our faces! The Swazis couldn’t have enough of this food. Fortunately, by that time, we had built a very good trusting relationship with our church members and nobody forced us to have this meat. Someone made sandwiches and coffee so that we could eat dinner. For the rest of the weekend they teased us because we wouldn’t eat the intestines with them. This was really being taken out of our comfort zone.
On another occasion we had an evangelism outreach about 160 kilometres from our home. When we stopped, the smell of rotten meat hung in the air. They had slaughtered a goat but didn’t have a fridge to store the food – in one of the hottest areas in Swaziland. One of the women asked my wife to join them in the kitchen to help in preparing the food. She looked around to see what she could use to save the situation and found a pack of curry powder. One pot was curried (heavily) in the hope of killing any germs and she made sure that I had a plate of the curried meat. The smell couldn’t be disguised, but at least, all that I could taste was the curry!
These two weekends were both good learning experiences for us – taking us out of our comfort zone. Perhaps the most important thing that we learnt was that these people do accept that others may not have the same taste as they. They had noticed our attitudes before and realised that we had no problem to eat with them or to eat the food which they had prepared. It was about our taste buds and not about them. In all fairness, 95% (or more) of the times that we eat with them, the food is excellent. Therefore, when we declined to eat of the intestines, they laughed and teased us, but there was no ill feeling towards us.
I have to tell the end of the story. On the last day, shortly before we left, the men made a fire and on a make-shift barbeque they roasted the absolute best part of the cow: the ears and the brain! My son, who was then just a few years old, ate with them (these parts are kept solely to be ate by males) and then, quickly saying the missionary’s prayer, I also had some and received spontaneous applause for my courage. And then someone passed by with the uncooked tongue and the tail. When we enquired what they were going to do with this, they told us that they were going to throw it away, because nobody liked this. Then it was our chance to laugh and tease them, because we just love tongue and ox-tail. They gave it to us as a gift to take home – glad to get rid of it and we only too happy to oblige!


Tuesday, July 10, 2007 - Posted by | Comfort Zone, Mission, Theology

1 Comment »

  1. Oh my goodness! These stories are great. I cannot imagine having to watch them eat the intestines! Oy! This really does speak of having spent time building trust with them so when something happens you truly cannot abide, they can offer you grace! 😀

    These articles are wonderful. Perhaps because I was raised in the military and we experienced different cultures, I’m not shocked by what other people do in other countries, from customs to the way they eat. What an amazing experience for you and your family to have. It can only expand one’s mind and heart.

    Comment by Maya | Wednesday, July 11, 2007 | Reply

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