Two weeks ago, the leader of our village marked out an area for me to garden, and so on the following Sunday afternoon, I went out to prepare the ground. Within only a few minutes I had a few helping hands, and amongst them were three young ladies, about my age. It was a great opportunity to spend some time with them and to start building relationship with them.
So how is a friendship started and encouraged in this culture? One of the main ways to build a relationship with someone and to let them know that you like them is by giving and receiving gifts… but I had nothing to give these young ladies at this time. So, the next morning I decided that I’d make some traditional South African pumpkin fritters to give them.
As I was walking towards my friend’s house, a few more faces “popped up” out of the blue to see what I am up to. As I came to my friends house, I gave her and the curious followers some pumpkin fritters (it is culturally appropriate for me to share some of the pumpkin fritters with them too, and it helps us to keep a blameless reputation of impartiality). After the visit to her home, I had to go back to my house to replenish my pumpkin fritter stock before moving on to the next friend’s home… only to have the same event happen again. Deja vu. I ran out of stock yet again, and as I was walking back home, more people tagged along to try these remaining pumpkin fritters.
In the following few days, pumpkin was handed to me like free candy – and after the third pumpkin I had a strong suspicion about what’s going on. My suspicions were confirmed last Saturday at the market, when, shortly after I arrived, people implored me to go home, make some pumpkin fritters, and then come back to sell them at the market. I told them that I will make some for the next market day – and so, on Monday, I cut and cooked eight pumpkins – which were transformed into pumpkin fritters on Saturday!
I found this whole event so amusing – with every pumpkin that came to my doorstep, I inwardly giggled! It was a small, sweet way of building relationships with some of the people here. There is yet a patient road ahead of getting to know the people and building up our friendships, and I desire to be “shrewd” in pursuing that, as the parable of the dishonest manager in Luke 16 charges us to be. Luke 16:8-9 – “The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” The people of this world know how to build friendships for their own selfish interests. In the same way we need to be shrewd and zealous in building relationships for the interests of Christ – for winning a hearing for the sake of the Gospel, for winning friends for heaven. How we need the Lord to grant us continuous fervent spirits and an earnestness to work to that end. How we need to pray for wisdom, and serve God with our minds as we think about how we can be “shrewd” and creative with the means we have (specifically referring to our money in this parable) to build up these friendships, as Paul also did 1 Cor 9:19-23. Your prayers towards this end for our team here in Maweroro would be much appreciated! We cannot wait for the day when, Lord willing, our fellow believers back home, will be able to meet our Maweroro friends as we share our new home in heaven with our Father.