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Why Missions Trips? The Food is Awesome

As a young boy I was so skinny I had to run around in the shower to get wet.
My mom would take in my pants and leave me with one back pocket.
I could stand in the shade of a clothesline.
If I turned sideways and stuck out my tongue I looked like a zipper.
Okay, you get the idea.

Why so skinny? Two parts hyperactivity plus one part finicky diet. I ate almost no vegetables and generally loathed eating pretty much anything. Unfortunately that has changed; now I have to focus more on dieting to lose weight than to gain weight.

Some things I still find uneatable: sushi for one. Calamari I love, but not the chilled uncooked stuff. Or turnip greens — just ask my dad. But I have developed an appreciation for foods in various countries as I have traveled the globe.

Mission trips are great for a lot of reasons. One reason I find most delicious (pun intended) involves the food. This week in Kiev I have enjoyed a variety of flavors of borscht (Picture, a soup that serves as a Ukrainian staple. This has included: chicken borscht, port borscht, fish borscht, yellow borscht, red borscht, and another borscht the constitution of which I would rather not know. I have enjoyed a version of dumplings and a half-dozen different types of potatoes. At least I think they were potatoes.

Most of these meals I have enjoyed eating at the seminary where I am staying. Our team has been eating a little too much McDonalds and Pizza, although yesterday they for the most part enjoyed a variety of Ukrainian treats. Getting into another culture past the Americanized version to the real world involves eating the traditional food.

But I really want to talk about another kind of food that you can have on mission trips, and this offers an ever better motivation to go on one soon. In John 4 Jesus talked about a different kind of food – in verse 34 He spoke of a kind of food His Father provided, the kind He feasted of in the fellowship of spiritual bread with the Samaritan woman and others from her town.

This week I have enjoyed borscht and kabobs. But the better food I have eaten is the manna God has provided in the form of relationships. It comes in all shapes and sizes and packages:

-The fast food meal, walking with Sean to the bank and the market, serving others as we fellowshipped by gathering fresh water and fruit, or working out together;

-The scrumptious daily regimen of dining with my class as we gorge ourselves on the joy we find in prayer;

-The a la carte treat of daily worship time with our team;

-The Hors d’oeuvres of relationships that grow spontaneously with fellow believers from another land like my friend Sergey;

-The coup de grace on Sunday, a hearty buffet with its exquisite variety found in the corporate worship we enjoyed with a local church with new Ukrainian friends, old friends like Russell Woodbridge, and my fellow Creekers Troy, Jared, Natalie, and Stefanie;

-And, the pièce de résistance: the feast of seeing the gospel come to life as we talk with one another and with those around us of Jesus.

Go on a mission trip. Eat the local food. But more than anything enjoy the haute cuisine of spiritual dining, the fellowship of the gospel. It is far more satisfying and great for the waistline. And the soul.

I bid you the same greeting offered by our Ukrainian brethren as we partake of food both physical and spiritual: Bon appétit.

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Alvin L. Reid (born 1959) serves as Professor of Evangelism and Student Ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he has been since 1995. He is also the founding Bailey Smith Chair of Evangelism. Alvin and his wife Michelle have two children: Joshua, a senior at The College at Southeastern, and Hannah, a senior at Wake Forest Rolesville High School. Recently he became more focused at ministry in his local church by being named Young Professionals Director at Richland Creek Community Church. Alvin holds the M.Div and the Ph.D with a major in evangelism from Southwestern Seminary, and the B.A. from Samford University. He has spoken at a variety of conferences in almost every state and continent, and in over 2000 churches, colleges, conferences and events across the United States.