Tea is the universal friend maker. This is one of the important lessons I’ve learned in my first months on the field. An invitation to drink chai can transform nameless neighbors into coveted friends.
So one evening, I walked through our new neighborhood and knocked on several doors. With my limited vocabulary, I explained that I wanted to invite the women to join me for a ladies-only chai gathering.
I had never been to a ladies-only chai. I didn’t even know if it was something women did in their culture. I had no idea what to expect.
AN INVITATION TO TEA CAN TRANSFORM NAMELESS NEIGHBORS INTO A COVETED FRIENDS.
But within an hour, I had 14 women sitting on cushions on the floor in my living room. They came with giggly teenage daughters and young children who ran through the room and rolled into laps. My daughters helped serve tea and cake. My teammate Christine chatted with the women while I, with my limited vocabulary, tried to keep up.
There were many neighborhood women there whom I had never met. Some of them didn’t even know each other, in spite of having lived on the same block for years.
When an elderly neighbor walked in, three other women—the neighborhood matriarchs—rose from their cushions on the floor to greet her. The three women didn’t sit down again until the eldest was comfortably seated in a place of honor.
Another set of visitors included a woman with her 30-year-old daughter, her husband’s second wife, and that wife’s 2-year-old girl. It took me at least a quarter of an hour to figure out the relational connections between them. My 700-word vocabulary only goes so far.
I’d like to say that our conversations turned to God—that many of the women asked questions and expressed interest in Jesus.
WHEN I MENTIONED GOD TO ONE LADY, SHE POLITELY REPLIED, “YES, DEAR, YOUR CAKE IS DELICIOUS.”
But that wasn’t the case. When I mentioned God to one lady, she didn’t understand my pronunciation. She politely replied, “Yes, dear, your cake is delicious.”
I tried telling a story about Jesus to another neighbor. She didn’t understand me either. I think she assumed I was telling her about the first time I met my husband.
Regardless, this ladies-only chai was about getting to know my neighbors. Because the more time I spend with my new Muslim friends, the more opportunities they have to discover who Jesus is.
Even if I can’t yet pronounce His name correctly, the language will come, and I’ll keep on persevering at it.
In the meantime, I don’t have to wait for a larger vocabulary to make friends and show them Christ’s love. Even as I learn to speak, God is giving me the chance to share the Good News.
And maybe at the next ladies-only chai, they’ll not only compliment my cake—but also hear me share a bit more clearly about the Good News of Jesus Christ.