How a coffee table helped one missionary transition to a new culture
Our neighbours came and asked for our coffee table.
Not a spare, unused coffee table sitting in a corner somewhere, but our only coffee table, covered with the kids’ drinks and snacks as they watched a movie and with books and magazines on the shelf below.
Our neighbors said that they had guests coming and they didn’t have a table so they needed ours. Logical right? Not to my western cultural mindset still trying to adjust to living in Central Asia!
Back home, I might ask my neighbor for an egg or cup of sugar IF I knew them really well and IF I couldn’t get to a shop in time. But to ask for furniture that they are obviously using? Definitely not!
Here in Central Asia, the guests are of the ultimate importance. Huge time and effort is put into preparing and serving the guests. And why? Because one’s honor is at stake. Not treating a guest properly would be shameful. A sign of how good a host you are is how much food is placed on the table for your guest and how much food is left over at the end of the meal.
It makes my reading of the story in Luke 11 so much more meaningful. I don’t doubt that if our neighbors’ guests had arrived unexpectedly at midnight and all the shops were closed and they had no bread, that they would have come to knock at our door and they would not have given up until we had answered them and given them bread for their guests.
So what did we do when our neighbors asked for our coffee table? We cleared it of all the drinks and snacks and books and magazines, and carried it to their house for them! After all, their honor was at stake, butmore than that, an opportunity to deepen our friendship with them was at stake, as well.