How Central Asian culture is teaching me more about God
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;” Psalm 23:5
Preparing a table for guests is a big deal here in Central Asia. Even if your guests are only coming for a morning tea, the table needs to be piled with nuts, fruit, bread, salad, chocolates, meat, etc. To show love and respect for your guests, one needs to fill the table so that one can hardly see the tablecloth underneath.
Last week, we were studying Psalm 23 in the local language with our teacher. When we came to the verse that says “he prepares a table before me” the language was the word used for a table piled with everything “Central Asian style." That’s how much God loves us! He doesn’t just prepare the table with a knife and fork and napkin; He piles it with good food and lavishes us with His love and blessing!
‘Jesus said to them,” I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger,”’John 6:35
In Central Asia, bread is very important. It is a big round flat loaf baked in a clay oven. One breaks it into pieces to eat. Bread is eaten at every meal. As we look at our Western style cellophane-wrapped, sliced white loaves of bread, it’s hard to imagine Jesus breaking the bread at the last supper, but in this culture, the meal cannot begin until the host breaks the bread. Then, everyone can help themselves to the food.
Jesus said that He is the bread of life. Here in Central Asia, bread brings life. It is cherished, and it cannot be turned upside down or be thrown away in the trash. When you enter a Central Asian home, you will be given tea and bread, and it is very rude not to accept. Even if you are in a big hurry, you need to take a small piece of bread and touch it to your lips.
There is a Central Asian saying we have had to learn to say which goes: “I am not above the bread” i.e. I do not think of myself as more important than this bread, which gives me life.
I am so thankful to be living in Central Asia as this culture deepens my understanding of God and His word.