Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Leaves In Your Mouth

by Brandon Abbott

I remember as a fifth grader traveling to Montgomery, Alabama for the annual Royal Ambassador conference. Well, I say I remember it. I remember a van ride, a trip to Shoney’s breakfast bar, and taking a picture by a large rock.  (We didn't get out much).

One other thing I remember about the conference is meeting a missionary.  She was serving in some country, the name of which apparently got trumped in my memory by the trip to Shoney's.  She was dressed in authentic native clothing from that area, and she also had this ornamental  jar with a lid and a metal straw.

“Would you like to taste?” she asked.  You have to understand that outside of pizza and cheeseburgers, my diet was limited to Coke and oxygen. So I was understandably skeptical.

“What is it?”

“It’s tea from [insert country name here]. It’s green, but it’s good. You just have to drink it through this special straw so you don’t get any of the leaves in your mouth.”

The phrase “leaves in your mouth” left me with absolute certainty that I would in no way be tasting the tea from the country we speak not of.  But as passionate as I was about my diet, I was even more passionate about pleasing others, especially those kind men who drove four hours in a church van with a group of unruly eleven year olds.

“Come on, Brandon. It won't hurt you,” they encouraged me.  Eventually I relented and sipped the tea.  It was bitter, and strong. And the special straw failed, because I ended up with a slimy leaf snaking across my tongue.  I was mortified. I choked and spit in a very dramatic display of disgust.  To top it off, I ended up with a massive headache and laying down in the back of the van all the way home.

Since that day, I think I built a kind of wall in my mind between missionaries and the rest of us.  I mean, on one hand you have normal people, and on the other hand you have oddly dressed purveyors of poison leaf juice waiting to infect unsuspecting Royal Ambassadors. 

This week, the wall came down.

First things first . . . I have not been offered, nor have I consumed any kind of tea.  Mostly just sparkling mineral water. (It’s a pretty big deal out here in Oberwiesenthal, Germany). And I have seen no one in any kind of authentic native garb.  What I have seen are real people. Parents with real children.  Normal, everyday Christians with real smiles, real tears, and real problems.

Like me, they deal with issues like where their kids go to school, what to make for dinner, and how to fit 25 hours into a 24 hour day.  What’s different is that they happen to deal with these issues in a foreign country among people who are ignorant, indifferent, and even hostile to their God and his mission for them.

As we have worshipped and prayed together this week, I have watched these people, many of whom are lonely and tired and misunderstood, as they thanked God for how He had blessed them.  I watched people who experienced cancer, theft, danger, and isolation, praise God for his healing and provision, his protection and constant presence.

I have listened to them sing as they raised their hands, closed their eyes, and poured out to Heaven . . .

Never once did we ever walk alone.
Never once did you leave us on our own.
You are faithful, Lord you are faithful.

This week, I came to serve missionaries.  And in the process, a wall came down.  I no longer saw these people as strangers in strange clothes dispensing strange beverages. I saw them as people just like me.  I saw people serving God by living out the great commission, no matter the cost.  Then I looked in the mirror and realized that this week, I was their mission field.  Though I came to serve the missionaries, they have served me. 


Wendy Davenport said...

Thanks Brandon, I needed to hear that before I left for Brazil. It touched my heart.

b-dod said...

Nice post Brandon. Better message. I am glad you're representing us in service there.

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