Mashing Bananas

by Laura Savage-Rains, EdD

In my first overseas teaching assignment, had a modest apartment on the top floor of a five-story-with-no-elevator, communist-style apartment building just a few blocks from campus. If you stepped out onto my tiny balcony on a clear day and looked eastward, you could see snow-capped peaks in the Carpathian Mountain range.

Since the university’s video equipment could not play American videos, I got permission to hold my American Studies graduate course in my living room so I could use the videos I had brought from the US for class. Each week, 6-10 young women would come to my home for our two-hour course. The three young women who were most faithful to the class–Amelita, Cristina, and Consuela–began to come early and stay later. This was a special joy for me. I had my Bible and other Christian literature laying out in obvious view on the coffee table when they would arrive. I had told them about my background as a minister and had casually mentioned that if they ever wanted to talk about faith issues, I’d be happy to do that. For the first six weeks of class, they never took my “bait,” and I was getting discouraged.

As the Christmas season approached, I told them that I would be doing a lot of baking to prepare for my Christmas Open House for all my students. They were intrigued that I would be inviting all my students to my home. (That was unheard of in their culture!) They even volunteered to help me with the preparations. I was thrilled!

One snowy day, Cristina was helping me make banana bread, a recipe–and concept–unknown to her. While I was sitting at the small kitchen table preparing the flour mixture of dry ingredients, Cristina was standing at the sink by the window mashing the ripened bananas. We were chatting away and suddenly she said rather seriously, “Laura, can I ask you something?” Her tone made me glad I was already sitting down. I couldn’t imagine what she wanted to talk about. Then, as if she had rehearsed it many times, she said, “Amelita and I were wondering if you’d do a Bible study with us.” WOW!!! When I least expected it, she said the words I had longed to hear! Of course I would do a Bible study with them! When did they want to start? My heart was dancing on the inside while I pretended to be calm on the outside. What began with mashing bananas continued for the next year as I met with these three young women each week to study the book of Luke and help them discover God’s love and message just for them. Today, I can’t mash bananas without thinking about how on one cold, winter day, God’s Spirit entered my little kitchen on the other side of the world.

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