Be kind to your neighbor. We hear this time and time again. From first grade Sunday school to buying a house with your spouse, we have always been taught to honor the people that we walk beside. God has once again brought to life this saying, which I have always heard, but rarely put into practice. He has placed a certain someone in my life to exemplify this golden truth as I live out my last month as a World Race missionary in our eleventh country: Malaysia.
I type this to you listening to Maroon Five playing over the loud speaker. My laptop sits on a small table with a checkered tablecloth, and I look around and see neatly framed posters of James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, and Elvis Presley adorning the blue walls underneath a red ceiling. The white stars lining the ceiling seal the essence of Americana that this restaurant, Kennedy’s, is trying to portray. Yes, during our eleventh month of the race, the Lord brings us to America, in Malaysia, in the form of a restaurant. We are working at a restaurant built and pioneered by past racers, and we are promoting it throughout the community. To do this, my team is spread out all over this town; everywhere from teaching at the Burmese refugee school, to hanging out with students at the local campus, to waitressing at this innovative restaurant smack dab in the middle of the Westernized city of Kuala Lumpur.
With that being said, what I want to write to you about has nothing to do with our ministry. Right next door to our little restaurant is a teashop. On the very first day that we came to Kennedy’s, I noticed the soothing water fountains and cool green colors of the interior of our neighbor’s building. Stepping a little closer, a short, caramel-colored Pakistani man with a big, bright smile waved and motioned for me and my teammate Emily to come over. We shrugged our “why nots” and meandered over to his restaurant. From that day forward, we have spent most mornings sampling all types of teas and different types of honey. We have winced at the bitter teas, nodded politely at the warm, unsweetened “woman’s teas,” and cocked our heads blankly at spoonfuls of honey aged ten years and older. Everyday we waltz over and greet our new friend, Shah. Every type of warmed beverages he would prepare for us to try was its own unique surprise.
After about a week, we started bringing food from our American restaurant for him to try, and he started making us delicious Pakistani treats. We have tasted a gamut of foods, ranging from caramelized, sugared raisins, to baked eggplant with steamed veggies, to the most interesting rice that I’ve ever put in my mouth: it tasted like he put cinnamon or a sweet ginger spice in it. One day he made us thick, round portions of whole-wheat naan bread, and we ate it with a thin, round, pepper and onion-filled omelet. My mouth is watering thinking back to each melt-in-your-mouth bite.
The most heart-warming part of this story is that we have not seen one customer enter his restaurant this entire month. Every day he sits on one of the beautiful, hand-made wooden swivel chairs and looks out of his glass door for us to walk by. He gives the first of his fruits freely to his neighbors, even when he is not seeing a steady flow of customers. He’s not looking from someone to fill up his chairs, but someone to share in life with. We couldn’t be any more different; he is Muslim, we are Christians. He is from Pakistan; we are from America. He works at a tea and honey shop; we are traveling missionaries. But we live together. We walk through life together and share our meals, our traditions, and passions as three very different and separated people.
The mornings that we walk next door and share in life with Shah are some of the most heartfelt and touching moments that I’ve had on this race. We’ve shared our hearts, experiences, and God’s love with him, and all it took was saying ‘yes’ to a house visit one day. This wasn’t part of our plan or scheduled in our ministry, but we have made time for it. We made time for a person, and it’s made our time here more precious than any schedule would.
That’s how God works. He doesn’t run off of a schedule, or a plan; He leads us by his Spirit. So I encourage you to follow that leading. It might lead you to thick, ten-year old honey, a good conversation, or the most delicious meal you have ever had. But I do promise you; the fruits of your time invested will be worth it.
This guest post has been provided by Jessica Smith. You can find her at http://www.coffeeshopstoryteller.com.
Photo provided by zoeministries.com