What if?! What if they run out before I make it to the front of the line?
Bananas hold a position of honor in my diet. Living in a Communist economy is to blame for my obsession, and I will never be able to consume enough. That’s what doing without will do to you.
And, doing without will make a monkey out of a mother standing in line, waiting for the rare to opportunity to purchase this tropical treasure.
“What if they run out before I make it to the front of the line?” This piercing question gripped me as I stood and waited my turn to purchase Bananas. I was desperate to reach the front, and I made no attempt to conceal my urgency. Under normal circumstances these citizens of Krakow, Poland were probably nice people. But right now, every person ahead of me in line was a threat. I know. A missionary is not supposed to have such thoughts, but this one did. No telling how long it would be before we would see another Banana, and this opportunity took on disproportionate dimensions.
The hulk of a gray truck lumbered like a 3-ton elephant over the uneven curb and onto the sidewalk in front of the grocery store - Communist, of course. Business would take place right out the back of the transport. When the heavy steel doors of the behemoth vehicle creaked open, 20 people were already standing in a queue, thankful for the privilege of purchasing a few Bananas.
And few it was. Always. The Bananas were placed bunch by bunch to rest upon ancient scales. One kilo per person. NO MORE. Each customer patiently waited while the transaction was calculated and the price was announced. Once the sale was completed, the grateful buyer re-entered life, reverentially holding the precious rationed parcel.
My place in line inched forward, and to my great relief, I reached the front before the supply ended. Yes! There were enough for me. That evening, laughter was lighter in the second floor apartment of the home we shared with a Polish family. Our heads bowed, and we gave heartfelt thanks for our special treat, Bananas.
Decades later, as I pulled out my Banana in the Romanian train station of Targu Mures, I did so with reverence and respect. The memories of standing in line, the memories of behaving poorly, the memories of scarcity were still too raw.
One bite at a time, I savored the sweetness of the delicacy. The train station was hot and quiet on this late Sunday evening. We were returning home, now home was Budapest, after a fantastic church festival commemorating the anniversary of the Jesus Film in the nation of Romania.
I hardly noticed the young boy sharing the waiting room with us. He was not clean, and his attire made it obvious that he was not traveling. He was simply curious about the travelers.
Soon, I felt awkward that I had a Banana and he did not; I had the oddest feeling that he was hungry. Through sign language, I managed to ask if he, too, would enjoy a Banana. His response became his answer. He actually came to sit beside me as I reached into my tote bag to provide a Banana for him, a homeless preteen.
Suddenly, the Holy Spirit intervened and arrested my attention: if we could speak Banana, we could speak Jesus. At once, physical food served as an entrée for spiritual food.
Using the same remedial communication, the booklet containing the Gospel in Romanian became our focus. He knowingly nodded his head as the turning of each page brought us closer and closer to The Cross. I marveled that Sunday evening when he bowed his head, and invited Jesus into his heart.
And to think, it all started with a Banana. He did not need to stand in line; he did not need to fear the supply would run out before he reached The Front. There is Plenty of Grace at the Foot of The Cross.