Saturday, December 16, 2017

And a Good Mondongo to you too!

Mondongo. Sounds like an African greeting, doesn’t it? It’s actually a Colombian delicacy—well, to some people it’s a delicacy. It’s tripe or cow’s stomach. If you’re Colombian and you want to impress your guests, you’ll prepare a dish of mondongo for them. It’s not my favourite meal but one of the many things you learn in overseas ministry is that you don’t ask questions, you simply eat what is put before you.

Mondongo is pretty tame compared to some of the exotic goodies that missionaries have eaten in their efforts to identify with the culture they are in, and to not give offense to their hosts or hostesses. However, oftentimes it’s not what you eat that is impressive, but the story behind the meal that makes life interesting.

We had just finished a week of kids’ clubs in a remote mountain area of Colombia and were resting up for our trip back to Medellín. The people of the area were poor as poor can be. We had brought food with us, and extra money to purchase what we needed, so that we wouldn’t be a burden on the people we stayed with. We shared what we had brought with the families with whom we boarded.

But on this last day, our hostess wanted to treat us as an expression of thanks for the work we had done. She had three hens that she kept in the back patio. From these, she harvested eggs to feed her family. When I found out that she was planning on sacrificing one of her hens to make arroz con pollo (chicken with rice) for us, I protested. She assured me that it was fine; this particular hen had stopped laying anyway.

But when she killed the hen, cleaned it and began to cut it up, she discovered that it had eggs developing inside it. Double disaster. A layer dead, and a non-layer still alive. We felt really badly about the situation but we ate with gusto even though that gusto was tinged with regret. For us that arroz con pollo was appreciated more than the finest cuisine from the finest restaurant. It had cost our hostess a great deal.

On another occasion my brother was visiting from Canada. We took a trip up into the mountains to show him the sights. On our way back down to Medellín we stopped at a roadside butcher shop. It was something I had never done before—Medellín did have grocery stores. But the couple we were with had found a cheaper and more convenient way to buy their fresh meat.

It was a rough establishment, open to the air and exposed to the dust of the road. However, even though the meat was hanging from the rafters, there was not a fly in sight. At first, that seemed like a good thing, but then I got to thinking—that meat should have attracted every bug in the neighbourhood and yet there was not a single fly, or any other insect, around.

I wondered why.

Could it be that the butcher had sprayed that meat with some kind of insecticide to make it unappetizing to flies? I knew that there were no regulations in Colombia (at that time) against the use of every conceivable pest-control poison that one could imagine. No environmentally sound, people-friendly bug killer.

I also knew that cooking doesn’t kill everything.

I was glad my friends didn’t invite us for supper. If they had I wouldn’t have hesitated to graciously turn down the invitation. I could get away with that with my missionary colleagues, but if that meat had been offered to me by Colombians who had prepared their best for me, I would have committed my soul to God and eaten with gusto.

Hypocritical?

I don’t think so. To avoid offending a weaker believer or slamming the door of opportunity in the face of an unbeliever, Paul did what needed to be done. In 1 Corinthians 9:22, 23 (NIV), the apostle writes: I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

I wasn’t always as noble as Paul. There were times when I turned down the best someone offered in my honour as a guest. Of that I am not proud. I eventually learned the lesson and drank Kool-aid made with water from a filthy creek (among other things). That’s why Pfizer invented Fasigyn® (and boy, did we need it!).

There are some things I wouldn’t do for anyone. These are the things that are of such an offense to God that running the risk of offending someone else by not doing them pales in comparison. However, there are also lots of negotiables that we often pretend are non-negotiables that we must be willing to put aside so that we can be of eternal influence in someone’s life.

Perhaps it will take courage to step beyond our prejudices and our own personal preferences. Stepping out of our comfort zone is never easy. But for the sake of the gospel it becomes essential.

Just consider how far Jesus stepped to bring that gospel to us.

 

**That’s really a picture of Lynda above.  Recognize her?  🙂

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Lynda is a missionary, speaker, educator, writer, editor, and cat lover. She was born and raised in Timmins, the heart of gold mining country in northeastern Ontario, Canada. Lynda has served with Fellowship International for more than thirty years, first in Colombia, a brief stint on home staff in Toronto, Ontario and, more recently in Venezuela. She is currently on staff at First Baptist Church in Timmins, Ontario where her primary focus is spiritual formation. The author of Divine Design for Daily Living, a 365 day devotional journey through the entire Bible (published in Spanish and English),  Lynda blogs Lynda’s Grain of Sand, maintains her own website Northern Breezes , and has been seconded by Fellowship International to serve on the Communications team of The Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches in Canada.

 

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