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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 6 comments

Yes, you read that right: Traveling Without Pants.  It may sound funny but unfortunately it appears to be a recurring theme.

I definitely need to do something about that...

Last weekend I had the privilege of speaking at a women's retreat in Kansas. Not wanting my clothes to get crushed, I made sure to wait until the last minute to pack my nicer clothing.  My plan was successful and my clothing was wrinkle-free - including my pants, which were still hanging back at my house where I left them. That was NOT a part of the plan!

Thankfully I was traveling in deep blue denim slacks which went well with the other clothing I'd brought along.  I was temped to share my pants story with the ladies at the retreat, but decided not to draw attention to my situation since it might otherwise go unnoticed.  

As I said, this appears to be a recurring theme.  On our most recent trip to Kenya we also found ourselves to be without pants, though this was a different situation entirely.  

The women on our mission trips always plan to wear skirts in the village since this is the acceptable attire.  (The idea of wearing slacks is so foreign that at the end of our trip we can't even give slacks away!)

However, when we arrived Pastor Elisha informed us that since it was the tail end of rainy season and the mosquitoes were thick, the women should wear trousers while building houses to protect against malaria.  Having experienced malaria first-hand I heartily agreed and we set out to the market to find the proper clothing before heading to the village.  

Can I just insert here that nothing in a foreign country is as straightforward as one might think?  We walked through the market looking for used clothing, stopping on occasion to ask for directions. (We're women, we do that sort of thing.)  We would explain that we came from America but didn't bring any pants with us because we didn't think we would need them in the village we were going to.  Now we understood we did need them, and could you please tell us where we might find some pants.

Evidently our lack of pants was very humorous because our inquiries were always met with a grin followed by more grinning, chuckling and discussions in Kiswahili with those around them.

Even though some of the people spoke English, it was British English, which you may think is the same as American English, but you would be sadly mistaken. Finally, someone explained to us that what we were actually looking for was trousers while what we were asking for was underwear.  Evidently in Kenya what we call underwear they call inner pants, or pants for short - hence the chuckling. I'm sure incidents like this add to the reputation Americans have of being strange!

This incident brings home an important point.  Just because we think we understand something doesn't mean we have the full picture, especially if it's coming from a different culture.  It's crucial we remember this when reading Scripture, which was written in a different culture and time.

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” ~ Romans 12:20

For a long time I understood this verse to mean that we should be kind to our enemies because it will be more irritating to them than responding harshly would be.

That would be wrong, in oh so many ways.

If we understood the culture we would know that this verse was actually quoted from Proverbs 25:21-22, which was written a couple thousand years before matches were invented. If your fire died out the easiest way to start it again would be to get burning coals from your neighbor. How would you carry burning coals?  In a pot.  And how were things carried? On their heads.  So you see, heaping burning coals on someone's head in that day was a great blessing, not a curse. God is calling us to show kindness to everyone, even those who are not kind to us.

So the next time something you read in the Bible doesn't make sense, do a little digging.  Read the notes in your study Bible or look up the verse in a good commentary (I like Mathew Henry's).  Always start by asking the Holy Spirit for guidance.  He wants you to understand God's Word even more than you do!

Father, we thank you for the gift of your Word and for the Holy Spirit, who is always here with us to guide us into all truth.  Thank you for your presence, your provision and for a sense of humor when we run into little obstacles like pants!


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6 Responses so far.

  1. Faith says:

    LOL...i guess me and my husband and daughters read too much British literature because we always say autumn rather than fall, and film instead of movie! (among other things). And sooo interesting that you mention the scripture about heaping burning coals....our pastor JUST SPOKE about the true meaning of this on Sunday!!! I had always been told the same thing you had thought. In fact, I clearly remember a Christian counselor telling me this. It was neat to learn of the actual culture and meaning last weekend!! great post!!

  2. Thank you for sharing your lovely story with us here at "Tell me a Story." I had to smile about the misunderstanding in Kenya about underwear. It is easy to forget something you meant to pack when going on a trip. I hope you did finally find some trousers!

  3. Unknown says:

    Dear Lisa
    This is so true. We need to read the Bible in the context of the people, their cultures and their way of life. In German they say, "Sitz im Leben"; setting in life. This was the first time I read of this and find it so interesting!
    Blessings XX

  4. caryjo says:

    I sure understood this! We had a number of similar situations in Uganda. One of the funniest was when we were leaving the first time after 5 weeks there, and at the airport, when the custom guy was checking on my husband...and the worker did not speak much English, let alone American ... and pointed to a candy pack in my husband's pocket. Dave said it was candy. When the man looked confused again, Dave put a couple of the M & M's in his mouth, and the Worker said, "Oh, drug!" Dave said, "Oh, no. Good." And he gave a couple to the guy, and, even though a bit concerned, he did put one in his mouth. He loved it. So then he pointed to the one full, non-opened candy in Dave's briefcase. Dave gave it to him, and he set Dave free and sent him on. THEN we found out that Dave should have said, "Sweet". When we returned there in '94-'96 we had learned much. Didn't make too many big issues after that. But I expanded that story on my blog some time ago, b/c it was such a challenging and funny minute.

    So happy you were in Kenya and helping and blessing. We so need to be there and in Uganda and I'd also like to go to Rwanda, etc. BUT now only available at home. But God is Bigger and He will put us wherever we need to be to serve Him. And, you are servers. Big Time.

    Bless you and yours.

  5. The good part is, you enjoyed yourself and made a great impact on the locals...LOL since I am an Ozzie (Australian) I also thought your pants meant underwear. Although we often say under-dakers, or nickers. Our English is similar mostly to the English above....my second hubby is American. On our first trip back to Oz from TN, and living near the ocean, I told hubby I needed to get a pr of thongs to wear to the beach. He became very heated telling me I was not buying them. Finally picking up thongs in a supermarket he realised I wanted what he called flip flops...LOL. OH, and we called your morning biscuits, scones. Most of our words are cut short..e.g. Pyjama's are jarmies, Electrician is a sparky, carpenter is a chippy, and breakfast is breaky.. LOL... its a mad world. God Bless you.

  6. You have a beautiful blog, Lisa! I thought this was so funny...I went to Bible college with a few Kenyan students and they struggled so much to understand some of us, though they spoke English remarkably well. Students from the south caused them particular trouble. Southern American English and British English can be worlds apart sometimes!

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