Tuesday, July 6, 2010

To Cook or Not to Cook! That is the Question.

A continuation of Carol B. Ghattas article: "Accessing God Through Hospitality," July/August '10 onlineMagazine.

When we got married, I joked about how my cooking ministry began. I can cook, but have always relied on recipes to guide me, and I would much rather be sitting behind a computer writing. So, there has always been a kind of struggle in me about hosting. Thankfully, I have a husband who does not put much importance in food. Together we have developed some guidelines about how we will host others.

I have had every scenario happen in my life overseas in relation to cooking:

1. I cooked a big meal -- the guests didn't eat! They had eaten before they came.

2. I cooked a big buffet meal for seminary grads -- they walked around the table evaluating whether or not to eat. They heard American food was terrible. Finally, after one was tempted by how the others liked the food, he tried it. He ended up sitting at the table and ate three plates full.

3. I've cooked a meal and the guest could not swallow it! It didn't matter what I cooked; she couldn't eat it!

4. I've provided any kind of food and they will eat it!

5. Without cooking, they come and open the frig themselves.

When it comes to food, these are my guidelines:

1. Occasionally I have to fix a meal to entertain an important guest (i.e. the landlord). These are purely social occasions, and we don't put much value in them. Keep them to a minimum.

2. If our purpose is to share the gospel or have some real quality time with someone, we serve only coffee cake/cookies. A big meal can get in the way and limit the time we have to talk. We also use this in the reverse. If we want to go to visit someone, we make sure they do not fix a meal, but only have cake and coffee. (It doesn't always work, but we try).

3. When the believers were meeting in our home, I did not cook for them unless it was necessary. We did not want them to get into the habit of someone cooking for them. We served only cookies and coffee. We also did not want them to think they had to cook if they hosted church in their home.

4. We take time to share with people that food is not the important thing in the visit, but the conversation and time together. This helps to put them at ease about our custom.

5. If I know that people are very picky about food (like the Lebanese), then I never cook for them. We take them to a restaurant or order food. Why kill yourself, if they are not going to be happy?

Food can bring people together, but it can also distract them from quality conversation (remember Martha). As you adjust to your host culture, work on developing a "third" way to blend your ways and theirs to make Jesus evident in your culinary offerings.

[next week's Hospitality topic: Hospitality for Introverts.]

Author bio: Carol Ghattas has served with her husband, Raouf, for 20 years in ministry to Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa. They have just recently returned to the USA, where they will continue to train others in how to share with Muslims both here and abroad. They have co-authored a book entitled, A Christian Guide to the Qur'an: Building Bridges in Muslim Evangelism (Kregel, 2009). Carol has also authored three novels under the pen name of Um Daoud. Two Sides of a Coin: An Egyptian Story has just been released by Xulon Press, and gives an inside look at the complicated society of Egypt. She has been guest host for the WOTH Writer’s Blog (Jan.19-Feb.16).


Kara said...

Thank you for this wonderful post! We noticed our first year overseas that whenever we showed up hungry there was no food served, and whenever we came full, there was a feast!

I appreciate the thought and experience that went into your principles. There were some points that I have never thought of, and hope to apply!

CarolGhattas said...

Kara, so glad that you can identify with me and have been stretched to think in new ways. May the Lord bless you as you host others.


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