Don’t Overfeed the Minister

Barnabas Has a Heart Attack

July 16, 2006

One day Barnabas was in the mountains, sharing the gospel of Jesus, as usual. He was driving his trusted truck that had given faithful service for many years, hauling people and materials up the mountains to help the Lisus, Akhas and Lahus.

He felt a pain in his chest. He felt very uncomfortable. He felt the pain in his shoulder. This was a very unusual pain. He knew it was something serious – quickly he had a co-worker evangelist take over the driving. Together they raced back to the city of Chiang Mai, and went to the Emergency Room.

“You came just in time”, said the doctor. “We must do tests on you. You have a heart attack, and we need to know how much damage you have in the heart.” Barnabas was worried. Not just about his health. What about the costs involved? He had heard that it costs a lot to do tests and surgery on your heart.

“You know something?” The doctor continued. “We are part of an international health program that is doing research on heart attacks in Thailand. Nearly all the costs will be paid by this research program, so you don’t have to worry! The tests, the surgery and even the medicines will be covered!”

In a few days, the doctors had fixed Barnabas’ heart and he was going to be discharged from the hospital. Many evangelists and church leaders came to visit. Barnabas had started 20 churches in the mountains, 3 bible schools, and 3 children’s homes. So there were many friends and visitors that came. The doctor gave Barnabas a VCD about heart attacks and nutrition and said to Barnabas, “please show it to your friends”.

Normally, the mountain people do not expect to have heart attacks. They think that only city folk and westerners have heart attacks. But they did not realize that life was now different.

The mountain tribes have one special “ritual” for festive occasions, and that was the roasting of huge pigs (boars) for special occasions. Special occasions include especially Christmas time, when whole villages could gather with other villages, to celebrate the birth of the Savior. There would be lots of singing and dancing, and of course lots of food.

And the food on special occasions was pork. Into the church yard would come a truck with 2 recently speared boars, blood still obvious seeping from their chest. The villagers would bring out the fire brands made up of burning leafy branches, to singe off the hair of the pigs. Then they would degut the pigs right before everybody, the blood flowing out and into the gutters in the church yard. Then the gruesome hacking of the body parts for roasting on the grill, or boiling in the stew. Many of the pieces of meat have hair still attached to it, so it is unquestionably “natural” and “authentic”.

And of course they respect the ministers like Barnabas. Village hospitality demands that ministers must be given the “best food”, like the fatty pork with hair on it. And so Barnabas has had to eat a lot of food like that, to be courteous and gracious toward the great hospitality, on many such occasions. And it was likely a significant reason for Barnabas having a heart attack.

But now the village elders and evangelists watched the VCD. They nodded their heads together: “We need to be careful about fat and meats. We need to be careful not to push too much fat and meat on our ministers. We thought we were doing them a favor. Now we know that our traditional vegetables and fruits are the best food”. Vegetables and fruits that the Creator had created in abundance, in the beautiful mountains of Thailand.