What is your banana ministry? My friend, Judy, is a missionary living in Nairobi, Kenya. She travels a good deal in and around Nairobi and, if you’ve ever been to Nairobi, you know that it’s pretty much a continual traffic jam. There are always people lined on the streets selling everything you can imagine—including, to my horror, puppies.
Recently, Judy was traveling with her driver, Baraza, and she saw a woman selling bananas—with a baby strapped to her back and two others playing at her feet. Judy told Baraza, “Pull over; I want to buy some bananas.” She gave him the equivalent of about two dollars, and told him to buy all her bananas—about 20.
“But Sister,” he said, “why are you buying 20 bananas? You can’t eat that many.”
“Just buy them,” she told him.
He was baffled as to why Judy would want so many bananas since she lives alone, but he did as she insisted. When he paid the lady for all her bananas, her face lit up with a huge, incredulous smile. That probably represented two days food for her and her family. Baraza said, “Sister, did you see how happy she was? You did a good thing for her.”
Then they traveled on, and Judy saw a crippled man with only one leg by the side of the road. She told Baraza to stop and give him some bananas. Once again Baraza saw how thrilled the man was to get the bananas.
This went on for their entire journey until Judy had given away all the bananas. Baraza—who by the way is a wonderful believer—said, “Sister, this was so good. I can do this. I can give away bananas.” As a result, Baraza now carries bananas, apples, and other fruit with him to give to people randomly as God leads him. He now has a banana ministry.
I’m not suggesting that you carry bananas and give them out every day—though that might work in some situations—but the bigger picture is that each of us who are Christ-followers have some unique thing we can do intentionally and regularly to share the love of Jesus with others. What do you have in your hands that could easily become gifts of love to the people in your life—strangers, coworkers, family, friends—whoever? I’m suggesting that everyone of us should look for our banana ministry—something we intentionally do to share the love of God.
You’re probably familiar with the phrase “random acts of kindness.” Actually, that has become a movement—encouraging people to purposely plan and perform kind acts for others. Lots of research has been done which shows the incredible benefits for the person who decides to plan and execute random acts of kindness. According to research from Emory University, when you are kind to another person, your brain’s pleasure and reward centers light up, as if you were the recipient of the good deed, not the giver. This phenomenon is called the “helper’s high.”
Isn’t it interesting that when people follow the principles of Scripture, whether they are believers or not, they discover that it benefits everyone. The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone. . .” (2 Timothy 2:24). And to the church in Colossae he wrote, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12). He was preaching “random acts of kindness” long before the term was coined.
Certainly as followers of Jesus Christ, we should be sharing “random acts of kindness” more than any others, since we not only have the power to do so because we have the Holy Spirit, we also have the great privilege of showing God’s love to a loveless and often cruel world. Then, as the studies show, we discover what Jesus told us—that it is truly more blessed to give than to receive!
Let me tell you about my friend, Kiyoko, a Japanese woman in my church. She was inspired to use her creativity as a way to share the Gospel. She makes beautiful little bookmarks using things people throw away—like candy wrappers—and then makes designs on those bookmarks and puts a scripture verse on the back of each.
She carries her bookmarks with her and, whenever she has an opportunity—with a stranger, a store clerk, someone she sits by on the bus or on an airplane—she gives them one of her bookmarks. She calls them “born-again bookmarks,” and explains how she makes them from scraps of paper that people throw away. This opens the door for her to tell them that her born-again bookmarks are nice, but they will eventually fall apart. Then she shares the good news that when a person is born again through faith in Jesus Christ, it will last for all eternity. She tells her story of how God has made her into his daughter and given her a purpose, even though it looked as though her life was useless and wasted.
She has given away over 300 born-again bookmarks. Can you imagine how many times those bookmarks have been looked at, read, used—and how many seeds have been sown in the hearts of many people? Kiyoko is using her creative gift—her skill at origami—to share the truth of the Gospel. It’s a ministry that she has developed, on her own, to fulfill the Great Commission of taking the Gospel to others. She didn’t need a team of people to help her, or a program at church to be a part of. She simply saw a way God could use her to share his Gospel in her world.
So, what is your banana ministry—what is your born-again bookmark idea—that you could develop, on your own, as a way to share God’s love and the Gospel with others in your life? I have no doubt that all of us could come up with something unique we could do that would give us an opportunity to share God’s love. If all Christ-followers developed banana ministries, what impact that could have on our world!
Far too many of us who are Christ-followers have what I call a “sacred/secular” theology—a belief that some parts of our lives are sacred and some parts are secular. This erroneous theology can cause you to think that being a witness for Jesus is reserved for certain people, places, or times.
Part of the reason I began this ministry almost 35 years ago was to spread the good news that there is no sacred/secular theology and, indeed, all of us who are born again through faith in Jesus Christ are called to be witnesses wherever God puts us. We each have been given a commission from Jesus to be his witnesses each day.
That’s why I’m encouraging you to find your banana ministry—the thing you can intentionally do on a regular basis to share God’s love right where you are.
Suppose you decided that your banana ministry was to give out encouraging words to at least one person every day. You would then begin your day with a prayer that God would reveal someone to you who needs an encouraging word that day. As you get to work, you hear from a coworker that a project assigned to her is simply falling apart, the team is not working well together, and she doesn’t know what to do about it. You would then realize this is the person you prayed for today.
Now, what do you do to encourage her? Maybe just a word from you; maybe an offer to help; maybe an email or note you write to encourage her. Maybe you keep some cards in your desk with encouraging words on them, and you give her one of those. There are so many ways you could give her some encouragement. . .and it might end up being exactly what she needed to keep going and figure out how to get the job done.
I make it a practice to keep a supply of encouragement cards at my desk because God just randomly puts people on my mind who need a card. This way, it’s so easy to write a note and mail it. Handwritten notes have a very high value and impact these days because they are becoming very rare. And here’s a tip: Dollar Tree has some nice encouragement cards that are not expensive, so you, too, can afford to do this if you wish.
My niece, who is now with Jesus, used to do something which was one of her banana ministry ideas. She managed a company with several people reporting to her, and every week as she prepared the payroll for them, she included something encouraging in their pay envelope. Often it would be a verse from the Bible, an interesting article, or even a personal word of encouragement. I’m sure those employees looked forward not only to getting their paycheck, but also to seeing what special touch Susan had included in their envelope for that week.
You may not hand out pay checks like she did, but you could still distribute encouraging words to people. Just print some encouraging scripture verses on small cards and carry them with you. Pray that the Lord would prompt you when to give one of those cards to someone. A perfect opportunity would be for someone who has helped you—like a clerk in a store. Another idea would be someone you know is going through a tough time, you could just quietly offer a word of hope to them with one of your cards. What a great banana ministry that would be!
Here’s the thing: If you’re going to have a banana ministry, you need to be intentional about it. Judy must first buy bananas in order to distribute them. Now Baraza needs to remember to buy fruit to give away, since he was inspired by Judy’s banana ministry. This doesn’t just happen. Whatever your creative idea is, you must plan it, prepare for it, and then pray about it each day. Decide you’re going to do it and then—just do it. So often our good intentions get lost in the shuffle of our lives.
Here’s one last suggestion you might adopt as your banana ministry: Offer to pray for people—and then, of course, do it. When someone is sharing a problem or struggle, you don’t have to have answers, but you can always offer to pray for them. Be sure you keep a list of those you promised to pray for, and then check back in with them when you can to see how they’re doing, reminding them that you’re still praying. This is a truly powerful banana ministry.
I hope I’ve encouraged you to truly get serious about developing your own banana ministry. Please then share with me what that is—I’d love to hear how it works for you.