"Where He leads me, I will follow.
What they feed me, I will swallow."
That, my friends, is the motto of both full-time and volunteer missionaries who serve internationally. It HAS to be. You are going to encounter unfamiliar, unappetizing-looking, strange-tasting foods in every country. Of course, that could be true in the United States, as well, or anywhere that isn't your home territory.
During our kids' teenage years, Steve and I started going on volunteer mission trips to other countries. We spent weeks in Brazil, Guatemala, South Korea, Kenya, and Venezuela. Steve mixed concrete while I helped with puppet shows in orphanages and parks. We passed out tracts and went through villages inviting people to see the "Jesus" film that evening, we went with church members to visit prospects and help out with evening services, we did a lot of teaching and discipling which led to opportunities to share our testimonies.
In every country there were times when we ate with the locals and sampled unusual foods. In Brazil, we tried feijoada (black bean stew) and Brahma hump. In Guatemala, we had plantains and black beans for every meal, EVEN BREAKFAST! In South Korea, we sat on heated floors around low tables. Every person had their own bowl of rice and then passed around all the other dishes to go on top of the rice. There we tried wormwood tea and cow tongue soup. In Kenya, we ate lots of fish out of the Indian Ocean and sampled the very common dish called ugali (a kind of cornmeal mush sometimes with pieces of vegetables and rarely with pieces of meat).
I will confess that there were a few times when the announcement to "come to the table" was met with uneasiness about what we might find on the table.
Our kids grew up, went off to college, fell in love, got married, and started in their careers. In 2000, our first grandchild was born, and we were living in our dream house. Life was pretty much perfect. THAT, however, was when God showed us He wanted us to go to the mission field full time. Steve's veterinary experience was a valuable commodity on the field, and we learned of a need in Ecuador through the International Mission Board. We felt strongly that God wanted us to fill that need.
In January, we started jumping through the hoops of interviews and physical exams, and by June we knew we'd be moving forward. We sold his 30-year-old veterinary practice, our home, our vehicles, most of our furniture, and stored or gave away pretty much everything else. We were officially appointed in September, went to Richmond for 6 weeks of training in October and November, and on December 27, 2002, we landed in Guayaquil, Ecuador, spent the night, and started up the mountain to our new home in Cuenca -- elevation 8400 ft.
Three weeks after we arrived, I was served the Quichua specialty of guinea pig. Yes, you read that correctly. Over the next 4 years, I had it fried, roasted, in a soup, and piled on top of a mound of rice. In that case, I was served the head of the guinea pig, mouth open, terrified look on its face.
I could go on for days about our time in that beautiful country. If you want to know more, please get my book Telling It On The Mountain: 52 Days in the Life of an Improbable Missionary. One of the chapters is: "There's No Such Thing as a Guinea Pig Casserole."
I practically had to relearn how to cook -- high altitude, almost everything from scratch, labels on products I had to translate from Spanish to English, etc. etc. And then there were those unforgettable scenes around the markets.
But soon, I was doing a LOT of hosting. Fellow missionaries came to visit, volunteer teams from the States came to help, neighbors came mostly out of curiosity, Ecuadorian friends responded to our invitations, and three young Quichua men came every week for several months for a time of supper and training. I mention those young men in particular because they never once turned up their noses at anything I served them. In their world, food was for nourishment, not something you liked or disliked. Not only did they eat everything on their plate, but they also eagerly took home any leftovers.
There was also the time I attempted to make a recipe of cinnamon rolls that should have produced two dozen rolls, but because of the altitude factor, I was able to give cinnamon rolls to everyone living in our apartment building! But, I digress.
Mealtimes, as in previous blog posts, were times of sharing, laughter, encouragement, and telling of the goodness of God.
Here are 2 recipes I still enjoy using today from a little cookbook put together by Southern Baptist missionaries called "A Taste of Ecuador." One is extremely healthy. The other is . . . not. :)
MORNING GLORY MUFFINS
2 c. flour 1 c. chopped pecans
1 1/4 c. sugar 1 c. flaked coconut
2 t. baking soda 1 apple, peeled, cored and grated
2 t. cinnamon 3 eggs
1/2 t. salt 1 c. vegetable oil
2 c. grated carrots 2 t. vanilla extract
1 c. raisins
Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Prepare muffin cups with non-stick cooking spray. Sift flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt together in a large bowl. Stir in carrots, raisins, pecans, coconut, and apples. Beat eggs with oil in a separate bowl; add vanilla. Stir eggs into flour mixture just until blended. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full; bake 25 minutes or until springy to touch. Let muffins cool in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes. Turn muffins onto the rack and let cool completely. Makes about 24 large muffins.
1 box confectioner's sugar 1/2 c. cocoa
1/4 t. salt 1/4 c. milk
1 T. vanilla extract 1/2 c. butter
1 c. chopped nuts
IN 1 1/2 quart casserole stir sugar, cocoa, salt, milk, and vanilla together until partially blended (mixture will be stiff). Put butter over the top in the center of the dish. Microwave on high for 2 minutes, or until milk feels warm on bottom of the dish. Stir vigorously until smooth. If all butter has not melted in cooking, it will melt as mixture is stirred. Blend in nuts. Pour into a wax paper-lined 8" x 4" x 3" dish. Chill for 1 hour in refrigerator or 20-30 minutes in the freezer. Cut into squares. Makes about 36 squares.
Notice Jesus' instructions to the 72 people He sent out in pairs to spread the Good News about the Kingdom of God.
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.
5 “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ 6 If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. 7 Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.
8 “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. 9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’
Now do you understand the missionary motto I put at the beginning of this post?