Some of our best discipleship and evangelism tools belong in the kitchen.
Stacy is the family pastry chef, so to speak. She whips up oatmeal cookies, an oddity in Ecuador, and churns out cinnamon bread and muffins. Recently, she’s been baking banana bread, also an unknown commodity down here. I find it puzzling, this lack of banana bread, considering that there are so many acres of banana trees down by the coast that we have local banana barons who greatly influence local economies and politics.
We own, as you can see in the photo, exactly two loaf pans; wedding presents, I believe, that have endured 21 years of use in three countries. I also possess an extensive coffee mug collection.
And with these objects, we disciple.
We invite folks over to drink coffee and eat banana bread. We discuss bad pastors and good Christians. Bibles are hauled out and positions debated. We drink more coffee. Alfredo and his son eat more than their fair share. We laugh. Stacy brings out more. They all head home, loaded with caffeine and bags of homemade cookies.
We visit homes around town, half-loaves in hand for each household. We give bread. We ask questions. We listen. We pray for the family, and leave with a lighter backpack. We ride the bus to the trolley, then the trolley to home.
Deaf girls from the school stop by on Thursday to nibble on cookies and sip hot tea. They pour out their news about angry fathers and absent mothers. A sister is pregnant and can’t remember the father. A brother is failing at school and will likely earn a beating.
Church leaders alternate between tea and coffee on Monday evenings. They ask about fasting as we chug hot beverages on cold nights. We ask them where they want the church to go in the coming months.
Two visitors joke about bringing some cuy (guinea pig) for a supper-time treat as a thank-you gift for all the cookies. Stacy laughs politely, and looks at me sideways in a silent plea for help. I snicker behind my coffee cup.
We work among a people highly resistant to the gospel message. They’ve been evangelized by Masons, Southern Baptists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, fundamentalists, atheists, and Catholics. They’re tired of it, I think, and are uninterested in folks who view them as a ready-made, divinely-ordained congregation. They’re done being someone else’s audience, objects of ministry instead of humans with empty stomachs and emptier hearts.
Coffee mugs and plates of banana bread do not engender sermons. Admonishments fizzle when given while passing the sugar. The relationships that spring into life during these times will outlast any formal lesson or teaching session.
Someone on this site recently invoked the “they don’t care how much you know till they know how much you care” cliche. As far as I’m concerned, around here I have no chance of sharing the gospel until I’ve shared my coffee.