Eating on short-term trips may be the most important thing you do.
Hear this loud and clear. Eating food in homes of people in your short-term target location may be the most important thing you do to show them love and to receive love from them.
Let me say it again in a different way. We can’t emphasize enough how important eating with local people is. Here’s the reason it’s important. It’s important because Jesus did it over and over in his ministry. We do what Jesus did, including eating food we may not like.
You’d be surprised at how many times Jesus ministers at the table. Do you think that Jesus turned his nose up at food that people sat in front of him? Can you picture Jesus doing that? Or do you picture Jesus graciously accepting food from humble servants in homes throughout Judea and Samaria?
Perhaps you will only have one or two opportunities to sit at someone’s table. Realize that local people anticipate this for months. They are usually scraping together money and food to prepare a meal for their first-ever international visitors. Typically, they want to please you. They are excited about their visitors. They will be extremely disappointed if they don’t get to talk with you, share food with you. They would be crushed if they thought you didn’t like their food.
You may not think you are doing something offensive by making a face, whispering to your friend, making eyes across the table, laughing loudly, but these are cues that anyone can pick up in any language! Imagine how you would feel if someone came to your house and you’d saved your Christmas and birthday money and allowances and spent it on food for a feast for a group of foreign exchange students.
What if these visitors came to your house, spoke no English to you, not even “thank you” at the end of the meal, broke out some cheese and crackers from their backpacks, and left all but a few bites on the table (and those bites were left in the napkins). So you might begin to imagine how it would feel to someone who sacrifices from their meager financial means to feed you and you bring your own peanut butter and crackers, barely touch what they offer, or turn up your nose.
What if you could sit with Jesus at the table and learn from him how to act when you sit at the tables in homes of people in your target mission location?
Later in the week, I’ll post more about Jesus’ table ministry related to short-term trips.