A Banana Planter’s Dilemma

Just before the worshippers arrived, a waning sun transformed the dull, beige walls of our village mosque to a fiery red. Having completed our English lesson on its portico, we received a customarily hearty “See you soon!” from our many students, and mounted our motorbike for the ride home. With bated breath the trembling pile of sticks termed a “bridge” was once again traversed; we waved as we passed over women and children washing in the stream below, busy with the various stages of work and play. We had barely arrived at our little concrete home when a man arrived on his bicycle, along with his son. With a smile, he grabbed my hand and rubbed it on his bony cheek, telling me how glad he was that we spoke his language. He dropped off a few dozen green bananas from his farm and then went on his way.

That was our first encounter with Sok, a lean muscled orchard owner with a work ethic to rival any Protestant. As time progressed, so did his level of comfort with us. One day he waltzed right through our door and took the spoon out of my hand as I was eating breakfast, curious as to what foreigner’s breakfasts taste like. The spoon was promptly returned… the oatmeal was no good at all. But that’s not the only thing he was curious about. First came the usual questions: “How do you pray? Do you read the Qur’an? Do you speak Arabic in worship?”, etc. Though asked with intensity, these questions were born out of mere curiosity. But he was determined to press on. He shared his passion for honesty in business dealings and equality in social dealings, as well as his utter distaste for the religious hypocrisy he was exposed to each day.

Sok came over numerous times daily, anytime from 6am to 9pm. He observed us closely, and more thought-provoking questions began to come: “Why forsake a good job to volunteer? How can you stand these annoying religious teachers? Why such patience and grace for that horribly behaved orphan child? Why waste your time on that hopeless drunk?” He admired our way of life, but certainly did not understand it. After hearing about the most honest and loving Man who ever lived, he decided he wanted to read our scriptures. Going through it with him, he would say things like “Oh, these touch my heart! Your scripture is better than our scripture! If everyone followed this, life together would be so much easier!” I was filled with excitement at his expressions of interest, and eagerly awaited our times in the Word together.

Then, one day Sok said something revealing: “If 50% of our village were Christian, I’d follow Christ too!” And then I saw it. Despite his disdain for the religious establishment, he maintains the appearance of religiosity. Despite his heart for equality, he not only detests the high (religious teachers) but also the low (addicts). Despite his social consciousness, he never considers others as better than himself. Sok has heard and seen much of Christ in word and deed, and yet is powerless to do anything about it. God made it clear to me: millions of people like Sok may become attracted to His Son through our words and deeds, but if they are going to follow His Son to the altar to be put to death with Him and brought to life through Him, it will require sincere pleadings in the secret place. So join us in this essential work as we humble ourselves before Him, “Kiss the Son,” and take up His intercessions for the banana farmers of this world.

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