“As it is written: ‘What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived’— the things God has prepared for those who love him—” (1 Corinthians 2:9 NIV).
As long as I remember, I hated to cook.
My mother, burned by hot coffee as an infant and wearing lifelong scars, did not allow children near the kitchen stove. By the time my sister and I reached an age Mom felt comfortable with our assistance, my interest was nonexistent and my sister’s limited. Therefore, Mom continued cooking, and the two of us cleaned. As a result, my poor husband lost weight when we first married. Eventually we mastered sufficient recipes for survival. Most proved edible.
However, once I tasted the opportunities in international ministry, my enthusiasm soared.
Whether local outreach, chaperoning youth mission trips, or participating in international church partnerships, I knew I had found God’s purpose for my life. I pictured myself devoting increasing amounts of time to those endeavors. All other activities revolved around mission trips, and we routinely set money aside for that purpose.
Yet, just when my schedule allowed expanded international work, life circumstances suddenly halted that plan completely. I’m unsure if or when such work can resume.
Less than a year before, a friend asked if we would consider keeping an international university student during Christmas break. My greatest concern — you guessed it — that’s a lot of cooking. Other potential worries such as having a perfect stranger in our house, struggling with language barriers, or losing our privacy paled in comparison.
God definitely has a sense of humor and knows us so much better than we know ourselves. We loved those six weeks. Some of our best times revolved around grocery shopping, planning menus, and teaching her to cook. Wonders never cease.
She began inviting a few of her friends for meals, and the guest list kept expanding. Through trial and error, we discovered several recipes they preferred. They enjoyed having a home away from home and participating in our daily routine, including kitchen cleanup — my old job. Perhaps they savored my culinary creations since their alternative was mass produced cafeteria meals and instant noodles. Nevertheless, our time together began to change my perspective.
Increasingly I looked forward to cooking for those young people who had captured our hearts and become a part of our family.
Imagine my surprise at the first recipe request!
Our guest list changes as students leave and new ones enroll. Numbers vary from one to forty. We maintain contact with several no longer here. A few have returned for visits.
Perhaps those international mission trips I saw as God’s plan for my future were, in reality, preparation for our ultimate purpose. Whatever the future holds, I keep on cooking, loving, and praying for them all.
Increasingly I realize that God sees our world as one great community that hungers for eternal food. Christ compels us, as his followers, to break down the walls that separate us. Therefore, let’s keep our eyes wide open for opportunities to feed our neighbors wherever they live and whatever the circumstances.
Recipe for International Ministry
1 cup of time
1 cup of flexibility
1 cup of friendship
2 cups of respect
1 heaping cup of fun
A dash of humor
Assorted spices as desired
1/2 teaspoon of second language skills (optional)
2 cups of faith
2 cups of love
Combine time, flexibility, and friendship.
Blend well with respect.
Stir in fun and humor.
Flavor with spices to match guests’ tastes and customs.
Add second language skills, if available. (Additional humor may be required.)
Coat everything with faith and love.
This generously serves a growing family. Multiply as needed.