chats with chaat

We wanted to do something different.

We billed it as 'a multi-sensory evening of interaction'. We called it Chat with Chaat, as we braided together the eating of street food from Delhi (chaat) and the interaction around cross-cultural conversations (chat) ... with some games (one of which is described here).

We've hosted five of these evenings around New Zealand in recent weeks, in which about 160 people have participated. Gee - it was a lot of work, particularly for Barby as she made, or sourced, all the chaat. But we had a lot of help from family and friends ... and I think we'd do it all again.

Here is the combination of the chaat (in pictures) and the chat (in words):

making the queen of chaats, the pani puri
I am enjoying a coffee with three of my Pakistani friends. The time comes to go up and pay. I go to do so - but my Pakistani friend insists. I resist. He insists. I resist. What should I do?

WHY? [On this occasion I let him pay]. The idea here was to surface the difference between resourcing and partnership (which I did more fully in a post here). 'Resourcing' assumes some have something to give - usually the people/organisations from the wealthier 'west' - and the 'rest' have something to receive. This creates dependency and obligation, both of which are unwise. Far better to build partnerships founded on friendships in which the giving and receiving flow both ways.

kara pori, even wrapped in authentic Indian newspaper
You sit down in a public place with others for a meal. In the majority world, invariably, on behalf of the group, someone will give thanks for the food in an audible way. In the minority ('western') world, increasingly, no one in the group will give thanks for the food in an audible way. What is going on?


You enter the home of an Indian Christian and usually, from what is on the walls, it is obvious that they are believers. You enter the home of a Christian in NZ and usually, from what is on the walls, it is far from obvious that they are believers. What is going on?

WHY? The idea here was to surface the way religion is such a private affair in New Zealand, whereas in so many countries in the majority world, it is very public. My students are always stunned when I tell them that 41% of New Zealanders describe themselves as having 'no religion'. The world's problems are never going to be solved by people like that ... because religion is part of life for most peoples. Also, converts in the majority world are more likely to see conversion as drawing a 'line-in-the-sand' as life becomes different now - whereas in the 'west' we like to keep the lines out of the sand. Studies show that it is hard to pick any differences between the lives of believers and unbelievers. We like it like that. It makes us feel relevant and we think it is the key to mission. We are wrong and we desperately need the help of the church in the majority world to show us the way forward.

Should Christians practice yoga? Some say 'yes' - but why? Some say 'no' - but why?

WHY? The point here is similar to the previous one, but I tried to steer it in another direction. Talk of a global village has a consequence. The global church is a village church. We need to live our lives with a far greater awareness of our sisters and brothers around the majority world, looking for ways to express solidarity with them. So, yes, many urbanised Indians from Christian families do not think that yoga is an issue - but those who have come out of Hinduism usually do. Again and again, when I've asked, they are strong and clear: there is no place for yoga in the life of the believer and they give their reasons. We should be guided by them and stand with them far more than we do.

It is easy to pick a New Zealander overseas. They are often the ones super-casual in their clothing ... and the ones super-sarcastic in their humour. That might have upsides at home - but what about downsides overseas?

WHY? The point here is simply to demonstrate how these characteristics can so easily convey a lack of respect for others - and even for God, in certain circumstances (like public worship). I've often been embarrassed by the sloppiness of visiting Kiwis and I've often been embarrassed by myself with the times I slip into sarcasm ... and it just does not work.
moong dal
So often when I hear an Indian Christian pray, their default setting is to refer to Jesus as 'Master' - and then, if I ask them a question and it has a positive response (for example, 'how are your children doing at school?'), their default setting is to preface their response with 'By God's grace...' (for example, 'by God's grace, the children are doing well'). It is uncanny how often this happens. What would the default settings be for Kiwi Christians? What does this suggest about the spiritualities at work?

WHY? [Never had time to use this one - but it is a goodie!] The point here is to surface the priority of Jesus as Lord and the reality of God as good ... especially for people who have far more reason to think otherwise than I do in New Zealand. Suffering for Jesus' sake is so real and so common - and yet so also is the Lordship of Christ and the Goodness of God. It challenges me so much.

the mango lassi (please - that is 'luh-see') was always popular, as Alice will testify
nice chatting



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