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25 Sep '08

Reciprocity

Posted by T.J. Addington in missions


Guest Writer

Kim Cone, Missionary in Africa

How I wish I’d discovered the blessing of “reciprocity” earlier on in my missionary career! Because I felt there was such a discrepancy between what I owned and what my African friends owned, I found it difficult to accept their gifts.


More than once, I made the awkward mistake of actually trying to pay them for what they intended to give me! Now I realize that there is really no difference in our relative wealth. The difference lies in wherein we happen to be wealthy! Each is wealthy in his own way! And so, to garner the love, respect and assistance that we all need, reciprocity in gifting is in order. Let me illustrate.

I sat down to a wonderful lunch Jan had prepared: rice, covered with “butu” greens sprinkled with hamburger in turn spiced up with Elise’s, top-flight, hot sauce. As I was about to shove in the first mouthful, Elise, Danforth’s cook, waltzed in wearing a huge, ear-to-ear smile! As a surprise, she’d prepared caterpillars just for Josh and me! As I was heaping them on, Jan admonished me to leave some for Alexis, our own cook, for it is our custom to feed our cooks. However, I refused. I knew Elise had made them especially for me! I also knew that Alexis would get plenty at home. Jan NEVER cooks me either caterpillars or snails! And so, whenever Elise does, I savor each bite with gratitude! Indeed, she has something to offer that I don’t!

Reciprocity! She got so much joy out of surprising me with that treat with which to garnish my existing platter! And, I enjoyed eating each morsel just as much as I had enjoyed giving her a treasured, plastic barrel in which to soak the cyanide out of her manioc roots.


Which is worth more? A plastic barrel? Or, home-fried caterpillars? If the true measure is units of joy, then they’re probably equal. And so, I’m going to continue my practice of shouting out to workmen headed for their gardens, “Hey, I know there are a lot of fresh peanuts in your garden! You know, I don’t get freshly boiled peanuts in the States!” Oh, you can buy boiled peanuts at filling stations in the South BUT they’ve soaked in water so long they’re nothing but mush! No, I want African-style, boiled, “fini kareko”, ‘new peanuts’. And now, I recognize that a bowl of these is worth as much as anything I’ve ever given to anyone here irrespective of the dollar value. The principle of the widow’s mite is not only applicable to the synagogue.

Enjoying both giving and receiving,