Itinerating usually means speaking to large groups, usually churches, about one’s call to missions and the work one is going to do. For me, in November it meant holding tea parties.
I have a lot of family and friends in the Missoula, Montana, area, and few of them go to any of the churches I would be itinerating at. So when I was thinking about how I could introduce them all to my new life, short of sending out a mass letter, which can be a bit boring, I remembered that when my sister Maria came home from her two missions trips to Kenya, she held a Kenyan dinner for her friends and family. What a great idea! People always want to come and have food.
However, I’ve never been to Belgium. I know nothing about Belgian food and Belgian customs. In addition, I’m not technically going to do ministry to Belgians. I’m going to do ministry in a multicultural setting. And then I realized that I already have everything I need to hold a multicultural event. I own loads of tea, and tea is drunk around the world in a million different ways. I own loads of teacups and loads of teapots from all around the world. I have cookbooks with many European recipes. I love to bake. Why not have a multicultural tea?
So I had three multicultural teas. I sent out about forty hand-written invitations on neat little notecards to about sixty people and spent three weekends crafting and holding tea parties. I held the teas in my programming team office in an old, quirky, brick building and decorated with saris (of which I have many), a few foreign objects I own, and Greek-study books. I baked European desserts, like these Hungarian butter biscuits, Italian olive oil cake from a recipe by the same cookbook author as the Hungarian biscuits (one of my clients), and proper cucumber sandwiches, because what is tea without cucumber sandwiches?
And I had many kinds of tea in their proper teapots with their proper teacups. Black tea (a blend I created called Romany Caravan), served English-style with sugar and milk in a lovely vintage teapot (named Claudia) with lovely vintage teacups. Indian chai in an English Brown Betty teapot (named Harold) with mugs. Kenya chai in Kenyan thermoses printed with Bible verses, also with mugs. Chinese oolong and pu-ehr in little clay Yixing teapots with small tea bowls. Japanese genmaicha (green tea with toasted rice) in a Japanese cast iron tetsubin with Japanese rice bowls and tea bowls.
Four people came to my first tea, including my friend Mathalia and her mom, whose website I’ve helped with, and we had a lovely, cozy time. Eight or nine people came to my second tea the next weekend, mostly people I know from church but also one of my web development clients and my aunt and uncle. And about nine people came to my third tea, all of whom just happened to be family members, including my sister’s very dear in-laws and my two brothers, neither of whom I get to see very often.
We all sat and stood about eating and talking and having a lovely time, and presently I drew everybody together and told about my future missions work in Europe and my current itineration journey. The lovely thing was that I wasn’t giving a speech. I was just telling people things, and they were interested and asking questions and giving ideas and discussing among themselves.
Even if none of the people who came ever support me (which some of them already have, lovely them), it was valuable for me to meet with them and get them involved in a way in my ministry. I learned that about itineration recently: it’s not about raising funds so much as it is getting people involved in ministry and in your own missionary journey. I hope I inspired my friends and family. At the very least, they had a lovely tea.