Jordan Kologe is a newlywed living in Dallas, Texas who works for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship as part of the Urbana Team. When he isn’t writing blogs, he can be found reading books he isn’t smart enough to understand in the corner at Starbucks, wondering about the meaning of life after the Euro’s.
This story begins with a death-defying motorcycle ride through the buzzing evening
streets of Kolkata, India. It ends with an adult man – that’s me – doubled over an open
sewer pipe, helplessly hugging the cold cement around it and pitifully murmuring
something about calling his mom between feverish shivers. Somewhere in the middle I
shared the Gospel, ate an omelet, and told a lie.
My friend Will and I sat outside the mall, watching wide-eyed as the last efforts of the
setting sun painted the dusty air golden. We had only just raised the white flag on our
attempt to make friends and talk about Jesus when he suggested we stop trying, sit still,
and pray for God to bring someone to us. I think we were both ashamed at how
stereotypical it sounded, recalling dozens of such stories beginning this way that cool
young TOM’s wearing missionaries like us couldn?t help but roll our eyes at, if only a
little. “Sure, God brought them to you… uh huh, that is very spiritual.”
Pride comes before the fall. It couldn’t have been more than 60 seconds after our
prayer before two Indian guys came and sat directly next – and uncomfortably close – to
us. The talkative one of the pair cooly pulls out a smoke and excitedly introduces
himself, his friend, and begins to ask us about our lives. An hour later, on the back of
their motorcycles, I have three questions racing through my mind just as quickly as we
are racing towards our new friends’ house: How much farther? Am I going to survive?
What do I do with my hands?
Wind swept, covered in sweat and dust, we arrive at our new friends’ house, the
crowded homes now cloaked in the darkness of night. Wise? Debatable. Adventurous?
Very. “Would you like an omelet?” Glancing uncomfortably between Will and the kitchen
ahead of us, and, observing its state of wanting sanitation,
“No thank you, but thank you for offering. We are very full.”
“Oh please I insist! You are our guest. We must welcome you,” he responds. Sitting on
that tiny stool in a tiny room in a tiny house, looking from Will, towards the kitchen, then
to the large Hindu alter of Ganesh, I was suddenly aware that I was incredibly
uncomfortable. Where are we? What are we doing here? How are we getting home?
Yet I couldn’t help but hear the words of Jesus in Luke 10, to “eat what is set before
you.” In my sincere zeal to honor the words of Christ I resolved to eat the omelet.
In the hour that followed we ate. We learned about Hinduism. We shared the Gospel,
and we laughed as we struggled to communicate the stories from our very different
lives. In short, we made friends. We made it home late that night without any trouble. I
had only dirty clothes and an egg in my belly as evidence it hadn’t been a dream.
The next morning I woke feeling overwhelmed. It was as if all the intensity of the
experiences from the evening before and the previous weeks? working with
handicapped orphans at the Mother Theresa home formed a heavy rope, and someone
snuck in during the moonlight and fixed it tightly around my chest. The night before was great, sure, but did it make any difference in their lives? I felt discouraged, hopeless,
and emotionally incapable of giving anything. My heart ached. It ached for home, for
our friends the night before who had never heard of Christ, and for the fatherless
children tapping the taxi window asking for money at every stop.
So I did what any good missionary would do in the face of discouragement. I prayed. I
asked God for strength and courage. And I lied to my leader. It’s true. After a woefully
soft attempt to rouse myself into action, I told my leader I had a headache. But I didn’t.
I didn’t have a headache. For some reason telling her that I had a heartache seemed
too inconsequential and, well, dumb.
As I lay in bed all day reading Lord of the Rings, doing my best to escape from the
unrelenting intensity of needs crying out from the curbs of Kolkata that now tied my
heart with sadness, I became violently ill.
It took 24 hours for me to rediscover gravity and that I was, in fact, not going to die. I
don’t remember much from that day. Mostly my memory is imprinted with the sensation
of the rough cold cement of the bathroom floor and the stench of sewage coming from
the whole in the ground beside where I lay. Even more vivid that that, however, was the
image of that cold omelet. I saw myself eating it over and over, begging myself in
feverish dreams not to take the first bite.
What, then, is the moral of the story? Was this discipline? Was this bad luck? Was this
spiritual? I don’t pretend to know. Let’s call it a cocktail. But I know that evening in
Kolkata, even if only for a few hours, my friend Will and I were at the table.
The invitation from Jesus to dine with him is not a safe invitation. “It is a fearful thing to
fall into the hands of the living God,” Hebrews warns us. Fearful — yes – and wonderful.
Throughout these hours my assumptions about prayer were challenged, my trust in God
was deepened, my desperation for his healing multiplied, and my willingness to risk
grew, as did my understanding of and admiration for the people and culture of India.
We shared the gospel and formed fast friendship. Throughout our remaining weeks in
India, Will and I continued to hang out with our friends, never mentioning the omelet
fiasco. Upon our last conversation, both of them were able to articulate the Gospel and
both of them said they wanted to know Jesus more. Did they ever? I don’t know. They
received an invitation to King’s table. Yet for my part, I proved myself to be lacking in
character, weak in spirit, and breakable in my body.
It is a good thing for the life of the world that our invitation is ultimately to Christ’s table,
not to mine, and not to my Indian friends. At his table, our souls are nourished even
through the most miserable circumstances. Come to the table, invite your friends, and
have your soul nourished by the Bread of Life.