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11.30.2009

Porridge of the Quakers

A teaser from So There I Was ... in Africa

So there I was ...


Thinking twice.  I woke up in Kigali, on the morning after a particularly difficult bus day. The problem was that the previous day was supposed to be the easy day.  The day ahead was the one predicted to be challenging.   

When your friends are all genocide survivors you learn to take seriously their view of what is problematic. Sometimes you have to be more concerned than they are, because they tend to think that anything that doesn’t involve hand grenades is pretty low key. But if they tell you to worry, you should not ignore this.  My friends describe an actual shoot out as “activity” and genocide as a “situation.”   

The previous day had not risen anywhere near the level of activity, and yet I was whipped, emotionally and physically. A night’s sleep in a middle class African hotel had not restored me.  I was not sure that I should proceed.   

I was traveling solo, no comrade input. But the reasons for taking the next bus were fairly compelling. I was expected to teach the following day. The students waiting for me were working with victims in an active war zone. They had no training in trauma theory or resolution. They had way too much experience with trauma. If I bailed, no one else was coming anytime soon. I was carrying tools they needed and I had no way to send the tools without bringing my person.



I did what Quakers do in such a situation. I got quiet. I centered down. I prepared to listen to the present Christ. And I received from the present Christ what I often receive, calm peaceful silence.  A sense of the Presence, to be sure, but no direction, no reassurance, no warning. In my experience the Divine does not usually repeat Itself. If I have my marching orders, I have them. I can act on them or not, the Presence does not leave me, but once I am clear, the directions are not usually repeated.


On that morning, I really wanted more. As I left my time of worship and reflection I prayed quite sincerely “Look, I know You are here, but I am exhausted and afraid, and I need some clear, obvious indication that I am on the right path and that it is safe and good for me to proceed - or else a clear stop sign. You have about an hour.”


I went down to breakfast. African hotel breakfast is very nice. It comes with your room, and it is buffet style. The coffee is always excellent. There is always fruit and bread. The fruit; how do I tell you?  If you have eaten a perfect, home grown tomato in August, or sweet corn picked and cooked in the same hour, and compare those to a January grocery store tomato or canned corn, that is the qualitative difference between what you know of as a banana or a pineapple and what comes with an African breakfast.  Central Africans were taught bread making by the French - ‘nuff said there. At the typical hotel breakfast buffet there is also always a hot dish option. It is usually some form of stew, frequently cooking bananas and spinach type greens swimming in viscous orange palm oil. I never really acquired the taste for the breakfast stew, but the other parts were so ambrosic that I didn’t care.


On that morning I was almost alone in the dining room. An attentive young man in a white coat was overseeing the room. He greeted me and poured my coffee. I chose bread and pineapple. The hot dish was covered.


Mostly to make conversation I asked “And what is the hot breakfast this morning?”


The young man turned away and grimaced.


“Oh, Madame, the hot breakfast this morning she is terrible!”


Now, I was curious, what could be more terrible than spinach banana stew.


“Really?  What do we have this morning? 


“Madame, please, believe me. Can I get you some eggs? Chef would be very happy to make you an omelet.”


Now I just had to know.


“Truly, I must know, what is it?


He reached for the warming tray lid. Arm extended to its extreme, he turned his head and shoulders away and made a face of repulsion.


I was expecting toxic biohazard casserole. 


“Madame, I am so sorry, it is the porridge of the Quakers.”


He uncovered a perfectly beautiful dish of Quaker Oats.


“But Monsieur, I, myself, am a Quaker!”


“What?  Madame, you, a Quaker?  But this is wonderful! We have made this porridge for you! I will get a bigger dish!”


And he ran and got a giant serving dish and served me up the largest bowl the Oats that I have ever attempted to eat.


I tried to share my oats with Jesus but he was not taking up His share. But He was at the table with me. And He was with me on the bus going forward.





Comments:
I love it!

Once, as I was asking for a sign, I stepped in a big pile of... stuff. As though the good Lord was was telling me what my lack of faith smelled like. Also, the object of my search happened to be right in front of me and I had yet to realize it, so... you draw the line.

I love the energy in your voice when you write or preach.

Thanks Peggy!
 
Love it.
 
This was perfect. I remembered the title (from the first time you posted) enough to be excited, but forgot the story enough to laugh out loud all over again.

Thanks.
 
I love it! The perfect riposte for all those Friends who keep insisting Quakers DO NOT mean oatmeal!
 
Thanks,

Kody, I think you must have heard this one at my breakfast table, because until last weekend, I had never written it up.

I am glad that the breakfast option was not what God sent Stephen.
 
After a very frustrating search for the place I was meant to be, making me very late for the meeting, I asked God for a parking place and an invitation for lunch as a affirmation that I was really doing God's work. I finally found the place, there was a parking spot right next to the elevator. I arrived at the meeting with one chair left at the conference table and I was next on the agenda. I talked about what I was supposed to talk about, got swamped with people passing me their cards, and was asked if I would care to stay for lunch. Much good came from that day.

Kody Hersh's Mom.
 
Some people look down on the reading of signs and portents.

For myself I see it as very akin to a sailor looking at the seas and sky for tomorrow's weather.

Why should sailing the spiritual seas be that different from physical seas?
 
I am laughing out loud! This is a wonderful story.

The first Christmas Eve after I became a Christian, Kevin and I were out taking a walk. We had just started a new business, and things were tight. Kevin sighed, "I don't know, Shawna. I don't know how we're going to make it."

"Don't worry," I sez. "God will take care of us."

At just exactly that moment, our neighbor's truck drove up. "Merry Christmas! One of our cows broke a leg and we had to put her down. She had a huge liver; would you like some?"

So in addition to the fried dough and strawberry jam, we ALSO had liver and onions! It was, as they say, the best Christmas dinner ever.
 
“An what is the hot breakfast this morning?”

Should be And. From the perpetual proofreader - hope we didn't miss this in the proofs.

More thoughts on your writing. I can feel the power. I can "hear where the words come from."
 
Thanks Jami,

I didn't pull this post from the finished copy of the book. I took it from my original, so hopefully it is nor there.

The books are in boxes in the car waiting to go to the church for the party.

Hope to see you there!
 
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