As a family of three, we waited in Vienna for the Polish Communist government to grant our visas, which would permit us to move into their country. Though inconvenient, this indefinite holding pattern created the perfect environment for forging lasting friendships.
On a bright May morning in 1977, my inquisitive 19-month-old daughter sat unanchored in the backseat of a Volkswagen bug. Wide-eyed, she could only wonder about her mother’s antics. Together—I behind the wheel and she in the rear—we rocked back and forth in my doggedness to transport us to the outskirts of the city.
My missionary realities drove me (literally) to attempt wrestling this red bucking bronco: my little girl needed children with whom to play, and I needed the company of another mom. In short, I needed a morning away with a friend.
A set of borrowed keys held my ticket for this desired outing, but there was a glitch. The vehicle was manual stick shift transmission, not automatic. Never mind. Larry gave me a tutorial in stick shift driving on the day before. I was determined that my daughter and I would not be held hostage to first gear, second gear, and much less reverse. Consequently, on the cobblestone streets of a foreign country—Vienna, Austria—I mastered (?) the rudimentary motions enough to set out on my own.
Thank goodness, it was not raining on the morning of our maiden voyage. Apprehensively, Larry watched as I maneuvered the vehicle out of its parking spot, and tentatively into the stream of traffic on Hohe Warte Strasse in the Grinzing district of the city. He calculated this as the first of our many turns ahead. Would see his wife and his child again? Unyielding traffic lights, pedestrians with shopping baskets, mothers with prams, and unforgiving trams stood between this man and his family’s return. The wave of his hand was weak.
One way or another, this mother-daughter combo proceeded through the European traffic lights, dodged the Viennese pedestrians, negotiated around the Austrian mothers and prams, and navigated shared space with the clanking trams. Motoring alongside the Danube River, we eventually arrived safely in Sankt Andrä-Wördern, Austria. Without automatic transmission, without seatbelts, without GPS, we made it! Whew. I crawled out from behind the wheel, and reached into the back seat to collect my little sweetheart and her toddler belongings.
Vivian, with her children in tow, met us at the door of her home. A bright smile and a friendly hug assured me that the precarious drive from the city was worth every challenging kilometer.
After viewing her lovely home and garden, Vivian and I meandered back inside. We sat across from each other at their newly acquired Polish crafted table while drinking dark, rich, strong coffee, and devouring a batch of freshly made Banana Oatmeal Muffins. My soul experienced a unique solace as conversation flowed easily between the two of us.
Much too quickly, the morning evaporated, and the return trip loomed ahead. Glibly, I assumed if we made it out, we would make it back to the city. Before saying our goodbyes, Vivian wrote out the recipe for the Banana Oatmeal Muffins we enjoyed. Roaring off in a cloud of dust, I left with far more than a recipe; I left knowing I had a new friend.
Vivian and I would go on to share much more than Banana Oatmeal Muffins. Our road of friendship was destined to travel birthdays and holidays, heartaches and hard lessons, conferences and cancer. Ahead there would be clandestine ministry behind The Wall, and witnessing the Fall of that same Wall. Our friendship would endure moves across borders, moves across oceans. Vivian and I would thank God when we landed on our feet, and would reach down to pull the other up when one of us stumbled and fell. No wonder the Bible says, “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (18:24b). I think the Bible speaks of one like Vivian.
And to think… it all began with a Banana Oatmeal Muffin.
From the original faded copy in Vivian’s handwriting that May morning in 1977, I transcribed the 1977 recipe to share with you.
1 cup flour
3 T. sugar (raw, if you have it)
2 ½ t. bäckpulver (baking powder)
½ t. salt
1 cup oats
1 beaten egg
1 cup mashed ripe banana
¼ cup milk
2 T. oil
Sift together flour, sugar, and baking powder, salt
Stir in oats
Separately, mix remaining ingredients, add all at once to dry ingredients, stirring just enough to moisten
Fill 12 well-greased muffin pans 2/3 full
Bake at 400° (200° C.) for 20-25 minutes
Now forty-one years later, I suggest you invite someone to share these with you when you remove them from the oven. And remember, never underestimate the power of a muffin.
Living With Eternal Intentionality™
Who in you life comes to mind when you read Proverbs 18:24b?
What plans do you have to invite someone over for coffee and a muffin?