“Hello! Where are you from?” called a young man. Apart from our group and this young man and his friend, the lakeshore was deserted. We were in Central Asia with Aaron Jonas and his son and had taken some time to enjoy the beautiful surroundings prior to our Sabbath visit with some believers. We told the young man that we were visiting from England. Aaron told him where he lives as well. “I live there, too,” the young man responded, “but I’m here visiting my grandmother for a celebration this weekend. She lives just up there,” he pointed. “Please come and meet her.”
“Is it her birthday? What are you celebrating?” we asked.
“We are just getting together with some family members and friends.”
Aaron explained to us that it is a custom for groups of people to meet for celebrations each month until everyone in a particular group has had the opportunity to host an event. Guests contribute financially and enjoy time together. For example, if there are seven people in the group, then celebrations will take place for seven months. After that, the obligation ceases, and you can become a member of a new group and begin the process again.
“Please, come and meet my grandmother,” the young man pressed his invitation.
“If she is busy getting ready for a celebration, then maybe we shouldn’t interrupt her,” we responded, thinking how it would be for strangers to suddenly show up at our home unannounced.
“No, it will be fine. It’s part of our culture. This is the way we do things. Please come.”
We climbed up the beach and found ourselves in a lovely courtyard with bright flowers. Turning to look behind us, we saw a beautiful view of the lake. The young man ushered us into a small house where five people were gathered enjoying their evening meal. They didn’t appear surprised to have strangers suddenly enter. “These people are visiting from England,” the grandson told them. They quickly brought out extra stools and invited us to sit down. They set plates and tea bowls in front of us and told us to help ourselves to the food. Not wishing to appear ungrateful, we took a little of the food. The grandson explained how he had met us walking along the beach, and he translated conversation between us and his family members. His sister placed some delicious peach pastries on the table. Conscious of the fact that this might have been the food for their celebrations the following day, we ate only a small amount. As we got ready to leave, they filled a bag with pastries and gave it to me.
I tried to limit the amount they gave us, but the grandson replied, “It’s fine. This is our way. It’s part of our culture.” We expressed our thanks and with goodbyes made our way back down to the beach.
“We should keep in touch,” Aaron said to the young man, and our new friend was happy to share his contact information.
The Jonas family will be away on furlough for some months, but we are praying that on their return Aaron will be able to reconnect with this young man and develop a meaningful friendship. Just as Jesus called some of His disciples by the lakeshore, it is our prayer that this young man may one day become a disciple of Christ, inviting people not just to his grandmother’s home to share a meal, but to the greatest of all celebrations—the heavenly banquet that will far exceed anything we have experienced.