The local African pastor came to ask if I would take him to a distant bush church. He hadn’t been there for a while and this trip would be an encouragement to the folks there. We would be spending Saturday night there so as to be able to be present for the Sunday morning service.
Early Saturday afternoon we set off. Though the church was only about 40 miles distant, the trip took about 4 hours. The head teacher of a primary school received us and showed us where we were to sleep – in the school office, chairs and tables moved to allow for our cots and mosquito netting. He and his wife also served us with supper and cups of sweet hot tea. We were well satisfied.
Sun up! Ablutions performed and the pastor said we needed to go “greet” a certain home. We did – and did we ever! Greeting included a big meal. With thanks we bid farewell – and the pastor said we needed to go “greet another home. And we did, with a big meal included! “Thank you” and farewell. Another home needed to be “greeted”, the pastor said so off we went. And to another big meal. Man, were we stuffed.
Time now to go to the morning service. As we bumped up in the Land Rover the pastor said to me, “You preach this morning. I am too full”. What about me? I had matched him in eating and in cups of tea. I protested and told him I was not prepared and, in fact, was as full as he was. His reply was, “but your stomach is younger”.
So, I preached – uncomfortably. I have no idea what I spoke on but the Lord God worked in spite of my discomfit. Several in attendance accepted the Lord. Both the local evangelist and the pastor dealt with them after the service.
“After-church greetings” were over. Time to get in the Land Rover and bump our way home. But first, we have to say “Good-bye” to the evangelists family!! With relief, the “good-bye” only involved cups of sweet tea and boiled cassava. Both pastor and I ate and drank sparingly. On the way home that afternoon, pastor talked about the great hospitality of the people of that church.
That is when I learned that when someone comes to “greet” us at home they do not come to just say “hello” but to talk a while and at least have some tea and biscuits (cookies). Language protocol/expectations!