All right, so I had to take some literary license with today's letter, considering that the only food I've ever had that starts with "Q" is quinoa. And it left no lasting impression worthy of a blog post.
Q-cumbers, on the other hand--the very mention of them, will always transport me mentally back to Russia. I had the great privilege of being a short-term missionary to Vladimir, Russia, in 2007. My daughter had just graduated high school at home, and wanted no ceremony and no gift other than the opportunity to go with Global Aid Network (GAIN) to visit orphans there. She needed a chaperone, right?
With overwhelming financial and prayer support from people who gave generously, the two of us got to share the dream-come-true.
I had no expectations for culinary experiences there; it wasn't a big deal to me what we ate. I like just about everything. My parents had raised us not to be picky, only grateful and experimental. In doing so, she raised at least one missionary-at-heart.
What I found surprising was just how many cucumbers and tomatoes Russians eat. Except for breakfast, I think cukes and maters were served at every meal. Always simply diced and salted, or sliced and salted, but there they were, as common as a fork on the table. I don't remember them tasting outstanding or blah; it's not really the taste I remember at all, but the company I was with. This loving, fun bunch of 14 Christians from all over the US who spent every waking hour of 10 days together, sharing humanitarian aid, playing with orphans, sharing the gospel through song, drama, and personal interaction.
Say the word "cucumber" to me and I am immediately, in my mind, sitting in a stuffy little fifth-floor apartment of a worn-out, old, sick, hospitable woman who (through the interpreter) asked me many questions about Jesus and eternal life and who or what is the Holy Spirit. Her Russian orthodoxy was more of a hindrance to her understanding of truth than the language itself. I remember vividly the clarity I had in my mind and heart, undistracted by the language barrier, undisturbed by the heat, unabashed by message of forgiveness and salvation that is mysteriously simple and profound all at once.
The only picture I can find from our trip that has cucumber and tomatoes at the table would be this one. The gal with longer blonde hair, one of our intrepreters, has that combo on her plate. I think we Americans ate so QUICKLY that our Q-cumber salad plates had already been cleared by our delightful Russian Christian host and hostess.
Lesson learned: Every time I eat a Q-cumber, I remember with great joy the unity and love we experienced in Russia, serving Christ and enjoying fellowship even with all our differences.