restoring our biblical and constitutional foundations


Eat, Heal, and Tell

 David Alan Black  

We tend to think that evangelism means, first and finally, telling other people about the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. We cite such passages as Mark 16:15 (if we believe it is authentic) and Acts 16:31 to justify our approach. And we are not far wrong. But a passage that normally gets less attention from missions-minded Christians is Luke 10:8-9. Perhaps we should look at it again:

Whenever you go into a city and the people welcome you, eat whatever they serve you. Heal the sick that are there, and tell the people, “The kingdom of God has come near!”

There is a lot to be said for such an approach. I think of an occasion on my recent trip to Ethiopia when I was out among the warrior-like Gujis, telling them about the love of the Lord Jesus. I have always thought it important to eat the local food wherever I am traveling, so when I was offered a cup of traditional Oromo coffee I readily accepted it. But this was coffee unlike any I had ever had before, even in Ethiopia. Its consistency and taste were like molasses, and it contained several dozen roasted coffee beans that you were expected to chew and swallow. As the Gujis looked on smiling, I somehow managed to choke down half of the cup. I thought I was going to die. But it was enough to satisfy them. I had become one of them.

I have eaten dog meat in Korea, red-hot food in India, and who-knows-what in China. People can see that it makes a difference, and they tend to be more open to what you have to say to them. They see you as a friend, or at least as not an enemy.

And then there is healing. Jesus Himself set the example for us – He taught, preached, and healed everywhere He went in Galilee (Matt. 9:35). I find that is a simple and useful form of evangelism. It may involve distributing nutritious seeds to farmers. It may mean passing out non-prescription eyeglasses or pre-natal vitamins. It may lead to the opening of a health clinic. All of these we have done in Ethiopia. And it is unanswerable: nobody can deny that you are interested in the whole person. That is the nub of Jesus’ statement: the God who is willing to save your soul is willing to identify with your culture and your needs. He is not “out there” ensconced in a missionary compound in the safe immunity of heaven. He is “with us.”

Missions does not require famous evangelists and expensive crusades. But it does demand our involvement in the lives of others: really caring about people and genuinely making an attempt to “eat whatever they serve you,” no matter how distasteful it might seem to you at the time.


Brother Jason was only too happy to record for posterity my severe discomfiture. Here is my first sip (my translator James is looking on):

My second sip:

My third sip (James is now laughing uncontrollably):

My final sip:

The suffering is over at last:

Distributing seeds to the local civic leader:

Preaching in the town square of a Guji village:

January 1, 2009

David Alan Black is the editor of

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