On my way home the other day, some neighbor girls called me to the fence. They wanted me to stop for a while and eat homemade pork rinds, or as I like to call them, deep fried trichinosis. The head of the pig was sitting on a board, blood soaking into the dirt and flies having their own party on its skin. Four hooves were cut off and sticking up out of an old yogurt container. In the middle of a circle of chairs was a huge wash basin filled with pieces of fried pig skin, some still with a healthy amount of hair.
I’ll be honest. Eating what the people of the village offer me is difficult for several reasons. The first reason is that I know they have very little and that I have a lot. It’s hard to accept food from people who only get to eat two meals a day or sometimes go hungry. Another reason is that I’m not a big fan of the dishes that are special treats to them. I feel bad that I’m choking down some greasy beef stew while they wait all year for a chance to enjoy that meal. And lastly, I worry about getting sick. I see the flies and the unwashed hands that prepared the food. I know that there is no refrigeration and that the pigs run wild eating…well, gross stuff.
So, why don’t I just say no? Make up some excuse, say I’m full, or even admit I don’t like it? I eat because the people are not just offering me food. They are offering me friendship, a chance to be part of the community…the very best they have to give.
We know that Jesus is a spirit, but also that he walked this earth as a man. He may not have enjoyed pork rinds any more than I do, especially with the hair still on. I don’t know what all he ate or didn’t eat. I do know that he flawlessly made himself part of the community he lived in, even though it wasn’t what he was accustomed to. And I know he trusted that His Father would care for him, even if he ended up with amoebic dysentery.
One day I hope to break bread together with the Nahuatl as a symbol of our shared hope. Until then I will gladly eat grease stew, lumpy oatmeal drink, and hairy pork rinds in order to become Nahuatl for the sake of the gospel.