Danny, a student at Southwestern Theological Seminary was invited to stay with a classmate in San Antonio for the first week of Christmas holidays. With student housing closing, he had to go somewhere. He would stay the remainder of the holiday with another classmate in Brownsville.
But the nebulous plans of these students to help their Indonesian friend went awry. On Sunday morning Danny was introduced in church with an appeal. Could someone provide a place for him to stay for two days? Thereafter he would go to Brownsville.
My heart went out to this slender, handsome young man with dark hair and a winning smile. He could stay with my family I decided, until the logistics were resolved. It would be neat to have him in our home. Surely my wife and three small children would feel the same way.
“You invited him to stay with us?” my wife asked in disbelief. “What will I feed him? I can’t cook rice the way Asians do. He’ll starve to death.”
“He eats American food at the seminary” I replied. “It won’t be a problem.”
After all, I thought, he’s here for a cultural experience and an education. If Dot cooks rice differently than he’s accustomed to, he won’t starve. “I’ll bet he likes your chicken fried steak” I offered, hopefully. You would have to be a weird person not to but who knows about Asians?
So Danny came home with us. We gave him our upstairs bedroom and took the downstairs sofa. He must have felt abandoned by his friends and that he was imposing. With awkward feelings abounding we lived with this stranger in our midst for two days.
When his friend arrived on the appointed morning I was leaving for work. Dot was relieved. She had not served a meal with rice. We said quick goodbyes and Danny left. It was a short but enjoyable visit and normal was back on schedule.
That evening Dot was cooking tuna croquets and rice for dinner when Danny’s friend brought him back. He was sorry, he said, but he couldn’t find Danny a place to stay and his family couldn’t. He promised he would deliver Danny to the seminary for sure after the holidays, but he just had to stay with us.
So what’s a family to do? It wasn’t Danny’s fault and we hurt for him that his friends had abandoned him. What must he be thinking? We put on our smiley faces and made him feel as welcome as we knew how.
But, in the privacy of our bedroom we had serious discussions. We wondered how our four year old son felt about the changes in routine. (He loved it and loved Danny.) We wondered what our daughters, age five and seven, would think about having a stranger in our home for Christmas. (If it rocked their boat we couldn’t tell.) We wondered how to stretch our tight budget to get Christmas presents for Danny. Dot’s biggest concern, though, was that Danny would not like her rice. She didn’t know how to fix sticky clumpy rice, you know, the way Asian’s do.
As our friendship grew, we came to love Danny. One beautiful clear sky night the Russian satellite Sputnik passed overhead. Danny and I took turns using a cheap four-power telescope to get a quick glimpse of this light racing across a beautiful star filled heaven. We talked about space exploration, the future and about our wonderful Creator.
Christmas morning was filled with joy as we read from the Bible of the greatest gift ever given. The excitement of our children and Danny opening their presents was contagious. And to our surprise, Danny gave gifts from Indonesia: stuffed toys for our children, an ornate hair clip for Dot, a snakeskin wallet for me.
Too soon the holidays ended and Danny departed for the seminary. Eventually he graduated and returned to Indonesia with a strong desire to take the gospel to his country. We lost contact. From time to time we asked returning missionaries or informed church leaders if they knew him. We heard he became a pastor of a large church, and, later, a leading professor in an Indonesian seminary.
Someday, I hope we can go to Indonesia to renew our friendship and to see, really, if Indonesians cook clumpy rice. Danny said Dot fixed rice perfectly, and preachers don’t lie, do they?
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