by Jill Lienemann, Kesher International Missions | ©2012
“Try this,” the Russian girl said as she handed me a green leaf freshly plucked out of the ground. I glanced down at the item being offered then looked up at the Russian teens gathering around me. Sensing my uncertainty they all began to goad me, “Go on. Eat it!” My mind raced over the pros and cons of ingesting this suspicious looking weed that grew in the forest. Worst-case scenario, I would become terribly sick to my stomach and possibly make a trip to the hospital. Best-case scenario, I was the victim of a harmless prank being played on the foreigner. The prodding continued, “Go ahead. It’s called shchavel.” – as if knowing the name of the morsel would validate its consumption. I bit off a portion, chewed and swallowed. To my surprise it tasted like rhubarb, sour but not unpleasant. The group broke out in delighted laughter. Subsequently, I experienced no ill effects from the dubious sampling.
Was I brave? Not really, my hesitation reflected my fear. Instead, I concluded that to refuse eating the weed (uhm…plant) meant that I would be rejecting the people who were sharing it. To continue gaining their trust, which was not freely given in a newly ex-communist society, I had to exercise my faith in God. “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7 NKJV) He would either protect me from the potential poison, “…if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them…” (Mark 16:18 NKJV), or provide healing if I should become ill, “‘But I will restore you to health…,’ declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 30:17 NIV)
Did I earn their confidence? Yes, in a small way. In becoming vulnerable and by presuming the youth meant no harm to me, a brick of mistrust in the wall of cold-war sentiment was removed. Additionally, the teenagers bonded with each other as they jointly reached out to share a new experience with someone from a different culture. “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” (Luke 6:38 NLT)
By the way, after returning home, I researched shchavel for my own peace of mind. It is an herb from the sorrel family that is cultivated in Russia to make soup, also called green borscht.
KESHER TIP (connection): Laughable Moments
“God has made me laugh, and all who hear will laugh with me.” (Genesis 21:6b NKJV) On a mission trip funny things will happen among your team members and with the nationals. Giggling together eases tensions, fosters group unity, and provides memorable moments—snapshots of our human frailty and God’s divine power. So don’t stifle those chuckles! “To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven…a time to laugh…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1;4b NKJV)