Coffee, African Tea, or Fanta?

My husband teases me regularly about the number of times I meet friends for coffee. I frequent all three Panera Cafes on my side of town, rarely with any agenda other than conversation over a cup of coffee or tea. There’s usually no project in the works, no motive other than encouraging one another and building relationships.

Last summer I traveled to Rwanda to visit our sister parish and meet the pastor, a joyful man named David. As we chatted over a shared meal, he was clear that he wanted us to come again–as many as would come and as often as we could–simply to spend time with the people of his parish. No work project, no teaching agenda. Just fellowship…the only intention being to build the relationship between the people of his parsh and the people of mine. He was puzzled at my suggestion that it would be easier to get people to come if they had a project to work on.

I recently returned from another trip to Rwanda. I was blessed to spend two days with our sister parish with no agenda ???????????????????????????????other than strengthening our relationship. Just being together was encouragement that transcended the language barrier. We conversed over a cup of African tea or a bottle of Fanta, each working to understand the other. We ate together, laughed together, worshipped together. And the body of Christ between two continents was strengthened through this together-ness.

As I’ve been inviting others to visit our sister parish in Rwanda next year, I’m often met with the response, “But what would I do?”  I admit that, in the beginning, I asked this same question. But now I find myself wondering why we think we must have an agenda when we go to another culture, even though it is perfectly acceptable in our everyday life here to meet a friend for no other purpose than deepening our relationship through conversation? Why does naming a specific project or task to be accomplished validate the trip and justify a request for prayer and financial support? Is it not enough to simply be together, encouraging one another as we share in the love of Christ that binds us into one body?

I think it is. And I’m really looking forward to the next conversation with my Rwandan friends. I’ll have the African tea, please!