The Blog of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

November 14, 2012

Who's at Your Table?

Lynda MacGibbon

We used a lot of words to describe Ruslan as we got to know him: charming, persistent, a bit of a Casanova. We liked him a lot, so when he asked if he could come to our flat for dinner, you would have thought the answer would be an enthusiastic yes. But extending the invitation wasn’t quite so simple.

We met Ruslan during the first summer of an English-language teaching program in Central Asia. Our team of nine lived in a borrowed flat, sleeping on the living room floor, sometimes sitting two to a chair at the dinner table. We wanted to be careful to return the flat to its owners at the end of the summer with nothing out of place, nothing broken.

And so we’d decided not to invite the students we spent our days with home to dinner. After all, there were 40 of them. How could we invite one and not many? What if chairs were broken, or something was stolen? Our space was crowded enough. Better to preserve the flat for ourselves.

But Ruslan was persistent. He asked three days in a row, lamenting on the third one that his mother had gone away and he would be eating dinner all alone.

We relented. “Come home with us,” we said.

The Door That Was Opened

I remember so clearly that first evening Ruslan came to dinner. He chopped mountains of carrots and onions to add to our big pot of plov—not exactly a man’s task in his country. But I think he would have done anything to share a meal with us.

When we opened the door to Ruslan, something shifted for our team. For the next four summers in Central Asia our primary goal became extending hospitality rather than preparing stellar English classes. We did that too, but the classes were really just condiments for the real feast.

Regardless of the size of the flat we occupied, and even when our team grew to 16, we opened our door and invited students home to dinner. They helped us cook, teaching us how to make their traditional foods: laghman and bisbarmak and baursaki.

Some evenings there were more than 30 of us crowded into our tiny, borrowed flat. Conversations bubbled up around the room, sometimes about language, sometimes about culture, often about faith.

Such conversations, especially ones that begin with Allah and end with Jesus, can be difficult to stir up in Central Asia. But once we began inviting students home for dinner, we discovered Jesus had a way of showing up too.  

We have Ruslan to thank for that.

Lynda MacGibbon lives in Toronto, but a big part of her heart is still in Central Asia, where she spent four summers leading an Inter-Varsity Global Partnership team of students from Canada, Britain, and The Netherlands. Lynda is the Communications Director for Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship of Canada.

Urbana 12 and ACT:S are challenging you to share an intentional meal with someone who lives differently than you, to learn what you have in common and what you can learn from each other. On Wednesdays in November and December, we’ll be posting stories from InterVarsity staff and alumni about intentional meals they’ve shared with others—and all the good that comes from it.

(This was originally posted on World Vision's ACT:S blog.)

You may also be interested in:

Who's at Your Table?

Hospitality, Spirituality, and Free Food

Buying Jesus Lunch


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