It’s called a “Braai” (pronounced ‘br–eye’).
My recent trip to Zimbabwe was amazing. Our team’s mission was to bless and encourage God’s people so we were busy from the start. After all, this was not a leisurely vacation. We were there to work. I enjoyed the pace and was thankful for the opportunity to share with our brothers and sisters in this beautiful African nation.
After about a week, I noticed I was a bit drained. The second Sunday I was there I recall getting back to the main house after preaching in a local church. The service was wonderful but I was grateful that nothing was scheduled for the rest of the day. I was looking forward to a quiet Sunday afternoon and evening.
Then, our team leader informed us that we’d be heading out shortly. When I asked “Where,” he simply told me we were going to a “Braai” and gave me no additional information. Although tired, I was also curious.
Later, we arrived at the home of one of the district leaders. We were quickly escorted around the back of the house to a huge outdoor barbeque pit. Next to it was a stack of thin steaks piled about two feet high. We were told “grab a fork, a steak, and start cooking!” It was then that I learned that a “Braai” was simply a barbeque. However, part of Zimbabwe’s Braai tradition is for each guest to grill their own meat. When I inquired as to why, our host gave me a big grin and said, “that way if it’s not done the way you like it, you know who to blame.” We shared a laugh as a cool breeze brushed over us.
As my steak was cooking, I looked up and beheld the sun setting over the African plain. I could see children playing in the distance. I was touched by how similar this scene was to any I knew back home. My mind remembered many July 4th church picnics or a gathering of friends in my own backyard. Yet, this wasn’t Long Island’s east end. I was thousands of miles away … grilling a steak. Well, my steak was slightly over done. Remembering the host’s advice, I did later have a few words with the one responsible.
Of all the sights, smells, and sounds that captured my attention, what impressed me most was how easy this time was. Technically it was a scheduled event but it was one of the most relaxing times I enjoyed during the trip. For a moment, I wasn’t teaching, or expounding, or counseling. I was just being.
I wasn’t a ‘title’ nor was I a visitor from a land about which they’d only heard stories. I was just me. We talked late into the night. Many laughs were shared and much tea was consumed. The food the host family provided was delicious and filling. Yet, this thing called a “Braai” filled me in ways food never could.
As we shared, it truly felt like we were all family. This amazing setting, with its picturesque backdrop, created a sense of calm that was tangible. For a moment, any concerns I had about anything were gone. They weren’t just put on hold, they were lifted.
As we drove home, I sat in the car remembering the various sensations that would forever mark my first “Braai.” I thought about how refreshing it was. Not so much for the food but for the experience of putting away the “to do list” or the appointment book and to just “be me.”
Just then, I sensed another voice in my head, a voice I recognized. My Precious Savior reached into that moment and lovingly said, “You can have whenever you choose. I offer that rest to you every day. With Me, it’s always okay to just be ‘you.’”
As we got back to the house, I thought about my Master’s words. Being able to enter His presence really is an awesome privilege. We each have a place where we can be ourselves. Even with our faults, fears, and failings, we can still come to Him and, not only find real rest but, truly enjoy the wonderful gift of life He has given to each of us.
I look forward to returning someday and attending another Braai. Hopefully by then, my steak grilling skills will have improved.
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