After eating oatmeal and “mealie pap” (a delicious corn-based cereal similar to Cream-o-Wheat) for several days in Africa, my stomach nearly shouted with delight when (could it be TRUE???) bagels and cream cheese were served one morning. We ate like spoiled royalty every day, and these bread treasures were just one more unexpected gift.

After shoving the old and crippled aside, I jumped in line behind my friend Laura to grab one of the large, soft delights. They were beautiful…absolutely beautiful. I waited patiently (not really) while Laura reached for the container of South Africa’s version of cream cheese. My mouth watered as I envisioned a half-inch layer of white goodness all over the bagel growing sweaty in my palms.Laura and Michele

However, Laura pulled back the “lid of deception” revealing a substance nothing remotely like cream cheese. Instead, my eyes were greeted by green fuzz sporting a healthy head of hair with suspicious black and brown highlights. This was not your run-of-the-mill mold, people. This was fungus ART. Clearly the cheese had been working after hours to craft a quite impressive piece of creative genius.

I strained to squelch my enthusiastic gag reflex. Laura, instead, grabbed a knife and dug deep into the green forest of cheese wonder. Without an ounce of hesitation, she spread a nice, thick layer of (possibly radioactive?) cheese across the first half of her bagel.

Clearly she was taking the missionary directive to graciously eat whatever is served to heart. I silently applauded her audacious determination, while at the same time determining I’d developed a case of lactose intolerance. What a woman. This was just like her…servant-hearted to the core. The world needs more Laura’s. Really.

As I shook my head in admiration, the sweet woman who served us breakfast took one look at the cheese’s overgrown shrubbery and turned up her nose. Though she didn’t speak much English, she knew enough to say, “This is bad. VERY bad.” She then looked at Laura as if she was nuts, grabbed her olive-tinted bagel and promptly tossed it in the trash.

Stunned, Laura said the last thing I expected to hear: “Isn’t that HERB cheese?”

I don’t know what kind of flavored cheeses she eats back in the states, but I’ve never seen oregano grow a head of hair. Seriously. Uncontrollable laughter quickly replaced the gagging, while our hostess opened a container of beautiful, pure white, cream cheese. Nothing tastes quite as good as the real thing.

All humor aside, I’ve ingested my share of fuzzy realities because I was either ignorant, deceived or too lazy to make sure what I was swallowing was the real thing. Take my word for it:  Refuse the green stuff. Settle only for pure, white Truth. And, whatever you do, take the time to discern the difference.

Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not  satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Isaiah 55:2

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