Visit And Host
I remember a certain day when two of my friends who stay two villages from where I live came to invite me for a wedding. This was good news to everyone; their cousin was marrying and they wanted me to come see it all as it unfolded. Thinking it was a ‘by the way’ gesture, I didn’t take it seriously and didn’t prepare either and when that Saturday morning arrived, one of them was hooting with a motorbike outside my door. He had come to pick me! I didn’t have any option but to rush outside.
The wedding was taking place in his village, about eight kilometers away from my village. On our way there through the desert I made a stop to check on another friend who lived along the road leading there. Finally, we were at the party. The party was on, a lot of camel meat, rice and fermented camel milk. Food was plenty and dancing, rejoicing and singing dominated the event.
I knew a few people from there who had attended the party but to my surprise, almost everyone there knew me. They would spot me from a distance and would come to say hi and welcome me to the event, including the groom. This was foreign land, I am a Christian and they didn’t mind my presence, nor my religion. Wonderful! Despite having an invitation, severally they told me that I was now one of them. I had become just like them and the next time I could come visit even without an invitation. Actually, I felt that sense of acceptance and that was the moment I knew that I had a license to live and operate within the community freely.
Several weeks later, I had an accident. When it happened, those who were near the scene responded to my aid swiftly, looked for a car and in a few minutes I was in the hospital. The first man who came to see me while I was on the hospital bed was a Muslim man. He openly told me that he and the community knew that I was a Christian. They knew who I was. And that they didn’t have a problem with that. They had now accepted that I, a Christian, could live among them. He went ahead and explained that they understood my mission there and it was for the benefit of the community. He further added that he considered me his brother and knew that he had a responsibility to take care of me as long as I was staying in their village.
But things were not like this at the beginning. When I first got here as a stranger, almost everyone was suspicious; what was a Christian doing among them? They could not understand. They stopped me on the roads, spied on me and would ask me very many questions whenever I went to shop or buy food at a restaurant. Though initially I had my contact man with me who would explain to them in the native language why I was here, immediately I parted with him, they would resort to asking me questions to clearly understand my reason of being there among them. There was a time the community sent some elders and the chief to establish the truth about my presence. And for a whole day they followed my every move. This made me nervous but finally I questioned them why they were doing that to me. They interrogated me and they gave me a ‘pass’. From then on, everything changed.
Today everything is different.
I get invited to their private and communal events and everyone says hi to me on the road. I get a lot of visitors at my place and even at work. In a day I host several visitors, some stay as late as 10pm. We discuss almost anything including religion, Islam and Christianity. And no one ever complains about it.
Healthy relationships are cultivated. They require an investment of time and effort and as Christians it is our responsibility to build bridges of love that we can use to narrow the gaps and ultimately win the unreached (those with little or no access to the gospel) to Jesus. It is a journey that we disciples ought to deliberately commit to undertake and with patience. Remember this doesn’t mean that we conform to their religious beliefs. The early disciples and the early church did it and so should we.
It is nearly impossible to win “strangers” to Christ, those with whom we have nothing in common. When the unreached people see a foreigner in their land, speaking their language, living like them, eating their food, dressing like them, living in a house like theirs, ailing from what ails them, mourning and cerebrating with them, they treat you less as a stranger. They will pay attention to your gospel. Apart from not being hostile to you, they will listen to you, embrace salvation and your Jesus. This unlocks the heart of the people and opens them up widely for the gospel.
This the most effective way of winning people over to Jesus. It starts with befriending them and at least having in you something they can identify with. But it calls for brave disciples who are ready to break out of the cultural norms and risk it all waiting on Jesus to lead them on how best to live for Him.
***Peter Kale (not his real name) is a missionary serving among an unreached people group in Northeastern Kenya