By a Pioneer in Southeast Asia
There are many great advantages that come with living in the tropics. One of these is the unlimited access to fresh tropical fruit at extremely cheap prices. Most people even have coconut, banana and mango trees growing in their yard. I absolutely love fruit, so when we moved into our home about three weeks ago, you can imagine my excitement when I saw a large banana tree in our backyard with a huge stock of green bananas growing on it! When people in our country ask me my favorite Southeast Asian food, I immediately answer with a smile—fried bananas. Just imagine a sweet, tender banana rolled in pancake batter and then deep-fried. Oh it is so delicious and a very common street food here.
So we (mostly I) have been watching our bananas very closely over the past few weeks. Coming from a small town in the US didn’t equip me with a lot of knowledge regarding when to actually pick bananas off a tree. So I asked a couple of my friends and they kept telling me, “When they start to turn yellow then they are ready! ” As I was cooking some breakfast the other morning, I noticed that a couple of the bananas were indeed yellow…How exciting, I thought. I had a plan to try out a new banana bread recipe with my bananas to give to our neighbors.
Yesterday afternoon as I was cleaning up around the house, I heard someone in our backyard. Sure enough our next door neighbor, whom we know very well, was holding a machete and hacking away at…yes, my banana tree! I could not believe me eyes. I was in such shock that I froze with horror as he kept cutting down my precious stock of bananas. And just to give you a clearer picture of this banana stock, I’m talking over 60 bananas about 8 inches in length. Enough to make some serious banana bread.
So many thoughts began to flood my mind: Well maybe he is helping us out by cutting them down or Maybe he just wants a few… to Surely he won’t take them all for himself?
Here’s some background regarding our neighbor: He lives next to us along with his wife and two children. They have helped us numerous times with things such as turning back on our electric after accidently blowing our breaker box because we were running the microwave at the same time as our toaster, to even helping us fix our fence around the house. We have even been in their home a few times and have exchanged food from time to time. I feel that we have definitely begun to develop good relationship with this family that we hope will lead deepen over time.
So back to the bananas. He did indeed take the bananas, and yes all 60 of them. So what does loving your neighbors have to do with bananas you may ask? Well to be honest I have really struggled with some feelings of bitterness and anger towards our neighbors, simply because they took our bananas. We are learning that in this culture personal property does not really exist. Also when someone helps you out, then most of the time that person is expecting something in return. This time it was my bananas…
But after spending some serious time in the Word and prayer, I have realized that even though I don’t understand the reasoning behind many things in this culture, I have been sent here to love my neighbors no matter what they do to me. Sometimes that can be really hard to do, especially when the people I was sent to love are broken and lost. But I was reminded this morning that I once was lost in my sin, which didn’t keep God for loving me and redeeming me. In fact, Christ continued to love the world even though the world hated him and even killed him.
So how do I love my neighbors even when they take “my property”? Well I have to remind myself that bananas mean nothing compared to eternity right? I can go down to the market and buy 1,000 bananas if I really want. It’s not worth ruining a relationship over a stock of bananas. This family is a part of unreached people group that is 99.9% Muslim. I think Christ would give up his bananas in order to build a relationship that would lead to a whole family accepting the truth of the gospel.
What do you think?